This interview is part of a series of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting to increase the visibility of women in research (find more information on Facebook and Twitter).
#LINO19 young scientist Lala Rukh from Pakistan is a PhD student at the Energy & Environmental Policy at University of Delaware in the USA.
Her current research project is about assessing the climate risk and greenhouse gas mitigation effects on hydropower generation. Water is an essential source of any kind of power generation, particularly hydropower, but due to significant changes in climate, the glacier melt rate is being dramatically varied. Hence, it is essential to keep track of the availability of the resource water for power generation in near future. Enjoy the interview with Lala Rukh and get inspired:
What inspired you to pursue a career in science?
Physics was a challenge in my education and I like taking challenges. I come from a background, where engineering or any professional education for women is not much appreciated. But when it was my time to decide my major subjects after school, breaking the barriers was really important for me. I am honoured that after me many women from my community got the privilege of choosing engineering as a career option.
Who are your role models?
I don’t idealise any person in particular. However, my rules and regulations are role models in life for me to follow. I like keeping discipline in my daily life activities and I believe that this is what makes me strong and consistent.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My coolest project so far is my master’s thesis project. As mentioned about taking challenges and risk, interdisciplinary research fascinates me a lot. My master’s project was a combination of engineering, social science, and decision-making sciences. It was such a great challenge to complete this in the time frame provided by the university. But, with the provided resources at Pakistan’s university and an exchange opportunity to Coventry University (UK), I completed my masters in time. It is my coolest project because it has helped me identify my skills and potential.
What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself / your work?
I have felt immense pride in myself whenever I have become able to bring smile on my parent’s face on every little success be that any little project or achievement like my Ph.D. scholarship. I may not be a perfect daughter, but I feel seeing them smile is a great joy of my everyday life.
What is a ‘day in the life’ of Lala like?
I am an early riser. I wake up 6 hrs to get ready, grab a small breakfast and catch the university shuttle at 7 hrs. There is no hope going to work if I lose this shuttle! It is all day research-based job at the university in the field of Energy Systems Engineering. I hardly get a 30-min break, which I use for lunch and of course Latte. After lunch my PhD classes start at the university in another building. I am back home at dinner time. If something really important or urgent is due, I do the task after dinner with a cup of coffee, but I mostly prefer sleeping after such a long day.
What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
My ultimate goal is to work in Power Sector of Planning Commission of Pakistan. With my knowledge and training, I aim to become instrumental in the growth and support of Pakistan’s power sector. If I am able to serve my nation, it will be greatest accomplishment and honor of my life.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
I love to spend some time with my family, as I hardy get any proper time to spend with them. I am a newlywed, yet too busy to get dolled up for my husband or go for any outing. This is a blessing that he understands and supports me and my career unlike many other Pakistani men.
What advice do you have for other women interested in science?
Chase your passion! This is not only applies for Science or Physics. You will find so many criticisms in your life, but the only way to get through it is remaining consistent with your ambition. Trust me, if you are determined and pass through a certain level of pain, every energy in the entire universe shall work in benefit of you!
In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physics?
Physics has many dimensions and with rapid innovations in the field of engineering, humans are almost close enough to achieve many long-awaited breakthroughs of the history. I believe Brain-Machine Interfacing and being able to translate the brain signal or understanding the human brain through technology shall be the next breakthrough in near future.
What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?
I can say with confidence that at least in my country, I have observed a significant increase of the number of female scientists and female professors over time. I don’t mean that things have become easier around here for women, but women themselves have become much more courageous and strong enough to fight for their education and career. It has become part of identity survival. However, it is still a miserable fact that more than half of well-educated women in my country are forced to prioritise family over their career. Yet, it is equally true that those like me for example who are determined enough are completely supported by family and society. So what should be done? We have to educate women and make them strong enough to stand up for their decisions in life.