What inspired you to become a scientist?
Science and biology always intrigued me as a child! Science fascinated my aggressively curious mind for finding answers to much of the whys and hows. As a problem solver with an analytical mindset, science was the obvious choice of profession. Now in health and medicine and as a molecular geneticist, I strive to understand disease pathways to prevent diseases and find cures to save lives.
What have you found to be your biggest challenge being a woman in science?
As an immigrant woman of colour in a male dominated profession, traditional road blocks and unforeseen challenges, without mentors or sponsors was a challenge. Having to change fields at a fairly mature career from plant genetics to biotech industry and finally medicine, that too in different cultures and countries was challenging and that seriously delayed my career progression impacting even now.
What are you most proud of being a female scientist?
I am really proud of myself for having carved my own path to reach where I am today. Sadly, I had no role models, mentors or sponsors to guide me through my career journey. I admit it was not easy overcoming the various challenges that life threw at me in science, a field dominated by males. But my parents’ upbringing instilling in me the confidence, will power, discipline and above all care for others, underlie my success today. I continue to champion for neglected causes in the pursuit of bringing equity in science and medical research. I can proudly say that my resilience and hard work has led to achieving significant credentials and establishing a career nationally and internationally as a leader in my area of medical research.
What advice do you have for young women aspiring to enter the field of science?
There are two main challenges to build your life and career. One, working on ‘self’ to build inner strength. Remember you are the driving force behind your aspirations. So be confident, be resilient, be passionate, be intentional – in short, Be the Driver.
Second, to adopt/adapt/change the environment around to reach your goal. So have a vision, be strategic, skill yourself, build a supportive network, know your environment – Be the Navigator.
In your opinion, what contributions do women bring to the field of science that might be unique or distinct?
I think women are generally more empathetic making them better connected with people. They are also resilient and versatile as strategic thinkers, a preferred quality in good leaders. Women bring their unique perspectives in every field from their own lived-in experiences. Especially, their contributions towards science education, health, medicine and technology are vital for creating more equitable societies.
How does your research contribute to inclusivity and equity?
The move to my current area of research on alcohol-induced liver disease (ALD) was more serendipitous rather than by design. I realised how neglected this area of human health was.
The health disparities that exist due to ethnic and socio-economic status generally, are amplified in the field of alcohol use disorders, such as ALD and associated addiction, carrying immense stigma of being a ‘self-inflicted disease’. Risky drinking continues to be a major ongoing concern in Australia with liver cirrhosis the most common endpoint. Vulnerable populations (women and indigenous communities), especially those with a drinking issue, are at high risk of liver damage compounding the disease burden.
My research focusses on early identification and treatment of at-risk patients, and to close the gap by prioritising care and programs for susceptible people, including indigenous and ethnic populations.