Women in STEM: Vanina

Vanina in the lab

My 35th guest is Vanina, a motivated and passionate Romanian-Italian neuroscientist.

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

I’m Vanina. I am currently working as a microbiology analyst while completing my postgraduate studies in neuroscience at King’s College London. I am the first person in my family to have a higher education degree and struggling with imposter syndrome. I come from a poor family of immigrants from Romania. My family moved to Italy when I was young and at the age of 33 I moved by myself to UK to pursue a career in science. I am the living proof that despite all the odds, perseverance and ambition can lead a person to success.

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

I’ve started Twitter few years ago but I’ve never been active as I am now. I realised that there is a very supportive academic community active on Twitter where every person feels included. It was a surprise for me to discover such an amazing group of people sharing their ideas, work even struggles.

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

Work-life balance it was inexistent for me while I was studying for my undergraduate degree. I had a full time job while studying full-time. After years of doing it I suffered a burnout and decided to make my mental health a priority. So I took an year off from studies and took a job in industry. The perks of working in industry are many, including several weeks of annual leave and not a lot of overtime. So now I am trying to find ways to keep this balance while I’ll be going back to studies again. At the moment I am trying my best not to work in the weekends, I set clear boundaries between work and private life. I do not carry work at home, and try not to think about work while I’m enjoying a nice walk out in nature.

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

I was lucky to attend a course where most of my colleagues were women. We also had many women as lecturers which supported us throughout our studies. I think we are seeing an increase in numbers of women taking life science related topics which is great.

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

No, I’m lucky to say it never happened to me.

How did you become passionate about science? 

My passion for neuroscience started while I was doing my undergrad project. My supervisor was a woman, doctor in neuroscience, coming from a family of immigrants and we bond quickly. She drove me towards one of the best university to study for a postgraduate degree and she supported me each step of the way.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I currently work as a microbiology analyst in the pharmaceutical industry. We test new medication and medical devices before gets on the market. We are looking for any type of bacterial contamination that could be a risk to the patients using that medication. We also conduct testing to detect the levels of endotoxins that certain medical devices have in order to determine if it is safe for patients to use. We are responsible for putting out on the market safe products. And I am proud I have to play a role in this.

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

Be curious. Ask questions. Never stop following your dreams.

Follow Vanina on LinkedIn and on Twitter!

Vanina and her amazing blue hair

Published by Martina Bodner

Biotechnologist, PhD Candidate in Food Chemistry, Science Teacher, STEM and autism advocate, mother.

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