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International Day of Women and Girls in Science

As we celebrate the 2022 International Day of Women and Girls in Science, an annual initiative by UNESCO and UN Women, we took some time to speak to some of the inspirational Mérieux NutriSciences women around the world!

Alina Alonso
Operations Manager – USA
Anza Bester
Sr Director Global Key Accounts – North America
Marina Gumiere
Technical Manager of Microbiology of South America – Brazil
Sijie Li
Sensory and Consumer Research – China
Sandra Molloy
Quality Manager Chemistry – Ireland
Annmarie Schwanke
Technical & Certification Manager (Auditing Division) – Australia
Catherine Pelletier
Manager of the Microbiology Methods Department – France
Paulina Rojas Inostroza
Microbiology Head – Chile

Here’s what they had to share with us:

What led you to choose a career in science?

Science has always been a part of my life. My mother was an artist for medical needs, she worked with prosthetics a lot when helping design them. She really showed a side of science that was beautiful and artistic. I also loved the movies that showed people working in the lab with their white coats, safety glasses…etc. I started College and this opened a whole other world for me. I was able to run different labs and take all these different classes too. I was in love all over again. Eventually the labs won my heart and I knew I wanted to work in the science field so that I could be in the lab. Right before graduation I found out about Food Science and Merieux happened to be very close to me and that was how I was drawn into the world of Food Science.

Alina Alonso ??

As a girl I grew-up on a fruit farm in the Little Karoo area in South Africa.  This is really where it all started, and where I developed a strong passion to contribute to”food & Science” as a career. I can still remember to research projects we have done on my Grandpa’s farm on soil quality!

Anza Bester ??

Since I was a child I have always been passionate about living beings and how the human and animal bodies worked. When I decided to study biology, I immediately identified with the area of microbiology and what a fantastic world involved microbial metabolism. It was love at first sight.

Marina Gumiere ??

My aunt was a food engineering professor in a college and she encouraged me to learn about science from a young age. We’d go to the museum and buy science kits and toys from the gift shop, so even when I was 8 or 9 years old I was experimenting and learning, and I ended up loving it. I chose to major in Food science and technology in a university and now that I’ve graduated, it’s still what I’m most excited about and interested in doing professionally.

Sijie Li ??

I wanted a career with endless possibilities, which would help me grow in confidence and make a difference.

Sandra Molloy ??

I have been very blessed to always be surrounded by people who had a keen interest in animals and science.  It was my mother’s love of nature and teaching me about Canadian wildlife that originally inspired me to focus on animal science.  Originally I wanted to be a wildlife veterinarian but later on my interests narrowed to wanting to study arctic wolves in the wild.  I was very fortunate to have an amazing group of science teachers in secondary school who encouraged girls in science so I never felt like science was off limits to me.  I had an aptitude and passion for biology and pursued higher education in that field becoming a Bachelors of Science Graduate from the University of Guelph in Canada in 1993.

Annmarie Schwanke ??

I’ve always been passionate about life sciences. I’m pragmatic and curious, interested in technique and experimentation. I choose to study biology to better understand the living world. Then, the notion of food safety and its contribution to public health guided me in my professional choice.

Catherine Pelletier ??

I chose the science degree because I was interested in knowing and better understanding the environment in which we live, especially the processes related to food production.

Paulina Rojas Inostroza ??

Which female scientist(s) have inspired you in your career and why?

When I was younger I was really interested in DNA (mostly because of Jurassic Park) and when I learned about Rosalind Franklin I was very inspired. I wanted to be a female scientist that would go down in history one day.

Alina Alonso ??

There are so many strong & dynamic women in different stages of my career who inspired me  – and still do, Anine Schoevers who studied with me, prof Jessy van Wyk (her passion for research). prof Lucia Anelich (her passion for Food Safety) and of course Valme Stewart  – her passion has led to me asking for a position at Swift Micro Labs about 17 years ago!  And I’m really looking forward to meeting many more inspiring women in my next Chicago journey!

Anza Bester ??

Many researchers who crossed my path, Prof. Dr. Elke Jurandi, one of the first microbiologists in the field of agronomy, who suffered a lot of prejudice for being a woman, in an area very occupied by men, and today carries one of the biggest names in microbiology only in Brazil . And without a doubt Marie Curie, who never measured efforts to propagate her science.

Marina Gumiere ??

Of all the people who have inspired me, I have to say that Rosalind Franklin ranks at the top of the list.  Not only was she a  brilliant biophysicist, but also importantly, her revolutionary work discovering DNA, as well as understanding X-rays and molecular structure, was a milestone in biology and aroused intense scholarly interest of millions of scientists.

Sijie Li ??

My fellow female colleagues are my inspiration as we nurture and support each other daily to do what we do.

Sandra Molloy ??

I have never really focused on whether someone was male or female so this is a hard question.  I would say my first encounter with a female scientist that I had a deep admiration for was Diane Fossey.  As a primatologist and conservationist  she elevated the plight of mountain gorillas as did Jane Goodall for chimpanzees – taking science out of the lab and into the field which was astonishing during their time.  I wanted to be like them, changing the world’s perceptions of the environment around us.  But the most inspiring female person in science to me would have to be Temple Grandin.  She is someone who is truly inspirational as she did not allow the prejudices of the time stop her from following her dream.  She fought not only an uphill battle because she was female but because she advocated for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter and worked tirelessly to change industry perception and approach.  What makes her accomplishments even more remarkable was the fact she was autistic and at the time she was in school, this was seen as a major ‘disability’.  Temple Grandin overcame all of these obstacles to become successful in her specialized field of study and respected within industry.  I look to all of these women because they were trailblazers driven by their passion and convictions to overcome the challenges in front of them and contribute greatly to the furtherment of our understanding of animal science and behavior.

Annmarie Schwanke ??

Marie Curie and her daughter Irène Jolliot Curie are an inspiration  in my life for many reasons: Of course, their intelligence is impressive, but their determination, their strength and their perseverance in a man’s world on unknown and difficult topics are impressive and motivating. Another aspect is also very important, perhaps even more so than the first: the notion of transmission of knowledge and passion between generations. Marie inspired Irène. Based on her parent’s discoveries, she went further by developing new applications on public health.

Catherine Pelletier ??

There are many women in Chile who have excelled in different areas of science. However, the person who has been my inspiration in my career is a Microbiologist with whom I worked at the beginning of my career, when the detection of microorganisms in food was done only with traditional methods. A woman with a lot of confidence in herself, with a great knowledge of microbiology, very cheerful, she taught me that being constant, always willing to learn, to take on challenges, to persevere, to be patient and to enjoy my work.

Paulina Rojas Inostroza ??

What would you say to inspire a young girl who wishes to study science?

Science is beautiful. It will inspire you in so many ways, and give you another way to view life. It can be a difficult journey, but the rewards are worth it. Science will make you fall in love with the world in different ways and to be able to enjoy that is a privilege.

Alina Alonso ??

Young girls tend to be afraid of Science, it is such a big field with so many opportunities to find something you enjoy.  You are good enough.

Anza Bester ??

Always follow your dreams, listen to your heart, don’t think about what others will think of you. Doing science is a gift, and you have that gift, you should never ignore it, we women are very resilient. You can conquer the world if you want.

Marina Gumiere ??

The Tiny SEED knew that to GROW it needed to be dropped in DIRT, covered in darkness, and STRUGGLE to reach the LIGHT.

Sijie Li ??

Our naturally curious and creative minds can only strengthen this ever evolving, diverse and inclusive field. It’s a way of thinking… Make a difference…

Sandra Molloy ??

Science is one of the most rewarding areas to work in because there are so many fields to choose from, it is constantly changing and growing in opportunities of study.  The possibilities are endless and who knows, you could be the next person to discover something ground-breaking!  Science is behind so much of what we do in the world and it is amazing to be a part of the scientific community.  My father always told me “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something – prove them wrong.”  Whatever obstacles are in your way, do not use them as an excuse not to succeed, but use them as drivers to overcome and be successful in your career path.

Annmarie Schwanke ??

Scientific fields are huge. Anyone interested in science can contribute and find in scientific studies a way of intellectual and personal development. Go for it, believe in your abilities. The choice of a career must be led by your own choices and personal abilities, not by gender, codes or clichés.

Catherine Pelletier ??

The areas of science are exciting and together with technology today we can reach unsuspected places, develop tools that are a contribution to current and future generations. Today I am very happy to see how technology has been integrated into microbiology, allowing automated and more precise processes.

Paulina Rojas Inostroza ??

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