Women in STEM: Yasemin

Yasemin in the lab

For my 14th woman in STEM, I interviewed Yasemin, a German passionate PhD student, who communicate science in German.

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

My name is Yasemin, I am 26 years old and in the second year of my PhD. I grew up in a little town in Baveria (Germany) and my dream has always been to study at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich! I am not kidding 😄 My first memory about that is when I was round about 5 years old 😄 And in the end I really got the opportunity to complete my Bacherlor’s and Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. I also spent 5 months at the University of Oxford during my Master’s program, which was really demanding but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be there. I learnt so much!

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

I started my scientific Instagram account just recently (beginning of February). I wanted to share science with everyone and in a language so everyone can understand it! There are a lot of scicommers doing their brilliant work in English, but a scicommer doing all of that in German was lacking! I want people to understand science in their native language and try to keep it as simple as possible, so everyone is able to comprehend. Which is quite difficult sometimes, as scientist are using a “special” language to communicate science! But I try my best, and so far I get good feedback from my lovely followers, which makes me really happy. I especially want to encourage girls to join STEM, because I face the problem of underestimation. As I appear to be really girly and I am also not quite tall, people were underestimating my skills! And that made me furious, so I want to show/convince that girls can do GREAT science! We are not lacking anything! We do have one brain and two hands, such as our male colleagues! So what are you waiting for? HANDS ON SCIENCE!

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

That’s a difficult topic 😄 As I love my job so much, I don’t mind working a lot. BUT of course at some point my body starts to rebel. When I am really stressed, I get really tense muscles and when I start dreaming about my experiments (I think every scientist knows what I am talking about here), yeah than I listen to my body and realize OKAY, I exaggerated again and than i keep it slow. But sometimes the experiment requires you to stay 12 to 13 hours in the lab or to come in at the weekends, but if this is the case I always try to treat my self with good food, shopping or going out for dinner/cinema with friends.

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

As I studied pharmaceutical sciences there were a lot more female students in my course than male ones, at least in the Bachelor’s. In the Master’s that changed a little bit and the number was equal between genders. Now, in my PhD the number is equal again, but I have the feeling that depends on the research area, it seems like there are more man doing synthesis and more women doing biology, but maybe this also comes from all the prejudices… I really don’t know why the number of women are decreasing with higher degree, I also made a post about that once and was wondering if the majority of women really quite their jobs to become caring mommies or if there is really an injustice and man are preferentially hired for leading positions.

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

Luckily, not really! Only that some people underestimated my skills, because of my appearance, but I think I did proof them all wrong after they got to know me! So, ladies: Keep your heads up!

How did you became passionate about science?

After I finished school I had a voluntary job at a psychiatric clinic, and I was so astonished by the behavioral change of patients after treatment that I was so keen on finding out how drugs work- I had so many questions like: How do drugs know where to act in the body ? – How long does it take till the drug is completely out of the body? – How does depot medication work? – Why is it important to give different dosage forms – can’t it all just be pills?

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I really love my job! My boss is the best, she always encourages us to follow our own ideas but also shows us the right path if we are stuck. I am also really happy about my colleagues, I would consider us as more than colleagues, we are friends! That creates such a nice work environment. In terms of science, we are investigating the dynamic changes of RNA modifications in different organisms using HPLC-MS. Working on bioanalytical chemistry of ribonucleic acids is so nice, because it is merging biology, chemistry and analytics, so you keep your mind busy with all areas you learned about in your studies 🙂

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

JUST DO IT! Stop listening to people who tell you: you are a girl you should become a teacher or you should do something with arts, or languages…that’s also fine of course, but you can also be an explorer, do fancy experiments, find out cool stuff no one else has found out before and finally even win the Nobel prize. Doesn’t it sound fantastic? I think it does! Try to talk to your science teachers, maybe they can help you to do an internship in that field and you can find out if you want to be the next Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin.

You can Yasemin also on ResearchGate and LinkedIn.

If you are interested in what her research group does, check her professor’s Twitter.

Parenting is a choice

Parenting under the snow

I recently start watching the new Netflix series “Babies”.

The series hosts thirty-six scientists who devoted their life study children’s development.

One of the scientists interviewed in the first episode in Prof. Ruth Feldman. I was very interested in what she explained, so I decided to read some of her last papers and write an article on them.

The work of prof. Feldman is related to oxytocin. In previous articles I wrote about this hormone because it is called the “cuddle hormone“, it is related to labour and delivery (1 and 2).

Initial studies on oxytocin and parenting involved mothers only. Then, researchers start studying the levels of this hormone in fathers.

They discovered that levels of oxytocin in care-giving mothers and fathers are similar.

Oxytocin increases in mothers, who provide a lot of affectionate contact and in fathers, who have a lot of stimulatory contact. Studies show that fathers highly involved in playing with their children have a higher level of oxytocin, compared with fathers, who show less stimulating activities. Moreover, brains of fathers involved in caregiving activities show an increase in grey matter volume.

The role of caregiving resilient fathers has been proven to be of a great importance in reducing the risk of post-partum depression in newly mothers and in enhancing the child’s well-being.

Feldman demonstrate that the level of parental oxytocin is fundamental not only for the establishment of the parent-child relationship, but also for the child’s oxytocin system and the development of his/her social competencies.

Finally, researchers studied the levels of oxytocin in gay fathers. In both parents high levels of hormone were produced, confirming that parenting and bonding are a choice.

The take-home-message here is: parenting in humans is not hormone-related. For this aspect we differ from the other mammalians. Parenting, parent-child relationship and the level of oxytocin depend on our behavior.

So, it doesn’t matter if you are a mother, a father, a biological or adoptive parent. The relationship with your child doesn’t depends on biology or genetics, but on your behavior, interaction and engagement only.

References:

Abraham and Feldman, “The neurobiology of human allomaternal care; implications for fathering, coparenting, and children’s social development”, (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.12.034

Feldman and Bakermams-Kranenburg, “Oxytocin: a parenting hormone”, (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.02.011

Feldman et al., “The neural mechanisms and consequences of paternal caregiving”, (2019), https://doi.org/10.1038/s41583-019-0124-6

Fujiwara et al., “Genetic and peripheral markers of the oxytocin system and parental care jointly support the cross-generational transmission of bonding across three generations”, (2019), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.12.004

Levy and Feldman, “Synchronous Interactions Foster Empathy”, (2019), https://doi.org/10.1177/1179069519865799

Vakrat et al., “Sensitive Fathering Buffers the Effects of Chronic Maternal Depression on Child Psychopathology”, (2018), https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-018-0795-7

Women in STEM: Sarah

Sarah in the lab

Meet Sarah, my 13th guest. She is an Australian immunologist with a huge love for Harry Potter.

Hi t.cell.sarah! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

Hi my name is Sarah and I am from Melbourne Australia, I have a masters in science (research) with a focus on immunology. Keeping my age a secret for now but if you follow me you may have seen its big one and I am having a Harry Potter themed birthday with my best friend!!! I am so excited so keep an eye out for it later in the year.

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

I started my account in August 2018 and I got the idea from one of my friends, Vanesa you may know her as neuroscience.ness on Instagram. I saw how much fun she was having and wanted to join in, she even helped me name my account. I love sharing my life as a scientist but also that while I love science I do have other interests and that’s OK, I also love that I can combine my hobbies with science and share them with people, I am currently running a series that combines baking and science.

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

During my masters I didn’t really achieve work life balance, I used to spend late nights and early mornings in the lab, so once I finished my degree I decided to set work hours and I stuck to them as closely as I could. This set boundaries not just for me but also for others who worked with me, it let them know that I only worked during certain hours and that if you needed me for something to see me during those hours.

I also believe in enjoying yourself while you study, it may seem like you life is what you study but you are allowed to have other hobbies like reading, baking, hanging out with friends, gaming, basically whatever you like doing keep doing because during the hard times it will help you get through it. Don’t let your studies take over your life and remember you can have life away from your studies.

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

During my masters I was guess I was in a unique situation, two of my supervisors were women and probably due to that I was in a lab surrounded by women. Even in my bachelors degree I was surrounded by women, I am not sure if that was because my university wasn’t overly competitive, I went to a university in a lower socio-economic area, so I think this meant that they were actually quite supportive and the competitiveness that is usually associated with university just wasn’t there, everyone had there own for reasons for being there and wanted to support others. I felt like my university was quite a surreptitious environment and really wanted to help me achieve my goals.

Even during my masters I felt somewhat supported especially by those around me because we were all going through the same thing, I didn’t feel like I was being treated as someone lesser because I was a women in a male dominated field, I still don’t feel like that but even in my career I was working for a women so I guess you could say I had a unique perspective on this topic.

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

As mentioned above most of my research career I have been surrounded by women and felt supported, I haven’t personally felt harassed because I was a women but I do know women who felt like they had to work harder than the men in similar positions to them to get a leg up and get the respect they deserve. While I think we are making big strides to equality we still have long way to go and I respect the people who have come before me who may have had it harder than me.

How did you became passionate about science? 

I wasn’t always passionate about science, I always had an interest in science but I wouldn’t say I was passionate. The passion came after I finished my masters and had some time away from science, I realized I missed it and then I saw Vanesa’s Instagram and I volunteered to help my lab with a science outreach day and that really showed me how much I enjoyed sharing my world with others and bringing them into it.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I previously worked as a research assistant in an immunology research laboratory, I am currently looking for a new job in laboratory management or industry. Working in science really means you need to resilient because losing your job because your lab has no funding is a real possibility.  

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

If you want to get into science, then do it! You path might not always be as direct as you think but there are always other ways to get to your endpoint.

Check Sarah’s LinkedIn!

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