To promote the full and equal access and participation of females in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), the International Day of Women and Girls in Science takes place on 11 February every year. Within FlashPhos are many inspiring women who are contributing to the project’s progress. One of them is Ayumi Schober: She is a researcher at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. The following interview not only gives an impression of Ayumi’s work but also of her inspirations and ambitions.
What is your academic background and why have you decided to pursue STEM and more specifically your field of work?
I am a chemical engineer with a Master’s degree in solid waste treatment and air quality control. I first came into contact with science as a child, colouring cells from my eldest brother’s biology homework. I may have heard the word “reaction” back then and I was fascinated that we could change matter, transform things, and cause explosions. During my bachelor, I worked as a chemical technician in a research centre, and it kept me interested in developing new methods, optimizing old processes. This experience taught me the significance of investing in research at big companies. This feeling led me to work in my current field of work, which is the recovery of valuable materials from sources considered waste.
What are you doing at the University of Stuttgart and what is your role in FlashPhos?
I am a researcher responsible for the very first step of our FlashPhos process, the dryer-grinder. Through this work, I am also starting my PhD studies. During my research, I can explore new ideas, test hypotheses and improve processes that we know to make the FlashPhos process more efficient. I will work to optimize the dryer-grinder to create an environmentally friendly operation by saving energy and emitting fewer pollutants.
What motivates you to work in FlashPhos?
By working at FlashPhos, I believe to have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution that can positively impact the world. Here I also have the chance to collaborate and learn with many experts from several fields. I am sure that working at FlashPhos will be hard and challenging but it will certainly reward me with personal and professional growth, as well as the advancement of knowledge in the field of research and innovation.
Are there female role models that inspired you throughout your training or your career?
Yes, I can imagine that all little girls love Marie Curie since she was the first female to get a Noble prize and even the first person to get two Noble prizes in Science. Marie Curie was not only a good researcher, but she also worked towards promoting the education and professional development of women in science. I hope that, like her, I can also inspire many girls and also work to facilitate the entrance of more and more women to pursue science and engineering.
What are your expectations and wishes for the future regarding the role of women in science? What advice can you give girls interested in a career in STEM?
I believe that in future more and more women will work in science. For us, the journey is even more challenging, but with hard work and the support of other women, we can achieve our dreams.
My advice to the girls is to not be afraid of entering a “men’s world”, you deserve to do what is interesting for you, to pursue your passion and not be discouraged by any perceived barriers or biases. Take advantage of all opportunities and build a supportive network with women that understand the challenges that you will face and can help and inspire you. Lastly, be aware of the unconscious bias and discrimination that can be faced in the field, but don’t let it discourage you from reaching your goal, with persistency and dedication, anything is possible!