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#STEMStories: Claudia, Science Communicator, UK

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

Hi! I’m Claudia, I have a PhD in astrophysics, and I’m a science communicator. My job is doing my best to let people know what science is about and what are the latest results in many different fields, make them believe in themselves, and that they can be scientists too if they want to!

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

When I was 17, I realised I wanted to study physics, and if I went back in time I would do it again. I’ve always been very curious and wanted to know more how things worked. I didn’t really think that being a science communicator was a career possibility - I started getting involved during my PhD, started to really enjoy it and found I had a talent for it too! After some years in academia, I decided to change job and after some soul searching I decided this was what I wanted to go for.

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

I love the idea that I’m able to involve people in science and technology in non-traditional ways, for example firing a roller skate rocket, or building a tactile sheep. I love surprising people around me and looking for innovative ways to make science an enjoyable and accessible field.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

The thing that uplifts me the most when I doubt myself or I struggle, is to remember about a workshop I ran a few years ago with a group of young girls. At the end, we asked them to write down what they thought about the workshop. One of them wrote “Claudia, you are awesome and when I grow up I want to be like you”. That was the first time I realised I could be a role model for young people, especially girls, and make them discover their potential to do science.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

Growing up I looked up to many illustrious scientists and writers. Many people think I had a female scientist as a role model, and I knew about some famous women in science, such as Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin. I would say my main role model has been Virginia Woolf, especially from her essay “A Room Of One’s Own”, which I think should be read in all classrooms. In those pages, Woolf describes the spirit of independence a woman in the Victorian age had to display to build a metaphorical and physical small space to create her (literary) work; as I progressed in my studies, I viewed my BSc in physics as the “room of my own”, that I kept expanding by furthering my education.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

Believe in yourself, you’re better than you think. Learn to listen to others, and learn to speak up when it’s your turn. Your opinions are valuable.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking good questions, not knowing the answers, is what makes a good scientist.
  2. Respect others, and ask for respect. Lift other people up. Be there and look out for each other - especially for LGBTQ, women of colour, disabled women, women of different religion. Science is a team effort, and you’ll need to treasure and learn from people from all walks of life to grow.
  3. People will try to bring you down. Some people out there still think that STEM subjects are not for girls, but they’re wrong. Keep being yourself, and destroy that stereotype just by loving what you do.

8. How do you measure your success?

I like challenging myself to grow. I try to come up with new ideas and exit my comfort zone - at the end of a project I stop and think: what did I want to do differently from the way I, or everyone else, has always done this? Did I succeed? If I did, how? If I didn’t, why? It’s important that the main source of success is inside yourself, not in others. Sometimes, success looks very different to different people, and for me, success means I could learn more and learn to think differently, even when maybe I didn’t achieve the best result.

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

The best place to find out more about what I do is through following me on Twitter! I share my projects, the events I’m organising, or cool science stories, on my Twitter account, @CA_AstroComm.

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

You can find me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/antoliniclaudia/. It’s best if you write me a message saying why you’d like to connect with me! If you need a hand with your CV or some practise for an interview, get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to help.