30 Oct 2013
Who or what first stimulated your interest in science? And how old were you?
I have always had a natural curiosity about the things that surround me. Since I was a child, I was interested not only in the things that I saw, but also why they existed and what for. As soon as I started studying science in high school, I considered the lectures as a game, because they did not only involve memorising concepts, but reasoning and understanding.
Do you have a science hero?
My science hero is Professor Eric Lander, who is a Professor in Biology at MIT, and founder of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. His academic and scientific career is outstanding, starting from his excellence in his undergraduate studies, to his lead role in the Human Genome Project. I had the opportunity to virtually meet Professor Lander via the MOOC ‘Introduction to Biology: the Secret of Life’ (www.edx.org), and I became an absolute fan right after a couple of lectures. What I most admire about Professor Lander is his ability to adapt his intellectual capacities from one field to another (his PhD was basically mathematical theory), bringing high quality research to all his activities. Moreover, he is extremely caring and involved with his students, and according to his own words, ‘the most important impact that I can ever have on the world is going to be through my students’.
Why did you decide to pursue a science career?
After I finished my degree in chemical engineering, I started working as a researcher engineer in a cancer-focused group. This was key to my decision about pursuing a scientific career, as I had the chance to discover that the mechanisms and the fundamentals that you learn in your degree are the basis for any applied products that can improve the quality of life.
What attracted you to your degree course(s)?
I am a chemical engineer, and what attracted me to it was the applied face of science. As a chemical engineer, you know many aspects of many different subjects, and you can either move deeper into the fundamentals, as a pure scientist would do, or stay on the application pathway.
How would you persuade young people that science offers interesting and worthwhile career opportunities?
Pursuing a career in science, whatever the speciality, is one of the most honest and rewarding ways of helping people. Maybe it is not so obvious at the beginning, but everything around us is science. In my opinion, that is a powerful reason to consider the option of a scientific career.
How did you come to join SCI and why?
My supervisor suggested it, in order to get to know people in the field, for networking opportunities, and to attend conferences.
Is SCI helping you develop your career and how?
SCI sends information about what is happening in different fields, they offer opportunities to join courses or attend conferences to improve my skills as a researcher, and of course the possibility to be awarded with a grant or bursary is a huge reward for hard work in research.
Is there more that SCI could do to help you and others developing careers in science?
From my point of view, the benefits of joining SCI are not very well known in the postgraduate academic community. Therefore I would suggest that SCI increase their visibility.
If you could do one thing to improve the image of science what would it be?
As representative of proof of the amazing things science is capable of, I would show a timeline of the advances that have happened in medicine, for example. It would help to enhance awareness of the good uses of science, as opposed to some of the negative preconceptions that people have, in general. Being honest about the downsides of research and development is also a very important point, from my perspective.
Where do you hope your career will take you in 5 years time?
In five years time, I hopefully see myself as a lecturer in University, leading a research group.
You can connect with other SCI members who are in a similar field to Patricia, through the SCI Members' Directory.