Published 9 June 2017 by Ulrike Böhm
Women in Research: The Scarcity of Permanent Positions Is the Biggest Problem, Says Anna Eibel
Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Anna Eibel
This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter). Enjoy the interview with Anna and get inspired.
Anna Eibel, 24, from Austria is a PhD Student at the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), Austria. She is working in the field of photopolymer science. Her research involves mechanistic studies of reaction pathways and characterisation of new photoinitiators for radical polymerisations.
What inspired you to pursue a career in science/chemistry?
As a child, I was interested in pretty much everything. There was no special moment from which on I knew that I was going to be a chemist or even a scientist. As a teenager, I was keen on mathematics, astronomy and physics. But I also liked arts and literature and learning languages. Then – just at the time of my final exams at school – I realised that chemistry might be a fascinating subject for me and I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be the right choice and I have very much enjoyed studying chemistry from the first semester on.
Who are your role models?
I cannot think of any specific (scientific) role models, but certainly I’m impressed by many people from different fields. For example, I am very much inspired by the passion, dedication and willpower successful athletes have. Generally, I am inspired by all the people who have passion and joy in what they do and who live entirely the life they want to.
How did you get to where you are in your career path?
I think I have been quite lucky during the entire time of my education. People around me (both my parents and my teachers at school) have always supported and motivated me. During the early semesters of my studies at university, I was inspired and motivated by really good teaching of some professors and I finally found a fascinating field to work on in my Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis. I have always enjoyed learning new things and conducting my own research and therefore, I decided to go for a PhD, having the full support of my supervisor.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’m currently working on a series of exciting projects, all of which are related to the field of photochemistry and photopolymerization. What I enjoy most is the creative part of my work. I like to think about new experiments to do and to come up with new ideas or hypotheses about some reaction mechanisms which can be tested in the lab.
What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself/your work?
Finishing my Bachelor and Master studies within the shortest possible time and with excellent grades certainly made me feel a bit proud. I also feel proud when people congratulate me for a good talk at a conference or when I get positive feedback from my students in the lab course. Moreover, I’m particularly proud of having found a good work-life balance, allowing me to spend enough time with all the things I love besides research.
What is a “day in the life” of Anna like?
Well, there is conducting experiments in the lab, evaluating results, writing papers, discussing or chatting with colleagues, checking emails, reading literature, thinking about further projects, planning travels to conferences, and so on. In general, I really enjoy not having a fixed schedule and I like the freedom of deciding myself what I want to focus on every day.
What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
For me, having passion and joy in what I do is most important. I would like to have a good position which allows me to be creative and to collaborate with many interesting and skilled people in order to conduct valuable research and contribute to new developments.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
I enjoy going for a walk in the forest, doing some workout, eating good (vegetarian) food and sharing time with my partner, family and friends. I also love traveling, especially to Scandinavia.
What advice do you have for other women interested in science/chemistry?
I believe it is most important not to be afraid of anything just because of being a woman. Talent and personality certainly matter much more than one’s biological gender. Also, it is important not to give up too early.
In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science/chemistry?
That’s a tough question, but I think in chemistry a breakthrough can potentially be expected soon in the field of batteries and energy storage.
What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?
The answer to this question is certainly not trivial. At our university, there is no female full professor in chemistry. However, there is obviously enough interest in the field of chemistry among young women, since around 50 percent (or even slightly more) of the Bachelor students are female. Among PhD students and especially postdoctoral researchers, there is a significant drop in that number. I think the biggest problem women face in science is the difficulty of getting a permanent position at university; and presumably many women just do not want to live with this insecurity and risk. In my opinion, it is essential to somehow address this problem in order to encourage more women to pursue an academic career. Moreover, I believe that quota policies can be (at least partly) useful to address the gender imbalance at university, but also in industry and politics.