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PROMICON Women in Science presents: Sandra Iglesias Moreira

12 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 Sandra Iglesias Moreira from AIMEN Technology Center.

What initially sparked your interest in science?  

Since I started high school, with 12 years old, my favourite subject has been mathematics. Doing exercises and finding the right solution to a problem felt like playing and, from my point of view, this subject keeps you active, makes you think and decide which is the best path to the last step of a problem. Although I have always being considered a “good student”, I always felt more attracted to the subjects and topics related to science, such as biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, technical design, etc. I should also mention that I had wonderful teachers through my school years that made me love this career path and that made me feel that I should follow my studies in what I loved and was best at.

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

The first misconception that I faced was while starting my degree on mechanical engineering, since the figures showed that less than the 15 % of the students enrolled in the course were women. Moreover, most of my teachers there were male. 

Shortly after finishing school, I started working on a small and local engineering company where I was the only women hired. Unlike my workmates, I was being paid less than they were; it took me more time (a year instead of 6 months) to achieve a fixed-term contract; the boss would not give me a leadership role or would not let me be in charge of a new upcoming project. I felt as if I was not good enough or that I did not have enough knowledge to do this job despite having studied the same degree or having worked in the same company for a specific amount of time.

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

In my opinion, PROMICON is a project with a huge number of women´s representation. In fact, I have been working at AIMEN technology centre for 4 years, and compared to the rest of the projects I have worked on, PROMICON got my attention for being the project with the greatest participation of women.

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

To my mind, the best way to enhance gender equality in European funded projects is to offer them the opportunity to be part of a team, since most of the time; they are not even considered an option to perform a specific task. 

Furthermore, getting leadership and coordinating positions will encourage women and scientists, in general, to opt for this spots or jobs. Giving speeches, being present at conferences explaining the work they have done and how it has been organised and performed; just giving them a voice and the opportunity to conquer their aspirations.

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

I look up to a lot of female scientists, but if I should mention just a few, I would choose: 

Ada Lovelace: she is considered the first computer programmer. Despite the fact that she died very young, and her work stayed forgotten for a lot time, it worked as an inspiration and starting point for those who followed. 

Marie Curie: although most of her work remained silent or hidden by her husband figure, she made the discovery of the radium and polonium and made a huge contribution to finding treatments for cancer. 

Margarita Salas: a researcher and important scientist in Spain that gives the name to a scholarship for postdoctoral studies. She discovered the DNA polymerase of the phi29 bacteriophage virus.

To be honest, apart from some family members and female teachers that I had while I was growing up, almost none female characters nor female scientists were introduced to me at high school or university. In fact, every formula, equation and theorem that were presented to me had the name of men or had been discovered, investigated or pursued by men. This meant that women were put aside from science, so if we, as young students, do not have inspirational female figures to look up to, how can we make up our minds and have the strong opinion that we are capable enough, intelligent enough or good enough?  

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

Honestly, I would advise them to do what they love and what they are good at regardless of what other people say or think. If they decide to follow a career path in science and feel hopeful and motivated since the very beginning, the outcome will be much easy and rewarding. They should do it for themselves, and for nobody else. They might find setbacks or difficulties along the way, but they will be overcome with patience, hard work and persistence. As it is known, nobody said it would be easy, but if you follow your heart and what you truthfully feel is best, the process will be simple

Sandra Iglesias Moreira