Women in STEM: Dr. Naza

Dr. Naza at the microscope

My 58th guest is dr. Naza, a postdoctoral fellow studying multiple sclerosis, a science communicator and a theater lover.

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

My Name is Naza, I come from Costa Rica where I majored in Biology. I am a big sister of 2 and first generation student.

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

I started my instagram when I started a blog however I let it go because I had to focus on my PhD. I would like to pick it up again. Mostly, I did it because I am interested in sharing information about scholarships to people from developing countries. To show people from low income families that education is possible and can take you to places you never imagined. However, I am not very active on social media yet and hope to take it as a project now that I have graduated.

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

I always tried to keep my weekends off, especially because I had a long distance relationship and the weekend was the only time I could spend with my partner. Also I try to get engaged in a hobby when I move to a new city. If I do not have something else to do I just end up working more. Mostly, I joined theater groups, dancing classes, language classes and gym. I go home for 3-4 weeks a year and I do not work at all during this time. It is the only time a year I can spend with my family so I try not to do anything work related when I am there. This is something I clarify with my PI before I accept a job since some people is not ok with you leaving the lab for 1 full month. Finally, I also make free time in the evenings so that I can cook and watch something non-science related… to disconnect before I go to sleep.

Dr. Naza on stage

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

During all my studies there have always been more girls in the room than boys, or around 50:50.I think probably because Biology is considered to be more female friendly than other disciplines.

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

Luckily I have never been harassed in the professional setting. So far, I feel very lucky to have been spared all those bad experiences I hear from girls on science. All my male co-workers have always been super polite and respectful. Although, as a high-school student, one of my math teachers decided to call me his inspiration and blame it on me when he would write a lot on the board. He would also sent me very strange texts that I ignored. So much so that my mom thought I was dating him. He would do the same with a chosen girl every year. Of course I have suffered harrasmment outside of the academic setting.

How did you become passionate about science?

I have been passionate about nature since I was a kid. I used to play “save the plants” and “clean the river”. I became more interested in science in high school when I learned genetics. I watched a documentary on an aging disease called progeria and I got hooked. I decided I was gonna cure that disease. Later on, I fell in love with the brain and here I am still in love!

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

Right now I am a postdoctoral fellow in the lab where I did my PhD. I work with animal models of multiple sclerosis, a chronic demyelinating neuroinflammatory disorder. Basically, your own immune cells attack your body. In this case, they get into the brain and destroy a layer that surrounds the neurons and helps them transmit signals fast and efficient. When this layer, called myelin, gets destroyed people shows a variety of symptoms like paralysis and blindness. I study the cells that make the myelin, oligodendrocytes, and how they communicate with the “bad” cells from the immune system.

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

I would advice any girl who is interested in STEM to go for it! Science is beautiful, open to everyone and always in need of more smart girls to join the club. I would recommend them to reach out of their comfort zone. Do not be scared to make contacts and ask for information or guidance. A lot of grown up scientists were once just wondering girls and would love to help out.

Follow Naza on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s