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Published:  11 Feb 2022

Women need to change the system from the inside by supporting each other

German scientist Clara Kopp thinks it's important for women to change the system from within. But MSCA support can certainly make doctoral studies more enjoyable by being part of a researchers' network. 

Carla Kopp, MSCA fellow, banner image

Women need to change the system from the inside by supporting each other

Clara Kopp is from Germany. She obtained a degree in Agricultural Sciences and in Crop Sciences at the University of Hohenheim. Currently, she is in the second year of her PhD at the University of Copenhagen and part of the MSCA Innovative Training Network “FertiCycle”. The project aims to improve nutrient recycling in agriculture by using bio-based fertilisers from organic waste upcycling. Her research focuses on phosphorus recycling from biochars and ashes produced from various waste products.

At what point in life did you realise that you wanted to become a researcher? What sparked your interest in your specific area of research? 

I already considered becoming a researcher during my bachelor degree, but the decision to continue in science came after I finished my Masters degree. I just had the feeling that I was not done with research yet. I was still up for learning more and getting even deeper into a topic.

What really sparked my interest for the topic of nutrient recycling was a course I took during my Erasmus+ semester in Sweden in which we had a very fun project working with interesting bio-based fertilizers.

 

(MSCA) makes the PhD a more fun experience by connecting you with other early stage researchers

 

As a female researcher, what are the particular challenges you have faced in your career?

I have been lucky enough not to be overtly disrespected or dismissed because of my gender. I know that this still happens and it probably depends on the area of research, the individual research group and country you are working in. I do, however, suffer from occasional self-doubt, which generally seems to be more common among female scientists. But, I would say that this is rather a problem caused by society than the working environment in academia.

How has the MSCA helped you advance your career? 

It is helping me get as much as possible out of my PhD, which will then improve my career opportunities later on. It provides an extended international network and offers interesting courses, which helps to gain specific scientific knowledge as well as to improve my general skills. In addition, it makes the PhD a more fun experience by connecting you with other early stage researchers working on the same topic and facing similar challenges.

 

I would remind myself not to worry too much, to take advantage of the opportunities in front of me and to focus on the things that I enjoy doing.

 

Data shows that in the EU, women represent 48% of doctoral graduates - but only one third of researchers are women. Women remain under-represented in technical positions and at the higher levels of the academic ladder. As visionaries and innovators, how can these women unlock their full potential? 

I think the main problem is that these working environments are still mainly formed by men, for men. This makes it harder for women to fit in and compete with men when climbing up the ladder. In the long-term, women need to change the system from the inside by supporting each other.

If you met yourself as a youth, what would you say to encourage your younger self to become a researcher?

I would tell myself about the great experience that I am having now during my PhD and all the positive aspects of working in academia. I would remind myself not to worry too much, to take advantage of the opportunities in front of me and to focus on the things that I enjoy doing.

Published:  11 Feb 2022