Women in STEM: Vira

Vira in the lab

My 33rd guest is Vira, an Ukranian woman, who is about to finish her PhD and is involved in making the STEM fields more inclusive.

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

My name is Vira, originally I’m from Ukraine, but the last 6 years I’m living and working in Germany. At the moment, I’m about to finish my PhD in the field of molecular biomedicine with the focus on developmental neuroscience. Basically, I reprogram human skin or blood cells to their undefined (almost embryo-like stage) and later on use them to generate 3D cultures. Quite often, these 3D cultures are also being called “mini-brains.

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

I did start my Twitter about a year ago. One of my former BSc student that I supervised at the time, convinced me that it’s totally worth a time, and I’m enormously grateful to him for bringing up this idea!

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

It’s not an easy task, since work at the lab is very demanding and time consuming, but I’m trying my best to practice self-care and take some much needed time for some activities outside of the lab. I’m really passionate about #WomenInSTEM topic and trying to do my part on making STEM filed more inclusive (I’m a coordinator of 500 Women Scientists Pod in Bonn and German Regional Coordinator). Recently I also discovered that I really enjoy surfing and spend my 30th birthday in last November at the surf school with one of my best friend.

Vira spending her free time with friends

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

I guess, one important thing that not a lot of people realize that on the undergraduate level (both BSc and MSc) might be even more women than men (this was exactly my case), ratio on the level of graduate school might be more or less fair, but when it comes to the higher positions and tenures, there is a huge gap between amount of women and men directors of the institutes, heads of the departments, etc.

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

Luckily, I never accounted some bad examples of harassment, but I definitely have had an experience of “jokes” about women in science and being talked over during some meetings.

How did you become passionate about science? 

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been curious about all kind of things: from why dinosaurs went extinct (still a huge T-Rex fan) to how our body works. And once I got serious about becoming a scientist (previous options include a wide range of occupations from a layer to a journalist), I never gave a second thought what exactly I would like to study. The answer was crystal clear to me – I want to become a neuroscientist. To this day, the human brain is the most exciting and complicated thing in a known Universe to me.

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

Always believe in yourself, stay curious, remember you’re capable of achieving anything, and never let anyone make you think you are not good enough to reach your goals!

Follow Vira on LinkedIn!

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