Women in STEM: Monika

The biotechnologist and artist Monika

For my 15th WomenInSTEM episode, I have the honor to interview Monika, a biotechnologist and very talented artist. The drawings you will find in the middle of interview are Monika’s and they are related to CRISPR-Cas9 immunity.

Hi @artbymonikajasnauskaite! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

Hi! My name is Monika, I’m from Lithuania. I obtained my Bachelor’s and Master‘s degree in Molecular biology from Vilnius University. I’m working in a biotechnology field on molecular tools development. I also enjoy drawing. During my studies I learnt about scientific/natural history illustration and fell in love with it.

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

I started my Instagram account about 5 years ago. Previously I mostly used a Facebook page to share my drawings and creative process. As I started sharing more content related to scientific illustrations, I noticed a decrease in post reach. Scientific illustration is quite a small, specific niche so you have to try harder to find your audience. I found out that it‘s easier to reach scientists or people who are interested in science using Instagram or Tumbrl.

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

I‘m working on the pretty much standard 8 hours per day, 5 days per week schedule. I don‘t mind working after hours or on weekends if I have personal emergencies or other personal business, which has to be sorted out during work hours/days. It‘s important to look at the bigger picture and prioritize your tasks and personal needs.

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

The majority (~90%) in my course were women. Natural sciences are more popular among women in Lithuania in general.

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

The only direct harassment I encountered were some objectifying jokes about women. Also, some people have a conservative opinion that being an artist and a scientist is not possible. Having an artist side is considered being sloppy, silly and incompetent sometimes.
The indirect impact of being a woman is more subtle and harder to talk about. Generally in terms of career opportunities there is a huge gap among women and men in the job market, STEM is not an exception. One of the most bugging issues for me is that the maternity leave is assumed for young women. Therefor even if you are a top performer you can‘t be sure you will be suitable for a more promising position. Male colleagues are considered as safer investments in a long run, especially if it‘s industry and there are budget issues. On daily basis, men tend to be less overworked, less involved in daily routine tasks and allowed to have more time to plan and think about ideas.

How did you become passionate about science?

I always was curious and fascinated by nature. I enjoyed analyzing information, learning and finding out how things work on a cellular level.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

Monika skipped this question. Her lab work is considered confidential, she isn’t allowed to talk about it openly.

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

If you feel that this is your field of interest – just do it. It‘s not always going to be easy, but you will overcome it. Be creative, strong, independent, have opinions, question everything.

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