Women in STEM: Aaqifa

Aaqifa observing bacteria under microscope

My 25th guest is Aaqifa, an undergraduate Biotechnology student from India.

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

My name is Aaqifa Shaikh, from India. I am an undergraduate studying Bachelors in Biotechnology in India. I believe in sharing the knowledge I gain. Science communication is the need of the hour! I am a wildlife fanatic fascinated by the way nature works. My interests include cell biology, molecular biology, collecting dead insects, chasing herps, and bird-watching. I also volunteer/take part in social outreach campaigns/programs.

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

I started this account during Diwali of 2019 (A festival celebrated in India known as the Festival of lights https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali). The idea struck me when I was watching a news channel where the reporter was talking about Internet and its pros and cons. I had previously run into a lot of science/research/PhD promoting accounts on Instagram. Research as a career field is not chosen by people. So, to do one’s bit, I created an account where I post about life sciences, fauna, lab experiments, the different observations I come across, answer to different questions, etc. The main impetus to create this account was to convey Science and contribute to the society in layman’s language.

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

As of now I am studying. But I do make a timetable and allot time for stuff I have to do on a particular day. I also allot time for hobbies and exercising. Making a timetable sure helps, but as priorities change time management becomes difficult and abiding to the strict hours is a huge task for me. 

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

I am currently studying Bachelors; we have equal representation of men and women in the degree course. Because of the conducive and safe environment. 

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

Fortunately no. The environment is accepting women artists/scholars to a greater extent. 

How did you become passionate about science? 

I have been passionate about science since school days. But I was not a big fan of textbook science. For me it was the practical application of a concept that made Science more interesting to me. Most of the time I have spent questioning things, e.g- Why are leaves green and not in any other color? Do bacteria die when we stamp on them? How do animals’ percive signals? How do humans speak? Why did Dinosaurs go extinct? … etc. Also, TV channels broadcasting Science and Nature related stuff like Discovery Science, Animal Planet, NatGeo, BBC Earth played a crucial role in inspiring me to take up science. Recent shows like Cosmos, One Strange Rock, One Planet ignite more interest and even more questions! Inventions such as The “Foldscope” (A paper microscope! designed by Manu Prakash and team  https://www.foldscope.com/) is an awe to science and increases interest and passion towards science.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I’m currently studying.

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

Always stay curious! Ask Google questions. We live in “The age of information” where IoT (Internet of things) is a real thing! make use of it, talk to scientists about your queries, make connections. Even when you feel nobody is hearing you out, be patient. Failures are a part and parcel of life. @scicommforeveryone told me “Every voice matters” which is pretty inspiring for a person like me who has very little experience in the STEM field! So, pull up your socks, get out there, showcase what you are best at doing! then eventually and slowly people will start appreciating it! And always remember to be kind! In the end I would like to leave y’all with a quote by George Bernard Shaw “A reasonable man adapts to the world; unreasonable one tries to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all the progress depends on the unreasonable ones”. Good luck! and May the force be with you. 

Follow Aaqifa on her platforms:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bio_x_tech/

Foldscope: https://microcosmos.foldscope.com/?author=7493

Blog: https://thebiostory.blogspot.com/

Aaqifa giving a demonstration of Kaleidoscope to children as a part of social outreach.

Women in STEM: Emilia

Emilia in the lab

My 24th guest is Emilia, an Italian lab technician based in the UK.

Hi @emilia.science! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

Hi there, my name is Emilia Angelillo, I am Italian, but I have lived in the UK for several years.
I have completed my studies in Italy where I gained a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s Degree in Microbiology and Virology. I have worked as a Medical Microbiologist in hospitals in Italy and then in the UK. A few years ago I have changed my career and started working in education. I work now in an independent school in Cambridge and I am RSciTech Science Technician and STEM Ambassador.

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

I opened my Instagram account because I wanted to participate to the annual event called Techognition (a celebration of the work that school technicians do on a daily basis) where we are asked to share pictures of what we do in the lab.


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

Sometimes it is a bit tricky, I am a very organised person and manage to do things quite quickly, so I have a very scheduled routine that starts very early in the morning and end quite late at night.


During your academic studies and now at school how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?

Biology has always been a faculty with a high number of women. I think there was the misconception that boys had to take medicine and women biology, I hope it has changed now! Also lots of women started their career as lab workers to end up working in the education when they got a family,. This type of study gives you this option.


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

Sometimes I had the feeling that people were not expecting me to be good at some particular tasks because I am a woman, especially when I was working in Italy. Also at University I noticed that sometimes the way women were addressed was different from men. Even more if women were also good looking and took care of their person. They were not taken seriously for that.


How did you become passionate about science? 

I used to play scientists with my brother, and I have always been curious about how things worked in the surrounding word


Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

As lab technician I support the science department and assist science teachers in the practicals. So I prepare the experiments for chemistry, biology and physics, I also do demonstrations in the classrooms, aside to all the usual jobs in the lab like orders, storage rooms, health and safety etc. As STEM ambassador I do hands on activities in other schools, mainly primary schools, as I am trying to promote practical science since early years. I am also involved in STEM projects such as workshops, STEM clubs and STEM weeks, both at the school where I work and in other schools I visit as STEM Ambassador. 

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

I just wanted to say that if you like science and you work hard then you will succeed. As women we don’t have to feel the pressure to choose between our career and our private life. We can do many things as we are really good at multitasking. We can be scientists but we can also have a family, interests and hobbies. There are no stereotypes in science, and being a scientist doesn’t mean you need to look and behave in a particular way….just be yourself and don’t allow anyone to tell you what you can and can’t do!

Women in STEM: Sofia

Sofia in the lab

This week’s guest is Sofia, a microbiology student from Argentina.

Hi @sofi.microbiology! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

Hi, my name is Sofia, I’m 24 years, I’m a microbiology student from Argentina. I love science, cats and fantasy books

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

I started my account in December 2018, the reason I started it was because looking up I noticed that there were almost no student accounts for this career, I felt that I might be able to help someone who was considering the career to see what it is about.

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

Well I don’t work, so I take it as if it were balancing classes and private life, well particularly I am not from the city where I am studying so it is a little difficult because I miss my family but you can always achieve a balance.

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

In my career we are more women than men, but I know that this is not the case in all countries.

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

No, I never felt that at least until now, probably because as I said we are more women so luckily we have a lot of empathy between all.

How did you become passionate about science? 

Truth is, I do not know. I always had science in my life, as a little girl I was curious, and a super fan of discovery channel, ​​I always imagined doing with my life something related to science but without a doubt the first time I saw a sample under a microscope I said “god I love this! i want to do this the rest of my life”

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

Well the first thing is not to be scared by mathematics, personally I do not like them and they are really difficult for me but they are extremely necessary, all science careers have difficult classes such as mathematics, physics and chemistry but with effort they can be passed and what comes more forward really worth it, science can show you beautiful things you couldn’t even imagine.

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