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#STEMStories: Nicol, Scientist, The Netherlands

#STEMStories: Nicol, Scientist, The Netherlands

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

My name is Nicol Caplin and I am currently a Research Fellow level project scientist in Astrobiology at the European Space Agency.

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 that I wanted a science career when I entered university, I just wasn’t sure of the exact area. I picked out studying for a bachelor’s degree in environmental science because it was so broad, there were lots of areas to explore. Eventually I got interested in plant biology and its relationship with environmental radiation, which later formed the subject of my PhD thesis.

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

I’ve never been a morning person, but with a nice cup of coffee and the promise of catching up with my excellent peers at work, I can get going on what’s really important at the moment and that is carrying out research in space!

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

I’m a firm believer that you cannot pour from an empty cup, and self-care is a priority. How can anyone expect you to perform your best if you don’t treat yourself right? Sometimes stressful days at work are unavoidable. As a countermeasure, I always schedule time away from work, usually to ride my horse and leave any stress at the barn door.

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

I don’t have a single role model. Instead, I am constantly inspired by those around me. Working for ESA means I don’t have to look very far to find exceptional scientists and engineers to engage with. I am also a big fan of using Twitter for finding other inspirational people to connect with! This includes artists and poets. Creativity and science are highly complementary.

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

I would advise myself that everybody starts somewhere and that would have helped some nerves back in the early days where I began presenting my work. Practice over the years has actually turned public speaking into something I actively seek to do. Positive mindset = positive outcome.

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

  • Everyone has strengths. Take as long as you need to find yours.
  • Don’t compare your rate of progress to anyone else, there’s only one “you” and you are actually the best at being that!
  • Above all, make sure that whatever it is you’re doing, even if it’s a difficult subject, it is one that you enjoy.

8. How do you measure your success?

I set micro-goals that are easier to achieve instead of long term harder ones. That way, it’s pretty easy to succeed regularly.

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?

You can connect with me @DrCaplin on Twitter.