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Developing talents, advancing research
Published:  11 Feb 2021

MSCA are opportunities to learn new techniques & methods

Eva Spišiaková, Lucia Fuchslueger and Marketa Schmidt Cernohorska are outstanding researchers of the MSCA COFUND project Rewire – Reinforcing Women in Research.

  • Eva Spišiaková is a researcher in Translation Studies and she explores how various socio-political circumstances influence translation strategies and norms throughout history, using literary works with elements of queerness and disability. Her background is in language studies, including Japanese, Czech and German. She is originally from Slovakia and lived in Scotland for a while before moving to Vienna.
  • Lucia Fuchslueger is a soil biologist. Her interest is in investigating the hidden world of microorganisms living in soils and study the processes that they are mediating. Soil microbes are decomposing organic material, but also are responsible for releasing nutrients for plants. However, they also release CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, which can feed back on our global climate.
  • Marketa Schmidt Cernohorska is a proud female researcher who enjoys doing science in cell biology every single day in the lab. Her long-lasting passion for microtubule cytoskeleton led her to her current project, which is focused on delineating structural changes in centrosome, organelle in cells for organizing microtubules. It is unclear what the origin of these changes is and how they can affect cell division, especially in tumor cells.

What prompted you to pursue a career as a researcher?

  • Eva: With three of my grandparents being teachers and academics, I grew up surrounded by books, so it felt very natural to continue along the academic path. After finishing my first master’s degree, I worked for a while in various non-academic jobs, but ultimately realised that my own creative potential and also my lifestyle and interests are best suited for an academic career.
  • Lucia: I found it really fascinating that it is possible to characterize the soil ‘black box’ with different laboratory methods, to learn how different soils can be in their organization, microbial community composition, and in their sensitivity to climate change. Also, I find it exciting that results are useful for other researchers, or even for policy makers.
  • Marketa: It was at first year of high school when my class teacher came and offered two volunteering positions at the Faculty of Medicine. Because I always wanted to do something in which I can help people, either in medicine or ecology, I signed up. That step in far history screwed in me a passion for science because I met my mentor Pavel whose enthusiasm and pedagogical skills were outstanding and so inspiring.

What are the achievements (both professional and personal) you are most proud of?

  • Eva: I have two books coming out this year, and finishing both of them during a pandemic and while moving countries twice was perhaps the most challenging of my undertakings yet, and something that I’m very proud of in retrospect. On a personal level, I recently learnt how to sew, and my now largely handmade wardrobe brings me a lot of joy.
  • Lucia: I am really grateful that I got the chance to work as a post-doc – in my opinion, in one of the most exciting ecosystems – the Amazon rainforest. This was such a great experience and opportunity both on a personal and professional level.
  • Marketa: My biggest achievement was the observation of how the skeleton of centriole, a tiny structure inside cells, is polymerized. It has unique properties and a principle of assembly that cannot be studied using known examples from other parts of the cell. In my personal life, I´ve finally found a time point to start a family while pursuing a career and work hard without affecting the happiness of family.

What have been the biggest challenges during your professional experience, if any?

  • Eva: As for many fellow academics, I find that the uncertainty related to the ever-changing job market and the frequent requirement to move places is definitely one the most challenging aspects of this profession. These become even more difficult when they cross with caring responsibilities, and I feel very fortunate that my new position in Vienna allows me to be closer to my family.
  • Lucia: The biggest challenge is to ensure consistent funding.
  • Marketa: The project of centriole assembly required the use of an electron microscope, manual cryo-preservation of samples and intensive image processing in Python. I needed to learn techniques totally different from those I had been using before and in a short time of only 1.5 years. It was even more challenging because of the new lab in a new country, all while maintaining a long-distance relationship with my dear.
I was fortunate to have supervisors, mentors and colleagues to help me navigate the worlds of publishing, networking and academia

How can the MSCA help in fostering female researchers’ careers and scientific development?

  • Eva: I was fortunate to have excellent supervisors, mentors and experienced colleagues who helped me navigate the world of publishing and networking and shared with me some of the unspoken rules of academia.  I think mentorship schemes and other initiatives that enable these connections are invaluable in giving early career researchers this kind of insight and support them along the way.
  • Lucia: MSCA are great opportunities to learn new techniques and methods, but also important to enlarge and build networks with researchers from different countries.
  • Marketa: All postdoc positions in biology labs across the world are always occupied by men and women and are naturally more competitive and therefore offer less options for staying in science, even if you are a talented and prospective young researcher. The MSCA REWIRE Programme provides grants for women only, thus increasing the possibility to be seen and chosen for further career steps and continuing work without unwanted breaks.

How would you spark a girl’s interest in science? What advice would you give to young women wishing to embark on a career as a researcher?

  • Eva: I find that small girls are very good at being invested in all sorts of subjects, so I think the trick lies in nurturing this enthusiasm with care, support and with the presence of relevant role models. The two best pieces of advice I received as a researcher were to choose subjects I’m passionate about whenever I can, and to make sure that my own wellbeing is on the top of my list of priorities.
  • Lucia: There are so many great things to explore in this world and so many open questions to resolve! It is hard to give advice… having mentors with different backgrounds is really helpful, but nevertheless, some resilience is needed to keep on track. I also think that networking with other researchers is really valuable and important.
  • Marketa: If you are truthfully interested in improving and saving the world, you find a passion in learning something new while expanding problem-solving skills, you are the right person to try your luck in science. There is always the best time for starting a family and if you are patient enough and think carefully, your family will be matured, satisfied and happy, thus you will really enjoy being a mother.

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Published:  11 Feb 2021