When I grow up I want to be a scientist

If you are someone coming from a developing country, it is highly possible that as a child you never said or heard a kid saying ‘when I grow up I want to be a scientist’.

It does not matter how much of a big imagination the kids have, they will not want to be a scientist. When asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The most common answers to this question provided by kids are, to be a doctor, a police officer, an actor, a singer a dancer, a lawyer the list goes on and on. For kids like us even becoming Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter may be more realistic than becoming a scientist. Becoming Luke or Harry is possible thanks to our imagination, one day we will be Luke, next day Harry and another day Diana Prince. Meanwhile, the possibility of becoming a scientist is in the galaxy far, far away.

Here I am, a grown-up woman of 27 years old and a Ph.D. candidate that already took first steps on that far galaxy. Although I am in early stage career I still take the courage to say ‘when I grow up I want to be a scientist’.

Viva La YPARD!

Last September, YPARD organized a workshop at the Conference on Research in Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture, Natural Resource Management and Rural Development – TROPENTAG 2018 held in Ghent, Belgium. The moment, I heard that YPARD was organizing this workshop to empower young researchers I thought “It’s so typical of YPARD to put youth issues on the table of discussion and I have to be there!”. I bought my ticket to Belgium just for that weekend, so I will sit at the table were young researchers are discussing on the employability of early career scientists, their access to funding, how to keep them in the research field etc.

The workshop was hosted by Myriam Perez the former YPARD Director. At the beginning of the workshop, Myriam asked each participant to introduce themselves and say 5 keywords that represent them. I am still thinking what keywords suits me best.

After the opening section of the workshop, Myriam continued with an informative presentation that was live-streamed and still can be watched through YPARD’s social media. The presentation was showing the situation of the sector in the most objective way possible.

The dissociation was mainly focused on the employability inside of academia, how to be self-motivated to stay in academia and how to facilitate access to funds for young researchers. Although it went even beyond the mentioned topics by debating also on the role of supervisor-student relationship to reach the goals, the credibility of the scientists coming in from the developing countries, the challenges they face to publish at international journals and what carrier alternatives should we have other than academia.

Definitely, maybe I will be a scientist

The status quo of my career is still undefined, however, it was a delight to discuss the youth issues with researches coming from a different background with a different perspective on the issues. I am aware that no-one told me that it is going to be easy but also, few people are willing to openly discuss how being a young researcher is unnecessarily hard, at least workshops such as this one are drawing attention to the problem and this is already one step forward.

In conclusion, it is true that early career scientists from all over the world are struggling to make a place for them self in academia. Yet, I think we should give an ear to what Marie Curie said “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

Picture credit: Hana Voca