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#STEMStories: Dr. Josien, Neurobiologist, Thesis Coach and Science Communicator, Australia

#STEMStories: Dr. Josien, Neurobiologist, Thesis Coach and Science Communicator, Australia

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

My name is dr. Josien de Bie and I’m a neurobiologist, thesis coach and science communicator.

I’ve worked on the science of bullying, brain-heart communication and the effects of hormones on the brain.Besides science I also love writing and playing music, gaming, scuba diving and cooking. (not at the same time). Oh and napping.

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

I knew I wanted to do something with behavior and science since I was about 10, observing our pets and taking notes. When I found out you could do that sort of thing for a job I couldn’t believe it!

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

My subjects! Whether it’s animals or live brain cells, how they’re doing is always at the forefront of my mind. Middle of the night, cold mornings, I don’t care! When I don’t have any subjects it’s curiosity that (eventually) gets me out of bed. I get these ideas and I want to go find out whether they could work.

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

When I think about it, the times I’ve been the most stressed have been about other people’s expectations, what I thought other people thought about me or expected of me. Science is like art in a lot of ways; it takes dedication, personal conviction and sort of not caring what people think. The writer Neil Gaiman gave this excellent advice to art students: ‘When in doubt, make good art’. The same goes for science; when you’re stressed, do good science. When everything is horrible, do good science.

The Story

At one point I ended up in a situation where I had to complete a PhD project in two years. There was a project my supervisors kept advising me to delay because they had no time to work on it with me. As time ticked away I went to see the people we were going to do the project with and just started work. I fully expected my supervisors to be upset with me, of course they weren’t. That project ended in my first first-author publication (which is super important in science, you’re basically not a real research scientist if you don’t have one).

From then on I realised that, as long as you’re doing good science, you don’t have to worry what anyone thinks. As long as you’re doing good science, you’re doing it right.

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

My dear friend and Mechanical Engineering professor Candace Lang. She works in a very male dominated world and faces a lot of pushback and adversity. I don’t think she’s ever let it get to her. I’ve seen so many people get bitter, hard and mean because of all the unpleasant stuff that happens in science. Not her, she is one of the funniest, self-assured, warm and wonderful people I know.

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

Ha! Definitely start with the ‘do good science, and stop caring what people say’ a lot sooner.

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

  1. It’s not you, it’s them.The lack of women in top STEM jobs is not because of women lacking interest or ability. It’s because of a biased system. Write it on your wall, write it on your forehead, keep saying it to yourself and others every day. You belong in STEM as much as anyone else does.
  2. It’s important to be ‘stupid’. Read The importance of stupidity in scientific research. Don’t worry about not knowing things. Not knowing things is what science is all about. People who make you feel stupid for not knowing things are usually insecure in their knowledge themselves. Stun them by saying: “Have you read Schwartz 2008 in JCelSci? I think you’d find it interesting”.
  3. Go with your gut. If a job/project/situation feels wrong, it probably is. Even if you can’t work out why it feels wrong, trust your gut. I promise you there will be other jobs/projects/opportunities. Same goes for things feeling right by the way.

8. How do you measure your success?

In science, your stuff is usually measured by your publications and how much they get cited. I am proud of them, just the fact that I got them done. It makes me really happy when they get cited, but primarily because it means my work helped someone with theirs.

The same sort of thing goes for my coaching and science communication work. When I’ve really helped someone understand something or do something it just makes me all happy and smiley. When your work makes you happy and proud, that’s success.

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

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

Twitter: @josiendebie
Facebook: genderbrain