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PROMICON Women in Science presents: Filomena Freitas

19 February 2024
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PROMICON’s new social media campaign #WomenInScience aims to portray the excitement and the difficulties that come with being a female scientist, shedding more light on this career path. Each week, we will tell the stories of the women behind PROMICON and this week we are presenting you Filomena Freitas from NOVA School of Science and Technology

What initially sparked your interest in science?  

I guess my first “inspiration” came from my mother, who drove my curiosity towards simple Nature’s phenomena, like the beauty of a spider web, a caterpillar turning into a butterfly or the wonders of the Universe. During my school years, I got interested in subjects like Biology and Chemistry, where I could learn how things around us worked and that affirmed my interest to pursue a career in Science.

What are some common misconceptions about being a female scientist that you've encountered in your career?

I think a lot has changed over the last decades. For example, when I finished my degree, a couple of decades ago, I applied for a scientific internship that required field work (camping in the wild) and the professor said I could not be selected for it because I would be the only female in a group made entirely of men. Now, fortunately, many areas traditionally dominated by men have a growing number of women which, in some cases, already outnumber men.

How do you feel about the representation of women in PROMICON?

PROMICON has a high participation of women, as are also most of the projects I am involved in.

What actions would you recommend to EU policymakers to enhance gender equality in European-funded projects?

Promote women participation at conferences and in the media, where they can talk about their work. Create opportunities for women to be engaged in projects as team members and, also, as leaders/coordinators.

Which female scientist do you look up to the most and why?  

While growing up, there were not that many female figures presented to us at school. I think only Marie Curie’s work was part of the schoolbooks. She was, no doubt, an example to me and I got to admire her for her persistence in working in Sciences, despite all the difficulties she encountered by being a female in a mostly male-dominated field. Besides her, I also admired Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey for their work in preserving endangered animals. 

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in science nowadays?

“Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

If Science is your main interest and you believe a career in it will fulfil you, go for it!

Filomena Freitas