Women in STEM: dr. Carmen

dr. Carmen, happy in the lab

My 34th guest is dr. Carmen, an Italian neuroscientist working in California and a passionate advocate for women in STEM.

Hi @CarmenFalcone6! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

I am Carmen, an Italian postdoc in Neuroscience, currently working at UC Davis (California). I did a Master in Neuroscience and obtained a PhD in Functional and Structural Genomics at SISSA in Italy, studying the development of a type of cell (astrocytes) in the cerebral cortex. During my postdoc, I am currently interested on development and evolution of glial cells in the brain.

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

I started my Twitter one year ago mostly to connect with other scientists all around the world. Some colleagues suggested it to me at a conference. Since I have started using Twitter, I have had the opportunity to meet many different scientists at different career levels, and get to know exciting research from different fields. I have also met potential collaborators. I think it is an extraordinary platform full of resources, especially during this pandemic where we cannot travel as we usually would.

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

I value my private life a lot. I do my very best to not work on weekends, and I prefer to work harder during the day, but have the evening work-free. I think also our work can benefit from taking care of our mental health.

dr. Carmen enjoying her free time

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

During my years as students and even now as a postdoc, I have had many female colleagues. I cannot tell the same about the professors I have met. In the PIs category, women are much more rare according to my personal experience. My guess is that this has something to do with both still discrimination during hiring processes and to unbalanced parental duties/ lack or insufficient parental support from the universities.

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

I personally have not, but I have known many women peers that have been. I have had friends experiencing diminishing comments in the work environment just because they were women. We need to change this, and educate all different generations to do better and be more inclusive.

How did you become passionate about science? 

I never had doubts about choosing science as a career. I have had the privilege to have parents who stimulated my curiosity since I was a child. For example I still remember how encouraging they were when I was used to bring home tadpoles or caterpillars to watch their metamorphosis. It is not a coincidence that I became an evolutionary developmental biologist.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I am interested in studying how astrocytes (specific types of the brain that look like stars) form during development and how they have evolved in different species (including human). I compare astrocytes in differen brains from anatomical, morphological, and molecular perspectives. I’d like to known what makes them special in comparison to other cells, and why they look different in different species.

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

Follow your dreams. A career in STEM is possible for women, and you are enough. Find mentors that can support you and encourage your path. There is now many female models to look up to, and next one can be you.

Follow Carmen on her website, on ResearchGate, on LinkedIn and Google Scholar!

dr. Carmen at her desk

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