Women in STEM: Sarah

Sarah in the lab

Meet Sarah, my 13th guest. She is an Australian immunologist with a huge love for Harry Potter.

Hi t.cell.sarah! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

Hi my name is Sarah and I am from Melbourne Australia, I have a masters in science (research) with a focus on immunology. Keeping my age a secret for now but if you follow me you may have seen its big one and I am having a Harry Potter themed birthday with my best friend!!! I am so excited so keep an eye out for it later in the year.

When did you start your Instagram account? How did you get the idea?

I started my account in August 2018 and I got the idea from one of my friends, Vanesa you may know her as neuroscience.ness on Instagram. I saw how much fun she was having and wanted to join in, she even helped me name my account. I love sharing my life as a scientist but also that while I love science I do have other interests and that’s OK, I also love that I can combine my hobbies with science and share them with people, I am currently running a series that combines baking and science.

Can you tell us something about how you balance work and private life? 

During my masters I didn’t really achieve work life balance, I used to spend late nights and early mornings in the lab, so once I finished my degree I decided to set work hours and I stuck to them as closely as I could. This set boundaries not just for me but also for others who worked with me, it let them know that I only worked during certain hours and that if you needed me for something to see me during those hours.

I also believe in enjoying yourself while you study, it may seem like you life is what you study but you are allowed to have other hobbies like reading, baking, hanging out with friends, gaming, basically whatever you like doing keep doing because during the hard times it will help you get through it. Don’t let your studies take over your life and remember you can have life away from your studies.

During your academic studies how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?

During my masters I was guess I was in a unique situation, two of my supervisors were women and probably due to that I was in a lab surrounded by women. Even in my bachelors degree I was surrounded by women, I am not sure if that was because my university wasn’t overly competitive, I went to a university in a lower socio-economic area, so I think this meant that they were actually quite supportive and the competitiveness that is usually associated with university just wasn’t there, everyone had there own for reasons for being there and wanted to support others. I felt like my university was quite a surreptitious environment and really wanted to help me achieve my goals.

Even during my masters I felt somewhat supported especially by those around me because we were all going through the same thing, I didn’t feel like I was being treated as someone lesser because I was a women in a male dominated field, I still don’t feel like that but even in my career I was working for a women so I guess you could say I had a unique perspective on this topic.

Have you ever felt harassed or being kept apart as a scholar because you are a woman?

As mentioned above most of my research career I have been surrounded by women and felt supported, I haven’t personally felt harassed because I was a women but I do know women who felt like they had to work harder than the men in similar positions to them to get a leg up and get the respect they deserve. While I think we are making big strides to equality we still have long way to go and I respect the people who have come before me who may have had it harder than me.

How did you become passionate about science? 

I wasn’t always passionate about science, I always had an interest in science but I wouldn’t say I was passionate. The passion came after I finished my masters and had some time away from science, I realized I missed it and then I saw Vanesa’s Instagram and I volunteered to help my lab with a science outreach day and that really showed me how much I enjoyed sharing my world with others and bringing them into it.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I previously worked as a research assistant in an immunology research laboratory, I am currently looking for a new job in laboratory management or industry. Working in science really means you need to resilient because losing your job because your lab has no funding is a real possibility.  

Thank you so much for your time. Lastly, can you give any advice to girls interested in STEM?

If you want to get into science, then do it! You path might not always be as direct as you think but there are always other ways to get to your endpoint.

Check Sarah’s LinkedIn!

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