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Latest from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

1. Say hi :) who are you what do you do?   Hello! My name is Sophie, I am a researcher and science writer with experience in healthy aging, patient engagement, and scientific research. My articles regarding the intersection of technology and healthcare, including how innovations transform the management of chronic disease for diverse populations, have been published extensively, most notably appearing in PBS Next Avenue, Forbes, MarketWatch, Brandchannel, Pfizer Get Old and other media outlets. I have a bachelor’s degree in bioinformatics, a master’s degree in public and community health and a graduate certificate in gerontology.  2. How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?   As a young girl, I was an avid reader. I had a budding interest in science and became inspired by my mother’s love of science and healthcare. She started and operated a community pharmacy for several years, where I became exposed to different views of health including patient engagement, health promotion, and preventive medicine. After I graduated with my master’s degree, I launched Global Health Aging, a web-based publication featuring news, research and policy implications on healthy longevity. The website is listed as a resource for research on aging and age-related diseases by the Dahlgren Memorial Library at Georgetown University Medical Center. Global Health Aging has also been nominated twice by Wego Health for the 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2017 Patient Leader Hero Awards. I am very fortunate to have a diverse background because of the different paths I’ve followed and opportunities that have presented themselves to me since graduation.   3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?   Contributing to valuable research that impacts science and public health gives me a sense of purpose. I am passionate about improving healthcare through research, innovation, and collaboration, my latest report explores the social and financial costs of millennial dementia caregivers. Also writing for various media outlets such as Salon, Brandchannel and PBS Next Avenue have been a dream come true.  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 am a proud bibliophile! I de-stress by reading, my favorite genres are fantasy, science fiction, and even cookbooks. I also curate my book account on Twitter, where I share my love of books and movies. In times of doubt, I try to remember my past successes and read inspirational quotes, I especially love this quote “You are worth so much more than your productivity.” My family and close friends also offer the best motivational talks. Self-care is essential, my goal is to make it a priority and never take it for granted.    5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?   My future self. I’m inspired to do better each day physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I must also mention my mother. Her example and mentorship had a huge influence on the formation of my career goals. She encouraged my fascination with science, I still have fond memories of her explaining chemical reactions and equations at the dinner table. Thanks to my mother, chemistry was and still is one of my favorite subjects.  6. What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? Work smart as well as hard because it will pay off in the future. Realize that your challenges and struggles are temporary although it may not feel so. Always remember to confide in family members and close friends, they are your biggest allies. And finally, there are many paths to your dream, so believe in yourself and embrace your unique gifts. Remain committed and practice patience to achieve your goals, ignore the negative.  7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?   First and foremost, it’s awesome that you’ve chosen the STEM field! Find allies within and outside your field. For the longest time, my closest allies were colleagues in other fields like social work, international business and nursing. They were my cheerleaders in difficult and challenging times. Find a mentor. Mentors can help you develop your career. I’ve had mentors at different times in my career, it makes a big difference. A mentor can also encourage you to join professional organizations that are relevant to your field. Volunteer your time, energy or skills. This can help with building your network and connecting with people who share your passion and purpose. A couple of initiatives include The STEM Squad and Her STEM Story. Personal branding (marketing yourself and your career as a brand) is also important as you build your STEM career. 8. How do you measure your success?   I’ve realized that success is relative. The most important lesson is to learn to give yourself grace and celebrate your achievements, whether few or many. Everyone is on a journey and it's uniquely their own. Here are some of my favorite inspirational quotes that show what success to me is.  “Have courage and be kind.” “Be the change you want to see in the world.” “Different paths in life are not always the wrong path.” “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”    9. Where can we find out more about your work?   https://soinspiredhealth.com/   https://globalhealthaging.org/   10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?   Yes! I would love to connect with young STEM women. I’m active on Twitter @sophieokolo
Name: Bathabile Mpofu Role/Occupation: MD at Nkazimulo Applied Sciences Country: South Africa Bathabile Mpofu is the Managing Director at Nkazimulo Applied Sciences and the creator of the science kit, ChemStart. ChemStart was designed to help young people become scientists by giving them a chance to perform science experiments themselves, to better understand the practical component of their lessons, thus preparing them for science careers. As part of the package, the company also does science experiments at schools to get young people excited about science. As a young girl, Mpofu had aspired to become a doctor, however the secondary education offered to her could not adequately prepare her to meet this aspiration, “Imagine how it feels like to come to the knowledge that your future as you imagined it, is never going to happen and it’s not your fault? You are capable but are disempowered?... Thousands of learners go through this experience every year! That is not right,” she recalls. Ultimately, she studied a BSc majoring in Chemistry and Biology and then worked as a technician at the university. As a technician, she came across many students who experienced struggles similar to her known, this mobilised Mpofu to action and she founded her own company and developed ChemStart. “High school didn’t prepare me for tertiary education to learn to become a doctor, but now I have an opportunity to prepare and help others become the scientists they aspire to be through ChemStart... ChemStart makes science come to life and prepares learners for tertiary education,” she explains. Mpofu admits that running a business is difficult but she wouldn’t have it any other way, “because I am doing something I believe in, in something whose vision I crafted myself, I always work towards achieving it. I am not under compulsion but driven by passion.” She envisions that one day “a graduate of medicine [will say] that ChemStart contributed in their journey of becoming a doctor.” Her advise to young woman hoping to enter the STEM field is to utilise the power within, “the power to change one’s life for a better future lies within each person and if we dream about what we want, be willing to take action that leads towards making the dream a reality…we can achieve anything we want to achieve.” Mpofu feels that the current South African climate is conducive to the advancement of women in STEM, this country “has so many opportunities for women to pursue STEM careers… I have had some opportunities presented to me which I’ve taken hold of, I’ve been celebrated for being in STEM… It is a land of opportunity for everyone, but men still progress further than women. I think work needs to be done on mindset and not just the opportunities.” Read more about our Geeky Girl, Bathabile Mpofu, who makes science come to live more than a ChemStart kit in an inspiring interview below.  1. Describe what your work entails.   At the company I developed a science kit called ChemStart. This kit is designed to help young people become scientists by giving them a chance to perform science experiments themselves, preparing them for science careers, and to better understand the practical component of their lessons. We also do science experiments at schools to get young people excited about science.  2. Describe your STEM journey.   I wanted to grow up and become a doctor but high school education didn’t prepare me for this. Imagine how it feels like to come to the knowledge that your future as you imagined it, is never going to happen and it’s not your fault? You are capable but are disempowered? I know how it feels because is exactly what happened to me. Thousands of learners go through this experience every year! That is no right! I ended up studying BSc majoring in Chemistry and Biology and I was fortunate to get a job at the university as a technician and got to see many young people going to the struggle like I did. When life dishes you lemons, you make lemon juice, this eventuality defined my new purpose in life. High school didn’t prepare me for tertiary education to learn to become a doctor, but now I have an opportunity to prepare and help others become the scientists they aspire to be through ChemStart. I started a company so I could do this. ChemStart makes science come to life and prepares learners for tertiary education.  3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning?   I love the fact that I can fulfil my purpose in life through my job. Running a business is not easy though but because I am doing something I believe in, in something whose vision I crafted myself, I always work towards achieving it. I am not under compulsion but driven by passion. What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? The opportunity that I contribute towards helping young people fulfil their dreams. I imagine a day when a graduate of medicine says that ChemStart contributed in their journey of becoming a doctor.  4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space?   I have had some opportunities presented to me which I’ve taken hold of, I’ve been celebrated for being in STEM and the environment in this country is conducive and encouraging to women to advance in STEM. Whether women are able to use these opportunities is a different question.  5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field?    The power to change one’s life for a better future lies within each person and if we dream about what we want, be willing to take action that leads towards making the dream a reality…we can achieve anything we want to achieve. Right now SA has so many opportunities for women to pursue STEM careers 6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”?   It is a land of opportunity for everyone, but men still progress further than women. I think work needs to be done on women’s mindset and not just the opportunities.  7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career?   The moment I realised that my struggles and challenges I faced in my journey have helped me find my purpose in life. In Jan 25 th , 2015 I had that eureka moment where I said “I‘ve found my purpose in life”  8. How do you maintain a work-life balance?    Honestly this is hard, I have learned to ask for help as much as I can and then share the success with others. There is no-way I could do all this on my own.  9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you?    Oprah…she decided at a young age that she will be who she has become. After achieving all that she remains humble and is passionate about building other people.  10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found?   www.nkazisciences.co.za www.facebook.com/nkazisciences   Twitter Handle:  @BathabileMpofu Bathabile Mpofu interviewed by Dhruti Dheda Dhruti Dheda is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at dhruti@geekyreality.com or find her on twitter  @dhrutidd
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Priya Shukla. I am a PhD student at UC Davis studying the impacts of climate change on the seafood we grow along the California coast. I also write about the oceans and climate change in a digital column on Forbes Science. 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 took a long and windy path here. When I was applying to college, I was planning on pursuing a career in biotechnology and while nursing dreams of becoming a theatre actor! Halfway through my undergraduate career at UC Davis, I took a general geology class called "The Oceans", where I discovered that the oceans were imperiled by climate change. I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I tacked an Oceanography minor onto my Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Management. But, I didn't jump straight from this class into my PhD! In fact, after college, I worked for an environmental consulting firm and taught high school for a year. I then went to San Diego State University, where I received my Master's after studying how climate change affected underwater kelp forests. I then worked for public education and marine policy organizations and managed a research group before returning to UC Davis to begin my PhD last fall. After my Master's I became deeply passionate about connecting the science I was doing with the people who either benefited from it (like communities that depend on fishing for income) or could do something with it (like our congressional representatives). And, one way I figured I could do that was by by writing, which is why I spend a small part of each month publishing articles about breaking science news! 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Wow - this is a hard question for me because so many things get me excited! But, I have to say that there are two things: [1] I absolutely love learning new things and a PhD is such a good way to do exactly that. You get spend several years at the cutting edge of science, discovering new things, and learning so many different skills along the way. [2] I love thinking about who my research could one day help. I study the effects of climate change on seafood in California, where seafood is considered a luxury item. However, California is on the frontlines of climate change and is oceanographically similar to parts of the world where seafood is an economic and nutritional necessity. Therefore, understanding impacts in California could be beneficial for communities elsewhere in the world that don't have access to the same financial or educational resources that we do here. 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 love doing yoga - not only is it great exercise and source of stress relief, but I also use it help cure my writer's block! I remember I was on a tight deadline to submit a major grant back in 2014 and I was struggling to figure out how to bridge two concepts in one of my essays. I took a break from my marathon writing session to go to a yoga class and the inspiration came to me halfway through my class. And, I did end up receiving the grant. :) 5. Who is your role model? As a woman of color in the marine sciences, I don't see very many faces like my own. So, learning about Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson was a revelation for me. Not only did she help organize the March for Science a couple years ago, but she founded her own organization, the Ocean Collectiv, to bring together scientists, policymakers and community members to develop justice-oriented solutions for problems that coastal communities are facing. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I am so proud of the work I do, but I do wish I could remember to just enjoy the incredible life I get to live. I've gotten better at "stopping to smell the roses", but it's something I'm still working on. I downloaded the "1-second every day" app in November for this reason ... and am finally starting to use it 3 months later! 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? [1] When it gets challenging, you know you're doing things right. If it's easy, it doesn't stay fun for long. So, when the going gets tough, keep at it but don't be too hard on yourself. [2] Take time to figure out what you don't like. You often have to do a lot of tasks that don't appeal to you before you find the ones you do enjoy! [3] Think about how you can help people with your talents. If you're an engineer, for example, what could you build/develop that could help someone in need? Or, is there someone in your community who is also interested in engineering but doesn't have the same resources? 8. How do you measure your success? When I started my PhD, I made an academic & non-academic bucket list to make sure I would use that time to learn skills that I would one day be capable of doing the kind of work that Dr. Ayana Johnson does. So, I've taken to active steps towards checking off those boxes! 9. Where can we find out more about your work? Check out my website and my online blog! 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 follow me on Twitter: @priyology!
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