Luiza Piva, Bioprocess Engineer and M. Sc.
Universidade de Brasilia
I started to get involved in scientific communication by taking part in the Pint of Science organization committee in my city. Brazil is going through a rough financial crisis, so we need all the publicity and help we can get. Talking about science helps people understand our importance in society and can possibly help in industry university partnerships, which is what we need right now. Most of our research is funded by the government, so now that we’re broke we need to rely on other sources of investment.
When it comes to women, Brazil looks like a very liberal place but in reality we are a very sexist country. Domestic abuse and sexual harassment statistics are between the worst in the world. I want to show girls that they can be whatever they want to be and that they can be independent, strong and confident women.
Life Inside the Lab
What is your research topic? I work with yeast molecular biology, developing tools for a better genetic manipulation of these organisms. My ultimate goal is to build a yeast platform for the production of a wide range of molecules through genetic engineering.
What was your best day of science? Whenever I go to conferences I feel reinvigorated as a scientist. It is great to see where my research field is heading and to get to know so many amazing people coming from different backgrounds.
What was your worst day in science? The day I found out my M.Sc. project wasn’t working. More than a year’s worth of work was for nothing. I had to change everything when I was close to the deadline and thought I wouldn’t make it, but I did!
Luiza Piva is a MSc Candidate at Universidade de Brasilia. You can follow along with her science on Twitter at @piva_lu
What are you studying at university? I was an engineer undergrad, which meant lots of guys and a few girls in the program. Thankfully, the following semesters brought more women into bioprocess engineering and today we’re the majority. It’s the only engineering major where this happening at my hometown university, the rest are mostly composed of men. Since my area mixes engineering and biotechnology, I had two clear paths I could follow: engineering industry or research (which in Brazil means mostly academia). I chose research but my engineer way of thinking came with me. It’s great to work with biologists because we complete each other’s views and get to a solution together.
What are some of the highlights of your career right now? I’m collaborating on other projects and preparing results for publishing. I find that working together brings more exciting results.
What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? Anything that edits DNA is amazing to me.
Life Outside of Lab
Where did you grow up? Curitiba, a city in southern Brazil. I lived for short periods in Canada and France during my undergrad studies and now I live in Brasilia, it’s our country’s capital.
What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I wanted to be a doctor, “the kind of doctor that gets babies out of mommys’ bellies”. I didn’t know what an obstetrician was back then.
What do you do to relax outside of lab? I ride horses in my family’s farm, do boxing, read books, watch movies. I’m becoming more invested in my science work, so outside of the lab I read about the newest technologies, startups, looking for ideas and reading science-related books.
Do you have any pets? Yes! Various stray dogs, a daschund, horses, a guinea pig. I’ve had a parrot, a bunny and a hamster.
What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? I haven’t obtained my PhD just yet. But, I want to do a PhD because I want to eventually run my own organisation (like, make TFUI legit with a headquarters) that allows myself and the staff (/students) to conduct research while doing outreach to the public.
What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Do not be afraid of a field because it is too technical or there are not enough women, or people from your area. Sometimes we need different minds to work together. You can learn new things and adapt, it’s better to be constantly learning than to know more than everyone in the room. People have to treat you seriously regardless of your age or appearance, make them listen to your ideas and show them what you’re worth.
Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? I believe we need to give women the option of going to STEM if they want to. By giving the same opportunities and education that boys have, same hobbies and games that stimulate logical thinking, we would get to know women’s true potential in these areas. Giving girls the confidence that they will be taken seriously and can succeed in this field is the most important thing. Once we reach this goal, women can start making a change in STEM in their own way.
Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? One of my biology teacher in high school.
Why were your drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? How close was your schooling related to your current job? I like studying and learning new things. Academia is the place I found that constantly challenges me and keeps me motivated.
What is your favorite book? It depends on my state of mind. The Perks of Being a Wallflower helped me through some difficult times. Harry Potter, Brave New World, Animal Farm, The Demon-haunted World. Recently I started reading Brian Greene’s “The hidden reality” and it’s really awesome, he talks about multiverse theories and I recommend it to every science enthusiast.
What would you listen to while writing? Nothing, I need absolute silence.
What was your favorite subject in high school? Maths and Biology
Organization nut, or curated chaos? Curated chaos – I love the mess of printed articles, scrambled notes and multiple browser tabs that precedes a big turn in my lab strategy
What color socks are you wearing? None, it’s summer down here 🙂