Women in STEM: Aaqifa

Aaqifa observing bacteria under microscope

My 25th guest is Aaqifa, an undergraduate Biotechnology student from India.

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

My name is Aaqifa Shaikh, from India. I am an undergraduate studying Bachelors in Biotechnology in India. I believe in sharing the knowledge I gain. Science communication is the need of the hour! I am a wildlife fanatic fascinated by the way nature works. My interests include cell biology, molecular biology, collecting dead insects, chasing herps, and bird-watching. I also volunteer/take part in social outreach campaigns/programs.

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

I started this account during Diwali of 2019 (A festival celebrated in India known as the Festival of lights https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali). The idea struck me when I was watching a news channel where the reporter was talking about Internet and its pros and cons. I had previously run into a lot of science/research/PhD promoting accounts on Instagram. Research as a career field is not chosen by people. So, to do one’s bit, I created an account where I post about life sciences, fauna, lab experiments, the different observations I come across, answer to different questions, etc. The main impetus to create this account was to convey Science and contribute to the society in layman’s language.

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

As of now I am studying. But I do make a timetable and allot time for stuff I have to do on a particular day. I also allot time for hobbies and exercising. Making a timetable sure helps, but as priorities change time management becomes difficult and abiding to the strict hours is a huge task for me. 

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

I am currently studying Bachelors; we have equal representation of men and women in the degree course. Because of the conducive and safe environment. 

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

Fortunately no. The environment is accepting women scholars to a greater extent. 

How did you become passionate about science? 

I have been passionate about science since school days. But I was not a big fan of textbook science. For me it was the practical application of a concept that made Science more interesting to me. Most of the time I have spent questioning things, e.g- Why are leaves green and not in any other color? Do bacteria die when we stamp on them? How do animals’ percive signals? How do humans speak? Why did Dinosaurs go extinct? … etc. Also, TV channels broadcasting Science and Nature related stuff like Discovery Science, Animal Planet, NatGeo, BBC Earth played a crucial role in inspiring me to take up science. Recent shows like Cosmos, One Strange Rock, One Planet ignite more interest and even more questions! Inventions such as The “Foldscope” (A paper microscope! designed by Manu Prakash and team  https://www.foldscope.com/) is an awe to science and increases interest and passion towards science.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I’m currently studying.

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

Always stay curious! Ask Google questions. We live in “The age of information” where IoT (Internet of things) is a real thing! make use of it, talk to scientists about your queries, make connections. Even when you feel nobody is hearing you out, be patient. Failures are a part and parcel of life. @scicommforeveryone told me “Every voice matters” which is pretty inspiring for a person like me who has very little experience in the STEM field! So, pull up your socks, get out there, showcase what you are best at doing! then eventually and slowly people will start appreciating it! And always remember to be kind! In the end I would like to leave y’all with a quote by George Bernard Shaw “A reasonable man adapts to the world; unreasonable one tries to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all the progress depends on the unreasonable ones”. Good luck! and May the force be with you. 

Follow Aaqifa on her platforms:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bio_x_tech/

Foldscope: https://microcosmos.foldscope.com/?author=7493

Blog: https://thebiostory.blogspot.com/

Aaqifa giving a demonstration of Kaleidoscope to children as a part of social outreach.

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