We are excited to welcome our first curator of 2017, Michaela Maya-Mrschtik (@MiMrMa), to Real Scientists! Michaela is a science writer at Spektrum der Wissenschaft, a German science journal. Here’s Michaela’s own description her career and interests:
I’ve dreamt of becoming a researcher since I was young. Back then, I actually imagined myself doing field work – I wanted to become an archaeologist or someone that searches for new medicines in remote and exotic places. After high school, I decided I would study Pharmacy and become a toxicologist. I slowly realised I probably had taken a wrong turn and I changed my course to Molecular Biotechnology. By that point, I wanted to get into cancer research. One of my high school classmates had just died from cervical cancer, shortly before her 20th birthday. I wanted to do something to prevent tragedies like that in the future. During my Uni course I also fell in love with lab work. In my last semester, I had to do an internship in either industry or research. I decided to go abroad (I was Vienna-based at the time) and find a placement in a cancer research lab. I was lucky to get a place in a lab in London, focusing on oncolytic virotherapy (=treating cancer with viruses that attack the cancer cells, but leave normal cells alone). I loved the work I did there, and from then on I was truly bitten by the research bug.
It was, like most things in life, a mix of coincidence, interest and determination. Seeing someone my age pass away while fighting cancer certainly had an impact on my decision to do cancer research. I was interested in drug discovery before, but since then I really wanted to find new ways to treat cancer. I applied to around 50 labs for the internship, and I only got one positive reply – the oncolytic virotherapy lab in London. In the end, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. The work I did there helped me secure my PhD, I met lovely people and had the chance to live and work in one of the greatest cities. I did my PhD in the CRUK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, and my research focused on studying the function of three previously undescribed proteins. In particular, we wanted to find out if they could influence cancer cells’ ability to recycle bits of themselves (a process called autophagy) and enable them to live longer without nutrients. During my PhD, however, I realised that as much as I loved bench work, I felt too isolated in the lab to do it for the rest of my life. I wanted to connect with people – with as many as possible, really. And share my love for science, research and discovery with them. I got into science communication around that time, and I again met great people and had opportunities to do things that I hadn’t even dreamt of before. At some point, I decided that science communication is what I wanted to do after my PhD. And again, I got lucky and landed the internship in science journalism I am doing just now!
Right now, I am working as an intern at “Spektrum der Wissenschaft”, the German version of Scientific American. I work for the online and the magazine departments. So my job is basically to write about cool scientific discoveries. It’s a varied task, and an exciting one too. I get to read and discuss science breakthroughs, interview researchers, write, and edit articles of other science writers. No two days are quite the same, and I enjoy every moment of it! As a researcher-turned-science writer, I have an insight into both the science side and the communication side.
I care about bridging the gap between people that are interested in science but have no formal science training and “professional” scientists.
I hope that in my time as realscientist curator, I can speak to different parts of the audience and get them to open up to the people on “the other side”. Maybe even foster more exchange between different groups and encourage more science communication (I am hopeful!). During my PhD, I tried to do different outreach activites and I started my scicomm efforts. Right now, I am juggling my internship work and my PhD thesis corrections, so unfortunately there’s not much space for other things atm.
I am obsessed with food, and I love to cook. Also, like so many other people, I try to see as much of the world as I can and I try to capture my trips (and other things) on camera. I actually enjoy learning new things – among others also languages. Right now, I am trying to become fluent in Spanish. I wanted to achieve that before finishing my PhD, but sometimes things take longer than we wish!
The day needs at least 30 hours, because I just can’t fit everything I want to do into a normal day. In the morning, I’d like a nice, healthy breakfast and enough time to read up on the news. Then I’d love to see something new, maybe visit a city I haven’t been to. Also the parts that tourists usually don’t get to see, and take some nice photographs along the way. It wouldn’t be bad if that city had a tropical climate and a beach, so I could swim and sunbath a bit too. I’d also have an interesting book to read with me, and I’d eat tons of great food. I’d do all that with my partner and we’d meet friends for an afternoon coffee. In the evening, we’d enjoy a drink on the beach with some jazz-y live music and even more food.
That sounds pretty perfect to me!
Please welcome Michaela to Real Scientists!