Published 9 November 2023 by Ulrike Böhm

Women in Research #LINO23: Chryso Th. Pallari

Chryso at her PhD graduation. All photos/credits: in courtesy of Chryso Th. Pallari

Chryso from Cyprus is a post-poctoral research fellow in epidemiology at the department of primary care and population health, University of Nicosia Medical School, Cyprus.

Her research interests are in the fields of epidemiology, infectious diseases, and public health. She belongs to the COVID-19 MORtality (C-MOR) Consortium and coordinates the C-MOR project, which is focused on monitoring overall and cause-specific mortality resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chryso participated in the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

Enjoy the interview with Chryso and get inspired:

What inspired you to pursue a career in science / in your discipline?

Chryso in the lab
Chryso loves to solve scientific puzzles.

My enthusiasm and motivation to work in the field of science stem from a personal perspective; I have always been exposed to the wonderful world of science, as my father was a general surgeon and my mother a mathematician. Early in my life, I had the privilege of realising that science is a powerful tool for the benefit of humanity. As I was growing up, my love for science was growing, too! I was always excited by the idea that data surrounding us can be used to investigate ways to overcome a challenge. The joy of solving a scientific puzzle that could lead to new scientific insights will always be my driving force.

Who are your role models?

My father, a humble, real scientist and life fighter, whom I lost very early. My father, Dr. Theodoros L. Pallaris, was a general surgeon specialising in surgical oncology who dedicated his life to the world of science. During his surgical residency, he undertook a PhD research study to evaluate the effects of microwave radiation on normal and cancerous tissues. He always loved medicine, physics, technology, and computer science. His knowledge and love of science contributed to his invention related to amplifiers and compound transistors, providing exceptional performance in many applications. Hence, since I was a baby, my father managed to introduce me to the amazing world of science and conveyed to me his passion for research and knowledge acquisition.

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

Chryso with her graduation certificate wearing her graduation dress
Chryso completed her PhD at the University of Cyprus.

I graduated with a first-class honours BSc in biological sciences from the University of Cyprus in 2015. I completed my first degree in three and a half years. During this time, I had the opportunity to attend several medical-related courses with public health impact and courses related to the environment, during which I was involved in many fieldworks. Just before my final year in the bachelor’s degree, I got accepted to attend the 2014 Lectures in chemistry and biology on “Molecular Conformational Fluctuations: Origins of Biological Specificity and Applications in Pharmacochemistry” supported by The Onassis Foundation Science Lecture Series in Greece. Right after my graduation, I got accepted into the PhD program in biomedical sciences offered in the English language by the University of Cyprus, where I investigated the epidemiology of the West Nile virus in its primary hosts and potential vectors in Cyprus. During my PhD studies, I worked as a special scientist in a Marie Curie research program and as a teaching assistant for several courses at the department of biological sciences of the University of Cyprus. As soon as I finished my PhD studies, I worked as a scientific collaborator at the European University of Cyprus, teaching laboratory courses. After this, I was lucky enough to find the opportunity to apply for the position of the post-doctoral fellowship in epidemiology at the University of Nicosia Medical School, where I am currently working on an interesting project on overall and cause-specific mortality resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

Chryso with binoculars
On a field trip

I must say that during my academic career, I was involved in projects, especially my PhD studies, with a high impact on human health. I also collaborated with scientists from abroad and worked on interesting projects. However, the coolest and most compelling project I have ever worked on is the project of my PhD studies, “Investigating the epidemiology of West Nile virus in its primary hosts and potential vectors in Cyprus.” At first, the idea behind the specific project made me want to learn more about it. Then, I was fascinated by its structure and the fact that it was a laboratory and computer-based project that would also involve field trips around Cyprus. These were enough reasons for me to fall in love with the project, and, of course, I accepted the project offer for my PhD studies.

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself / your work?

During my PhD journey, as in every journey, there were tough times and beautiful times. As a PhD candidate, I was in charge of setting up my project, including, among others, the selection of the study area, the sampling and instrumentation, the selection of the laboratory research methods, the collection of the samples, the performance of the experimental research, and the analysis of the results. My research findings represent the first demonstration of WNV in mosquitoes in Cyprus. The time I realised that this research journey had ended, that this project I created from scratch was now completed, despite all the difficulties I encountered, it was when I felt immense pride in myself.

What is a “day in the life” of you like?

Chryso during a walk with her dog
Chryso enjoys nature during walks with her dog.

I know that this might sound cliché, but it is true that I do really enjoy every day of my life. I wake up early in the morning, and right after having an amazing breakfast, I go to work. I must admit that some of my mornings begin with a morning workout, and then a powerful breakfast follows just before work. My work involves meetings, performing computer-based research, and teaching. I really enjoy conducting research, and the fact that this can be done from anywhere, as long as I have my laptop with me, makes my work more enjoyable. I also love teaching, and I feel the same excitement every time I teach. I like dancing a lot; hence after I finish work, I go to dance class almost daily. I also find pleasure in the everyday miracles in my life, including the walks in nature and the time I spend with my devoted best friend, my dog, Argos! I love learning foreign languages, and I started learning Italian during my free time this year. When the night comes, I like going out with my friends and having moments of relaxation and, at the same time, moments of fun and awesome dancing nights to remember.

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

To collaborate with brilliant international scientists and researchers in unique conditions to overcome the challenges of the future. To have the opportunity to unearth something new with public health impact.

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

When I am not doing research, I love spending time with my friends and family, including my dog. I really like going to the theatre, listening to music, and dancing. I enjoy going out for drinks and going to restaurants. I love traveling and visiting new places, not only around the world but also within Cyprus. Therefore, I like taking a day trip some weekends to different areas around Cyprus. I also enjoy going by the sea throughout the year, not only during the summertime. Just the sound of the waves, it really makes me calm.

What advice do you have for other women interested in science / in your discipline?

Chryso during a presentation at a conference
Chryso speaking at a conference

If you love science, then go for it! Always remember that if you want something, you can achieve it! It is not what other people believe about you, but it is what you believe about yourself.

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science?

In my opinion, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming highly promising in scientific progress. AI has the potential to aid in overcoming the world’s pressing challenges. Different fields of science are currently adopting it, and it is expected to become a significant part of our lives in revolutionary ways over the next years. As it is rapidly advancing, AI will soon enable machines to perform complex tasks in a much safer way than people would do.

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and professors?

I believe that early support for a girl’s willingness to pursue a career in science is the most important step that should be taken to increase the number of female scientists and professors. The role of school and home is remarkable during that step by providing the support needed. Moreover, improving the employment prospects for women by increasing their salary and their chances for promotion will contribute to the rise in the number of women scientists.

Further Information

Ulrike Böhm

Ulrike Boehm is a physicist and science enthusiast. She works as an optical scientist at ZEISS in Oberkochen, Germany. Previously, she did her Ph.D. studies at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen in the Department of NanoBiophotonics of Nobel Laureate Stefan Hell, followed by research stays in the US at the National Institutes of Health and HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus, developing tools for biomedical research. She is generally passionate about designing and building (optical) instruments to image, probe, and manipulate (biological) structures. Furthermore, she is passionate about science communication and open science and is a huge advocate for women in science.