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Latest from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Ana Maria Porras and I am a biomedical engineer. I finished my Ph.D. in 2017 and I am now a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University. I spend my days studying the bacteria inside our guts and finding ways to understand how it is that they have the power to control our health. 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 think I always knew I wanted to be a scientist or engineer. My parents were engineers and I enjoyed solving problems and making things, but I knew I didn't want to build bridges or cars. One day, my mom, who was a professor, came back from visiting another university, where she had heard for the first time about bioengineering. From there, I did some research and learned that biomedical engineers solve problems in human medicine and I fell in love with the field. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? The people I work with and knowing that I get to learn something new every day. Sometimes, it's even something nobody else in the world knows yet! 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Two things: time off with family and friends, and dancing it out! Just two days ago I had a pretty busy and kind of rough day at work. I was stressing so much about several deadlines I have coming up. After work, I went to my dance rehearsal with 3 other friends and once we started dancing and laughing, all the worries of the day just went away. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? Dr. Kristyn Masters, who was my thesis advisor during my Ph.D. Kristyn taught me everything I know about being a good scientist, and more importantly, about being a good caring mentor. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? Talk to as many people as possible and learn as much as you can about all the possible careers out there! There's so much you can do, the sky is the limit. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Let your curiosity guide your path Don't let others tell you what you can or cannot do Find friends and mentors that can support you in the journey 8.  How do you measure your success? First against myself by thinking about how far I have come and how much I have learned at each stage of professional and personal career. Second, by evaluating the people and communities I have been able to interact with and hopefully contribute to in some way. 9.  Where can we find out more about your work? Follow me on social media (see below) to learn about microbiology and see the cute crocheted microbes I make! You can also visit  the lab website:  https://www.britolab. org/people 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? SO social! Find me on Twitter and Instagram @AnaMaPorras . If you speak Spanish, I'm also on Instagram and Facebook @anaerobias . And here is my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ ana-maria-porras/
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? Uvlulluataq, I am Dr. Kat Napaaqtuk Milligan-Myhre. I am Inupiaq; a Microbiologist who dabbles in evolution, ecology, systems biology, and molecular biology; a runner; a mom to two kids; and a beadworker, not necessarily in that order. In my research, I use a fish found all over the northern hemisphere called threespine stickleback to study host-microbe interactions, and specifically how our genes influence how our gut microbes interact with our bodies. In other words, I’m interested in how the trillions of microbes in our gut help us grow, and how our gut microbes stop microbes that can cause disease from causing disease, and why that is different in one person vs another person. 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 have had at least a dozen jobs, ranging from radio DJ to janitor to housekeeper for a fancy hotel, to now a scientist. I had at least a dozen ideas of what I was going to do when I grew up and scientist wasn’t one of them. I thought everything was known in science, so what was the point? When I was an undergraduate student at college I thought I wanted to be an MD doctor, so I worked in research labs to make my CV more appealing. While I was there I discovered that I REALLY liked research – new discoveries every day, working in groups on projects and also independently, coming up with ideas for where to take projects, watching microbes under the microscopes, etc. I was hooked. I’ve been in research for over 20 years, and I still love it. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I love talking to people who are passionate about learning new things, and I love coming up with ideas for learning new things. I have a lab with somewhere between 10-15 people, depending on the semester, and I love watching their scientific independence grow over the semester/year. I was also a bench scientist for almost 20 years, and recently moved into field work (collecting fish from the wild). When I am out in the field, I like to stop to watch my fish and think about how the microbes in their guts are affecting their development, behavior, and where they are getting the microbes from, and how the microbes are interacting with other microbes. So, long story short, there is a lot I love about my job. 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 like to run. When I am out for a run, I see the world in a completely different way. It helps me clear my mind when I’m stuck, it makes me feel stronger, and I can see places I would never have been able to get to by just walking/driving. My scariest run was when I was trying to run at my parents camp on the Noatak river. I ran less than a half a mile down the river, smelled a bear, and ran back to camp as fast as I could! The most beautiful run would be hard to pick. I ran with a colleague in a remote part of France at daybreak. It was a great way to talk about our science, and the sunrise was beautiful. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I have a lot of role models. I was very lucky to work for two women who were supportive and examples of what women in science can accomplish – Laura Knoll and Karen Guillemin. I also look up to Jo Handlesman, microbiologist and scientific advisor to President Obama. I have been lucky to return to my home state with my degree, which has helped me figure out how to use my education for the benefit of my tribe. For that I look to the strong women who have lead Alaskan Native education, including Della Keats. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? For a long time I tried really hard to fit in to Western society. I didn’t go home very often, I believed scientists when they dismissed traditional medicine, and I tried to downplay my heritage. I would tell my younger self to embrace what makes me different, and use that to my advantage in my studies. I see things in a different way due to my upbringing, and that has helped me tremendously as a scientist. I wish I had seen that sooner. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Be true to yourself. Figure out what interests you and follow that passion. There are so many different exciting things to learn about in science! You don’t have restrict yourself to one field. I combine microbiology with physiology and ecology and evolution. It’s exciting to learn about so many different fields and how they fit together! There are SOOOO many people who want to help girls get into STEM. If you start with one mentor and it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, find another mentor who can help your passion for science grow. 8. How do you measure your success? For work: papers/funding/excitement in my mentees about science. For my family: time spent together, hugs, and honesty. For my tribe: research that helps us make decisions about our future (haven’t accomplished that yet). 9. Where can we find out more about your work? I am @napaaqtuk on Twitter, and my website is https://drkatlab.wordpress.com/about/ 
Name: Nsovo Mayimele Role/Occupation: Pharmacist Country: South Africa Nsovo Mayimele is the manager for the South African Pharmacy Council. As a professional pharmacist, she had previously worked in the research space, but working for the council has now placed her in a more corporate environment. A new environment, which she rather enjoys, “working for a national council is so exciting for me because I contribute to a cause that is bigger than me. Knowing that the effort I put into my work will have impact in the next coming years has to be the absolute motivation.” Mayimele’s school years were hallmarked by being in the science laboratory and after high school she immediately went into the Health Sciences to study pharmacy. This is where she discovered her true love, “I loved pharmaceutics and found dosage form design to be very interesting,” she explains. She has to admit that she has been fortunate enough not to face too many difficulties as a woman in STEM and maintains an optimistic outlook for the future, “professional resistance in the workplace is still in existence, but I am optimistic that this will change. If it doesn’t, I’m still determined to make it work.” Her advice to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field, “find your passion, once you do, pursue it with all you have… Voices will be there to tell you to slow down because you are running too fast, but set your goals and achieve them.” Mayimele firmly believes that Africa is a land of opportunity and that STEM is a tool for progress , “STEM is on the rise in Africa. Africa has many problems, and the fun part about STEM is that we are about solutions. STEM is exactly what Africa needs to grow and progress.” Mayimele is grateful to have qualified for funding from the National Research Foundation and Department of Science and Technology due to the quality of her research, “funding is a major contributor to kick-start a career in science and research,” she elaborates. One of the key milestones in her career was presenting her MSc research in Massachusetts, USA and then winning award for innovation for her research. As a new mom currently on maternity leave, she is trying to navigate through this new situation of finding work-life balance whilst taking care of a child, “I have an unexplainable sense of guilt when I have to work on my laptop and not spend a moment with my child,” she explains. Her inspiration is the late Dora Akunyili of Nigeria, a pharmacist who used her knowledge for the benefit of the country and was recognised for her work in pharmacology, public health and human rights, “I would like to use my education and knowledge to benefit humanity,” she elaborates. Read more about our Geeky Girl and enterprising pharmacist, Nsovo Mayimele in an insightful interview below. 1. Describe what your work entails. I am working as a manager for the South African Pharmacy Council. While I am a pharmacy professional who enjoys the research space, working for the council placed me in a corporate environment. 2. Describe your STEM journey. From high school, I immediately went into pharmacy school. My school years were hallmarked by being in the lab. I loved pharmaceutics and found dosage form design to be very interesting. 3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? Working for a national council is so exciting for me because I contribute to a cause that is bigger than me. Knowing that the effort I put into my work will have impact in the next coming years has to be the absolute motivation. Hence, I do my work to the best of my abilities. 4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? Being in a country such as mine, I have to admit that it has not been too difficult. Professional resistance in the workplace is still in existence, but I am optimistic that this will change. If it doesn’t, I’m still determined to make it work. 5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? Find your passion, once you do, pursue it with all you have. Being a woman, there are many more distractions on our journey than for men. Voices will be there to tell you to slow down because you are running too fast, but set your goals and achieve them. 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”? STEM is on the rise in Africa. Africa has many problems, and the fun part about STEM is that we are about solutions. STEM is exactly what Africa needs to grow and progress. Yes definitely Africa is a land of opportunities. 7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? Yes. One of the biggest milestones for me was getting to present my masters research in Massachusetts, USA and actually winning award for innovation. Another big one was having funding from our (South Africa) National Research Foundation and Department of Science and Technology. Funding is a major contributor to kick-start a career in science and research. 8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? I’m a new mom. I am still on maternity leave, but I am currently battling to find that balance. I have an unexplainable sense of guilt when I have to work on my laptop and not spend a moment with my child. I don’t know how I will be able to make it when I go back to work. 9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? I am inspired by the late Dora Akunyili of Nigeria. She was a pharmacist who used her knowledge for the benefit of the country. She was recognised for her work in pharmacology, public health and human rights. I would like to use my education and knowledge to benefit humanity. 10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? On google. There are a few links about by work in pharmacy and social sciences. I’m also on linkedIn Twitter Handle: @NsovoMayimelex Nsovo Mayimele 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
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