My career path
"But I think I can use science to contribute in a way that nobody else can, and I find that goal really rewarding."
I’m a professor of chemical engineering and teach classes in electrochemical engineering and process engineering. I also run the Laboratory of Nanobiotechnology, where we conduct research into biomedical optical sensoring and leverage biological materials for energy applications.
I’m passionate about creating technologies that can improve people’s lives. My research focuses on technologies that respond to previously unmet biomedical needs and on energy applications that can help to make energy resources more widely available. Current technologies were developed by people considered to be ‛idealists’. But I think I can use science to contribute in a way that nobody else can, and I find that goal really rewarding.
My career path. Growing up, my favourite game was to mix up the ‛chemicals’ I found in my garden in my little brother’s truck. I liked to pretend I was an imaginative and curious chemist. When I found out that plants and some bacteria could capture light, for example, I got the idea of creating bacteria that could serve as solar cells and cover the entire surface of the planet. Over the years, I’ve learnt that not only is technology fun but it can also be used to solve the world’s socio-economic and political problems.
My parents, my brother and my sister have been my greatest sources of support and my biggest fans. And then there’s the daily support and help I get from my husband.
A downside or obstacle ? Why stop at biology, chemistry and physics ? The challenges posed by IT and economics also appeal to me. I’d like to learn more about these fields for my current research and be able to bring a new perspective to them.
In terms of my career, it is often difficult for women to reconcile their work and their family life. There are not enough female applicants for professor positions. Female scientists are often portrayed a certain way by the media, which tend to put women in the humanities and men in science and technology.
And there are additional challenges once you become a professor. Students and researchers often either brand women as bullies if they use their authority or don’t take them seriously if they are too passive. Some may even think that the female professor is unworthy of the position, especially if they think they should have got the job instead !
I’m proud that my technical expertise in optical nanophysics and biological engineering is somewhat unconventional. I can use this unique know-how to develop technologies that blur the lines between artificial and living materials. With my research team, I’ve invented new techniques to visualize biological mechanisms within micro-organisms, to convert energy through living photovoltaic cells, and to use light to measure the concentration of substances like glucose in the human body.