skip to content

Centre for Trophoblast Research

 

International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, we asked a selection of colleagues to tell us their story – what inspired each to take the journey that led them to where they are today, and what advice they can give to the new generation of scientists coming after them.

 

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
So let's all choose to challenge.

How will you help forge a gender equal world?
Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

www.internationalwomensday.com

 

Dr Tereza Cindrova Davies, St John's College Teaching Associate

 

When did you realise you wanted to be a scientist and what did you do about it.

I have always loved science and was good at it because it was something I enjoyed.  I had a strong and supportive background at home, as my mum is a teacher and my dad is a doctor. 

I was really interested in doing medicine at first, but I ended up going for a Biomedical Science degree. I received a scholarship to do this in the UK, which was really exciting but challenging at the same time.

Following my bachelors degree, I then did a PhD in Cambridge and stayed working as a scientist.

 

What is your current role and what do you do

In my research career, I have always strived to pursue research questions that can be related to the human physiology and disease.  I love doing research and I also enjoy teaching undergraduate students.

I am a creative person, I like trying new things, cooking new recipes and making stuff. Being a scientist enables me to do all these things.

My days are not boring, as I can be creative in my job. Scientists do not just follow protocols, they invent them too in order to come up with new solutions to address a question. I can fully implement this approach in my scientific career. The knowledge of science also enables me to understand the world around me better, from watching the plants grow to understanding how vaccines work. I strongly encourage my young daughter to love and embrace science in order to become a better, more informed person who will have a sound understanding of the world around her.

 

Any advice you would give to girls that want to get into science but may not know how or may feel intimidated

Please don’t fear science, embrace it!  As Marie Curie said:

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. ― Marie Curie

 

Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri
University Lecturer in Physiology
Lister Institute Research Fellow
Fellow of St John's College
University of Cambridge

 

When did you realise you wanted to be a scientist and what did you do about it.

Since I was a kid, I was fascinated by science and how the body works. Initially I thought I’d want to be a doctor because of that. However, I knew I didn’t have high enough school grades to study Medicine at University and when I thought about what I really liked at school, it was biology, maths and chemistry. Those were also my stronger subjects. After speaking with teachers and attending a University open day where I could see and speak to some scientists running an experiment in front of my eyes, I realised undertaking a Science degree at University was a way forward for me. I applied and was accepted to undertake a Science degree (at the University of Adelaide) which was great. It was a broad course and enabled me to explore lots of different science subjects and topics, several of which I had never heard of, or even considered before! I was able to undertake lots of different subjects which taught me about various things, including plant and animal biology, what parts of the cell do and the process of species evolution. I soon quickly worked out that it was human/animal physiology that I was most curious about - particularly how everything fit together from the body, organ, cell, molecule and organelle levels. So I chose subjects that were able to feed into my curiosity. When thinking about what to do after my degree, I chatted with some lecturers at the University and they encouraged me to apply for an internship to work in a research lab. I was successful in my application and as a result, I had the chance to work on research project at a hospital for 6 weeks in the summer. I loved this – designing an experiment to try and find out the answer to a question, calculating formulas and making solutions and the seeing in real time, the effect these solutions had on cells down the microscope for the first time. I was amazed to see how these small units of life, cells were when they were in action. That experience hooked me. I then applied and went on to do a research project for a year (honours/masters project) which allowed be to answer more questions that fascinated me. Following that I applied to the university for a scholarship to do a PhD, which I was successful in. After my PhD, I secured funding to undertake research overseas, which has lead me to lead my own research lab at the University of Cambridge. My lab is focused on understanding how the fetus develops and grows during pregnancy so we can find ways to prevent common and life-threatening pregnancy complications from occurring.

 

Did you like science or have an interest in science as a child? If so, what was it?

I was curious about how a baby forms during pregnancy and we may inherit traits like our hair and eye colour, even our personality from our parents through our DNA or genes. Also how our body responded when we were injured or when we caught a cold or infection.

 

Were your parents scientists or working in a STEM related field? How did they support you?

My dad is an engineer and knows lots about maths and science. My mum is a nurse and understands the workings of the human body and is very passionate about helping people. Although my parents divorced when I was young, they were each very supportive of us kids undertaking further education at University (I am one of four daughters). Even to this day, my parents still encourage each of us (and our kids, their grandkids) to work hard, follow our passions and not to give up. Which is important as there can be challenges and set-backs along the way, but having continued loving support certainly helps!

 

Did you have any inspiring teachers or mentors?

I was inspired by my science and maths teachers at high school and continue to be inspired and supported by encouraging family and friends. I have also been fortunate to interact with lots of amazing scientists including world-class women who have provided excellent advice, support and encouragement along the way.

 

What were your biggest challenges?  How did you overcome them?

From a career point of view, a major challenge was securing a permanent job and research funding so that I could undertake scientific research. This meant having confidence to apply in the first place and then having perseverance and determination to seek feedback and apply again if I wasn’t successful the first time. Another challenge was moving from Australia to the UK, on my own. This was a scary prospect as I am very close with my family and I was going to be living on the other side of the world, doing things I had never done before. However, I was proactive in making friends and building a network in the UK, people who are now my extended family. I also turned my fear of new things into excitement, which has been an empowering experience and I have learnt so much about myself and life in general. Its important to not limit yourself as the opportunities are wide reaching – you just need to grasp them

 

What is your current role?

I am a lecturer and research fellow at the university of Cambridge. What this means is that I run a team of people, from students to more senior scientists who run experiments in the lab to answer important questions. Although I don’t have much time to spend in the lab running experiments myself anymore, I help people in my team to design and perform experiments, I also help to analyse and try and understand what data means. I also spend a lot of time writing applications for funding for buying chemicals and equipment in the lab and for hiring people to perform the experiments. I also spend time presenting lectures and tutoring students studying science, veterinary biology or medicine on various biology subjects. Finally, I spend time communicating science by travelling and speaking at conferences where other scientists and clinical doctors are. I also share my passion for science and how findings by undertaking outreach events like running science experiments at schools or helping to run displays at science festivals.

 

What do you like the most about your job?

I love my job. I feel like I am learning something new every day and making a difference. The knowledge that our findings may eventually help to prevent pregnancy complications and improve health and wellbeing is highly rewarding. I also feel happy that I am helping to train and teach people who themselves will go on to help others. I am lucky in my job, that I am able to travel to attend conferences in wonderful places and have met amazing and inspiring people from around. Finally, I love that every day for me is different work can be flexible and I have the freedom to choose what I do. This is great as I am also a mum, which means that if I need to take on more parenting responsibilities I can adjust my working hours accordingly.

 

What advice would you give to young women that want to get into science but may not know how or may feel intimidated

Reach out to people who are undertaking a job that you may want to do. Ask them how they got to where they are and if they have any advice to offer. There may be different paths to get where you want to go and there may be different types of degrees or courses that are available and may interest you. So try and be flexible about the route you may take to attaining your ideal career. Also be open to the knowledge that your interests may change. Ask questions if you don’t understand or want to know more. You shouldn’t feel intimidated, we all started out in the same place – which is great as when you get to where you want to be – it’s super rewarding and one day, when you are there, you can also provide help to others who approach you!  Speak to your teachers or school career service, as well as check online for opportunities to get experience with science. I know there are some partnerships between schools and universities or hospitals, so do some detective work. Nowadays there are also free online courses ran by different universities around the world, which you may want to undertake to know a bit more about a certain science topic. Try to attend science festivals / university open days. At these outreach events, you will have the chance to speak to the lecturers/scientists and students and gain valuable information that could help you. You could also ask whether you would be able to visit them in their workplace or even volunteer or apply for any internships that may be available. Don’t be scared to ask and to try something you don’t know. Don’t be scared to make a mistake. These are opportunities to learn and grow and build self-confidence. Above all, surround yourself with people who support and inspire you to fulfil your potential.