Women in STEM: Juliet

The pharmacist Juliet in the lab

Ladies and gentlemen, my 21st guest is Juliet, a Nigerian doctoral student based in the U.S.

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

Hi! My name is Juliet Obi and I am a Nigerian currently living in the United States. I was born and brought up in the South Western part of Nigeria and I have a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from Ghana. I got licensed to practice as a Pharmacist in Nigeria in 2015 and worked as a Pharmacist for approximately 2 years. I then moved to the United States in 2017 to study a Masters in Pharmaceutical Sciences at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, New York. I completed my Masters in 2019 and started a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore afterwards.

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

I started my Instagram science communication account a little over a year ago (on the 1st of January, 2019 actually!) so it’s still fairly new. It was drawing close to the beginning of a new year and as usual, people were posting so many things about new year resolutions and all the thousand and one things they hoped to do for the year 2019. I remember visiting one of my closest friends who lives in New York City sometime towards the end of 2018 and we were exchanging ideas on what we could do personally to share what we love doing to everyone. That was when the idea of opening a science communication page first came to my mind. I decided to randomly search for science pages on my personal Instagram account, and then I realized there were so many amazing accounts people like me had opened and I knew I just had to join that train! It was one of the best decisions I have made in a while as I have been able to meet, connect and network with so many people who have the same goal I have, to share the science I do with everyone and inspire anyone who wishes to pursue a career in science.

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

Honestly, balancing work and my private life is something that I am continuously learning everyday. There are times I am able to effectively manage my work-life balance, and other times, I am just winging it. Nevertheless, I have learnt over the years to try as much as possible to consciously take breaks from work/school and pay attention to my private life without feeling guilty about it. The journey to getting a PhD for example is a marathon and not a sprint, and sometimes we forget this. There is always so much work to do and you end up feeling guilty when you are not doing something school related. I have learnt to take breaks without feeling guilty because research can get very overwhelming, so that’s kinda like my own way of balancing work and private life 🙂

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

If I remember correctly, almost half of the people in my class while I was getting my Bachelor in Pharmacy were women. There was a total of six people in my cohort when I was getting my Masters in Pharmaceutical Sciences and interestingly we were all women. There are ten of us in total in my PhD class right now and six of us are women. With all these being said, I have pretty much had a good and even more representation of women in my classes throughout my education and I am grateful for that! I think that there a fairly good representation of women who enroll in STEM-related degrees although there is more room for improvement when you think about minority populations. What I have observed though is that even though more women are now enrolling in STEM-related PhD degrees, majority of women do not end up reaching the peak of their careers compared to men which means that more work needs to be done in helping more women harness all these opportunities to get to their desired level in their career goals. 

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

I have honestly not experienced any form of harassment as a scholar or woman in science (at least none comes to mind!) and I am grateful because I have heard terrible stories of women being harassed or not taken seriously as scholars or experts in their field. I know that women are constantly being harassed today, especially when they make a strong opinion about a topic in science for example (this happens on twitter a lot!). This awareness helps me prepare myself for the future and the challenges I could potentially face as a woman in science. 

How did you become passionate about science? 

I have always been passionate about science during my high school days and I chose to pursue a career in Pharmacy which is why I went ahead to get a degree in Pharmacy. My passion for research and development of drugs in particular grew in my third year of my Pharmacy degree when I attended a nano medicines workshop at a conference I happened to attend. I loved being a Pharmacist but I soon realized I was more passionate about the pharmaceutical sciences. This motivated me to start my journey in becoming a pharmaceutical scientist in the area of drug discovery.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I am a few weeks away from completing the first year of my PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences (yay!). I also just officially joined a lab where I will be completing my lab work for the rest of my PhD. The lab I joined focuses on the use of Hydrogen-Deuterium Exchange coupled to Mass Spectrometric methods (HDX-MS) to understand protein dynamics. Proteins are dynamic in nature and many proteins go through a number of conformational changes to perform their functions in the body. These conformational changes can be influenced by a number of things like drug binding, protein-protein interactions, and the location of the proteins in the cell. We can use HDX-MS to study these conformational changes in proteins of interest, and potentially understand which ones might be important for their interaction with drugs or ligands. This will potentially help in the discovery of drug targets for various diseases.  

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

Thank you so much for the opportunity! To girls out there interested in STEM, my advice is to seek for mentors who can help you realize the goal of pursuing a career in STEM. There are so many opportunities out there now to inspire and motivate girls interested in STEM (and boys too!). Also, there is a vast network of women in STEM on Twitter and Instagram who are always open to advice, help and mentor younger people interested in STEM so take advantage of that and network!. Lastly, GRIT is my key word. You will need a lot of this as you pursue a career in STEM and with persistence, you’ll eventually get there. I am not where I want to be for sure, but with grit and persistence, I am for sure not where I was yesterday and you too can get to where I am and do even much more. 

Follow Juliet on her social media platforms:

Twitter: @yinye92

LinkedIn: Juliet Obi

The happiness of the lab!

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