#ThisLittleGirlIsMe in this photo taken many years ago. Today I am a scientist and this is my tale.
I grew up in South Africa in an extremely loving and supportive family who provided me with every possible opportunity to learn and grow as a human being. Yet, at this very early stage of my life, I remember observing the unkind reality experienced by many people in my beloved country – inequality and hurt. But I was too young and inexperienced to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those beyond my immediate circles. I remember loving to watch the TV show MacGyver and was fascinated by the way he used scientific principles to remove himself and others from the stickiest of predicaments. I thought to myself, ok, if I can educate myself, I would become very knowledgeable, be able to help and educate people, and eventually make the world a better place.
Initially, I wanted to study music or medicine, but since I was a bit more fascinated by nature and as a child I loved reading National Geographic or showing my little brother how a microscope works, I decided to study science and became fascinated with microbiology – bugs that could be found in any nook and cranny of life, from food, to soil, to medicine. My career journey made many twists and turns, from microbiology to medicine and health sciences to ion beam research applications, and finally nanotechnology.
What did I learn and why did I choose science? I experienced many challenges during my short career, from being diagnosed with an ovarian tumor during my PhD studies to trying to thrive in interdisciplinary fields. But these were all small bumps in a road that has led me down fascinating paths, exposed me to a world beyond South Africa, its fascinating people, and groundbreaking science. A science career can be so exciting, not one single day is the same, with so many interesting questions to ask and answer. My advice to you? Be passionate about what you do, failure is ok – remember, even Nobel Prize winners had their papers rejected; have a positive attitude, work hard, care about the people around you, have a great support network, and most importantly, believe in yourself. The world is your oyster!