To celebrate women and women in STEM, I decided to feature a female scientist. Unfortunately I didn’t have one chilling in my backpocket available to pick their brain in time, so I used what I had… ME! My birthday falls on the 9th August – National Women’s Day, so I thought it was a good time for me to tell you a little bit about myself. Surprise!
When I decided to write this post, it seemed like a good idea. Now, typing it, I have no idea what to write.
I asked myself some questions, I’m such a delight… Disclaimer: writing about myself was really difficult so I hope I am mildly interesting.
Where did you grow up?
My mom and I moved quite a few times but mostly I grew up in the Eastern Cape. I remember being tricked into grabbing nettle leaves and playing with baby ostriches on a farm in Somerset East. I spent the last two years of high school in England where I may or may not have succumbed to emo peer pressure. Don’t worry I am unaffected now.
What qualifications do you have?
I have an MSc in Chemistry which was completed in Supramolecular Chemistry with a focus on porous crystals that can capture gas molecules. That taught me the research skills and critical thinking I use to look up the active ingredients I write about and see if they are actually worth it. Fake news or wonder ingredient?
Do you have experience with cosmetic science?
I do not. Next question… jokes. The reason I started this blog is because I am busy getting my shit together and starting to try and look after my skin, self-care Sunday style. My face has an oily T-zone and I get the occasional blemish. It also acts like a little bitch with new products or too much make-up. SO, before I spend my money, I want to know that what I’m buying is scientifically proven. I may not have the cosmetic science qualification but I have the scientific background to understand what I’m reading. I won’t ever give advice without giving the reference, or claim its from dermatological experience. This is part of my own journey and thirst for knowledge.
Why did you choose science?
I love the logic and structure of science but it also has a creative side to it. I love the scientific method and the logical way that science reveals the mysteries of nature. We all want to explain what we see in the world and understand how things work. Also I get to wear a labcoat.
What do you do for a living?
I am currently a materials scientist – we test materials and carry out failure analysis. It can be fun and stressful and also interesting. My blog is a personal project. I have a wide range of interests so often I’ve struggled to find a path without feeling the FOMO. This is my way with connecting to this part of my science interests.
What’s your experience as a woman in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)?
I love being in STEM but it can be difficult in some traditionally male dominated industries. The thing I struggle most with is the idea of stereotypes. Sometimes I deliberately wear a ribbon in my hair or put on some lipstick knowing that that may get a few looks. But I try and let my work show that wearing a ribbon in my hair won’t suddenly make me incapable – if I concentrate extra hard with my lady brain.
I know that many women are sometimes pushed into doing the “admin” at work or chosen to make the tea or organise the events. Now I’m pretty good at organising so you know I’ll own it but sometimes you have to take a moment and look around and say: “well, why didn’t they ask that guy over there to do it?” Stereotyping yo!
I’m so excited about where the world is going in recognising biases and encouraging STEM subjects at a young age to both males and females so at least we can say that the future is looking bright!
You don’t have to have a master plan (I really hope this is true) and if you do that’s cool too. I just don’t, and sometimes it stresses me out but it also allows me to be pretty flexible in my decisions. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d end up working for an engineering company testing oil one week and polymer tensile strength the next. So I’m taking each month as it comes and following what I enjoy while walking through doors that are open – figuratively and literally.
I’ve got some amazing female friends in science doing some amazing things. Here’s a list of their titles or job functions:
- Food scientist
- PhD candidate for supramolecular chemistry
- Research and development scientist of botanical extracts
- Bird species researcher on Marion Island (a little South African island on your way to Antarctica)
- Laboratory manager
- Quality manager in the production of food and spice
- Mechatronic engineer (now a field engineer)
- Chemistry lecturer
- Materials scientist (that’s me!)
I think we need to keep supporting each other and realise this isn’t a race or competition. Us ladies need to build each other up; it takes nothing away from anyone else.
*me standing behind some stranger succeeding*
Photo credit to Edith Wasserfall – some years ago, I look slightly more frazzled now.