LaFreda J. Howard

Postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

" I wish we could take a step back and realize that although publishing papers is vital for our careers, there are other ways to measure just how great of a researcher someone is."

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


My name is Dr. LaFreda J. Howard, a native of a small town called Jeffersonville, GA. I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, TX. My current research focuses on kidney diseases in pediatric patients.


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


I completed my PhD training at the University of Arkansas where I was recruited from Fort Valley State University, a historically black college and university. After graduating in 2019, I relocated to Texas to begin my postdoctoral training. I had no clue that I would end up in research. Honestly, I had no clue that I would ever attain the "Dr." credentials. My dream was to move out of a small town and make a difference in the world. I guess you can say that I've done that.


We would love to know what or who inspires you?

My parents and twin sister inspire me the most. They have NO CLUE what my research is about, but they never let that stop them from asking questions. I'll love them forever for that.


What do you think are the biggest challenges in the research world in general? 

Generally, I absolutely hate the idea that published papers are the currency for researchers. There are so many other factors that contribute to a great scientist. I wish we could take a step back and realize that although publishing papers is vital for our careers, there are other ways to measure just how great of a researcher someone is.


Can you identify some turning points that have influenced your career? 


A pivotal point in my career was when I realized that there's nothing wrong with wanting to communicate science more than being behind the bench and performing the experiments. Once I realized this, I was able to find my "happy space" in the science world.


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of a female? Are there still situations like that? 


Of course not! I love being a feisty female! I will admit that I'm often in situations where I wonder if I would be treated differently if I was a caucasian female.


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing, and slow-paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going? 

I think this every single day. One of the most rewarding parts of research is chasing the unknowns. That's what keeps me coming back to it every day. 


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend or whoever?

I would love to applaud my mom. She is the strongest woman that I know. If I could only be the wife and mother that she is all while being a scientist, I would seriously be a superwoman!


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! 


A world where all experiments actually work on the first try. IS THAT POSSIBLE? In 30 years, I hope all women in research will realize the amount of power that we have. I would definitely love to see more black women in research.


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything?

Fire away, we are ready to face them.


GET COMFORTABLE  WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE.

 

Trisha L. Andrew

Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst & the Director of the Wearable Electronics Lab

"Young scientists are often best served by trying to fit in to a preexisting clique and following unofficial rules of a community before becoming daring and innovative. These social dynamics frustrate me the most, I suppose, because I think science should be the great equalizer. The ultimate meritocracy. But we all know it isn't. "

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


I am Trisha L. Andrew, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the Director of the Wearable Electronics Lab, where we create unobtrusive smart garments for health monitoring and electronic textiles for energy harvesting and storage.


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


I was supposed to be pre-med, but I liked the everyday realities of research too much when I was completing my undergraduate studies. So I decided to try my hand at graduate school, so that I got to work in lab everyday. It was the best decision I made in my life. I love the action of research—the details are always different, different techniques, different protocols, but the thrill of asking questions and discovering answers is unmatched. Even today.


We would love to know what or who inspires you?

Work wise, I just always like to solve problems, new or old. Thats what I like most about being an academic research scientist—the freedom to choose which problems to focus on, and change your mind. So I suppose Im constantly inspired to use my knowledge and research experience to solve problems I read about at a given time, to see if my lab’s work and expertise can provide a unique or useful angle to a problem that needs multifaceted solutions. 


What do you think are the biggest challenges in the research world in general? 

Conservatism, I think. In the sense that science and research is still influenced by very mundane, human constructs, like social capital and disciplinary boundaries. Ideas coming from a "brand name” are lauded but the same will likely be overlooked (or worse, derided) if proposed by a “no name.” Young scientists are often best served by trying to fit in to a preexisting clique and following unofficial rules of a community before becoming daring and innovative. These social dynamics frustrate me the most, I suppose, because I think science should be the great equalizer. The ultimate meritocracy. But we all know it isn't. 


Can you identify some turning points that have influenced your career? 


Winning funding that is unrestricted was a huge turning point. Grant money that is not tied to a specific, narrow proposal but, instead, is granted openly to allow the recipient to follow their passion and gut instincts is a game changer. It was a grant like this, the Packard Foundation Fellowship, that allowed me to get into textile electronics when I was a second-year Assistant Professor.


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of a female? Are there still situations like that? 


I mourn the obvious antagonistic gender dynamics that I always, inevitably observe in groups of scientists (and race dynamics, and age dynamics…). But at the same time, I suppose that it never occurred to me to mourn being born female (and a minority in many other senses). Ive always strived to lean from my older female colleagues and some social scientists that I follow and uplift or support other women and minorities in the professional groups, teams or panels that I participate in. Maybe my life will not become better anytime soon, but if a younger person I support matures and change the social dynamics for the better in the future, then Id be satisfied.


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing, and slow-paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going? 

You know, I see the frustration in my students sometimes. Im old enough now that my memories of the same frustrations during grad school have eroded away. And this is what I tell my students today—the thrill of scientific discovery, however big or small, and the thrill of solving a problem, however big or small or frustrating, will be the emotion that you remember eight years from now. The frustration and what one might be tempted to call a "crushing depression" from constant failure—it must be noted that I was a rather melodramatic grad student—will fall victim to time. You only remember the best parts, the experiments and endeavors that worked, the rest become insignificant. So, when things are slow, think about how many small problems you have already solved and how many obstacles you’ve already conquered—you will do the same for the problems ahead of you, even if may take a bit longer than in the past.


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend or whoever?

I have found that female colleagues who are maybe five, ten years senior to me (professionally) are my most precious resource. There are three who I’ve embarrassed in the past by naming and thanking publicly, so Im not going to repeat that mistake here. But, suffice it say, they have taught me how to be a better colleague, be better research mentor and, simply, be a better female adult.


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! 


My fantasy research is exactly what my lab is doing right now :)


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything? Fire away, we are ready to face them!


Always strive to be the most creative scientist in the room, with the most well-informed ideas. This gives you real, unambiguous power and strength, which no one can disqualify or take away from you. And always lift up your juniors—your personal excellence is nothing if you make life harder for folks that come after you!

 

Marja Jalava

Professor of Cultural History, University of Turku

"If this is what you want, do not give up! But remember, though, that there is life outside the university, and it is at least as valuable as the world of research."

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


I am a historian, whose research interests lie in the modern history of Finland, other Nordic countries, and Northern Europe. Among my long-term interests is the study of nationalism and cultural radicalism during the “long nineteenth century.” I have also focused on the history of welfare state, particularly from the viewpoint of education and the university system. More recently, I have specialized in the history of historiography, the history of emotions, and history in relation to the human-animal relationship.


I obtained my Ph.D. in Finnish and Nordic History at the University of Helsinki in 2005. During 2006–2010, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of History (HU) and in 2010–2015, as Academy Research Fellow at the Department of Political and Economic Studies (HU). In 2014, I was appointed as Senior Lecturer in Political History (HU). I have also held temporary professorships at the University of Tampere (Professor of Finnish History, 2012–2013) and at the University of Turku (Professor of Contemporary History, 2016–2017).


I began working as a professor in the Department of Cultural History at the University of Turku in August 2017, and I will work at this position until 31 December 2021.


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


Academic career was not a self-evident choice for me. I have been interested in history as long as I can remember, but I was also interested in literature and visual arts and even studied painting a couple of years in the late 1980s. Moreover, at the university, I also considered taking up sociology, philosophy, or the study of religions as my major subject instead of history. After a while, however, I realized that history as an academic discipline allows me to study society, as well as philosophical and religious views, so by choosing history, I could have them all.


While doing my Master’s thesis, I noticed that I get great pleasure from research and academic writing. I started to think about doctoral studies and was encouraged to do so by my thesis supervisor. When I managed to get my first research grant for my PhD thesis project in 1999, my future was determined, and I have been working in academia since then.


We would love to know what or who inspires you?


It may sound like a cliché, but the possibility to learn new things about the past provides constant inspiration for me. In this respect, my own research projects and cooperation with colleagues are essential sources of excitement, but I also enjoy teaching MA and PhD students, whose topics vary from the ancient Greek historiography to the struggle for same-sex marriage in contemporary Finland. It is a privilege for me to be able to work and collaborate with such a varied amount of highly talented students and scholars.


What do you think are the biggest challenges in the research world in general? 


In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges in today’s research world is enormous competitiveness that is combined with diminishing resources and constant assessments. No matter how much you work and achieve, you should always do more and better. In Finland, the student to teacher ratio at the university is one of the lowest across OECD countries. As I act as a professor with a relatively large responsibility for teaching and supervision and, thus, I have very limited time to focus on research, the feeling of inadequacy often takes over me. On a more general level, harsh academic competition is eroding the sense of community at the university, because the “result or out” principle increasingly dominates professional relationships.


Can you identify some turning points that have influenced your career? 


To mention just one highly important turning point, I managed to get the Academy of Finland’s 5-year post as an Academy Research Fellow in 2010. I was thus able to work independently on my research; for instance, I could really focus on time-consuming archival work in Finland and Norway – something I can today only dream of…


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of a female? Are there still situations like that? 


I do not wish to be a male, but a PhD student or a researcher certainly benefits even today from being a male. For instance, even at the university, women typically get less salary from the same position and have poorer chances of being promoted as a professor than men. This has particularly been the case in history as an academic discipline because it has remained a male-dominated field until very recently. Indeed, I have sometimes felt that I have to work double as much as my male colleagues to get the same grant or post.


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing, and slow-paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going? 


Among the most stressful and disappointing issues in relation to research are certainly the unsuccessful applications for funding. It takes an enormous amount of time to write an excellent funding application, but it is never enough as such because there are always more excellent applications than money available. Thus, often all the hard work turns out to be fruitless in the end. I allow myself one day to moan and complain after a negative funding decision, but then I move forward and begin to think about new possibilities. After all, on a global level and in comparison with most women of the past, I am in a privileged position and hence try to keep some sense of proportion.


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend, or whoever?


The most important woman in my life is naturally my mother, who has encouraged me and supported me in my career. 


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! How would you like to see women in research in 30 years? 


If anything really was possible, I would like to allocate much more funding for academic teaching posts and basic research so that both women and men at all career stages would have better opportunities to work on research. It would be great to be able to say that one’s gender does not matter in research anymore.


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything? Fire away, we are ready to face them! 


The academic world is simultaneously highly demanding and highly rewarding. If this is what you want, do not give up! But remember, though, that there is life outside the university, and it is at least as valuable as the world of research.

 

Saara Särmä

A researcher at University of Tampere, an activist, an artist and a feminist. Saara is the creator of “Congrats, you have an all male panel!” and co-founder of the Feminist Think Tank Hattu. Photo: Jonne Renvall / TAU   


We are excited to have Saara here. She has some smart, cool & kind thoughts.

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


I’m Saara Särmä, a feminist, an activist, an artist and a researcher. Currently I work at Tampere University as a post-doctoral researcher and my project titled Making Meaning Out of Meme-making – the Politics of Online Image Circulation (MEMEPOL) is funded by the Academy of Finland (2019-2022). Additionally, I do some public writing and speaking, e.g. write columns for YLE and Aamulehti. 


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


I think it happened quite accidentally, when I was working on my Master’s thesis I already got a few short term gigs as a research/project assistant at the department where I was studying, so I sort of drifted towards starting doctoral studies, because I was interested in doing more and diving deeper into the topics and theories, but I also couldn’t figure out what else there would be to do in life… Less than a year after I had gotten my doctoral degree (Doctor of Social Sciences) in International Relations, again really accidentally, I became known (famous even?) for inventing the “Congrats, you have an all-male panel!” tumblr-site, that documents all male panels and other all male compositions in various fields. It started just as something where my international colleagues and I can collect manels and make fun of them, but then it went ‘viral’ globally and I became a public feminist. A role I never thought to pursue, I always thought that I would just be one of those ivory tower researchers, whose research is just mainly theoretical and methodological discussions within an academic discipline, maybe interdisciplinary across some social sciences and humanities, but not really engaging with the wider public. Of course now that has all changed and I’m much more interested public engagement and trying to think of new ways of making research more widely accessible. All of this has also led me to a fantastic co-operations such as the short film series Force of Habit produced by Tuffi Films, for which I wrote a screenplay for Let Her Speak together with Ulla Heikkilä (who also directed it).

In the post-doctoral stage I’ve been unemployed several times, funded by the Kone Foundation, worked in an Academy of Finland funded project at the National Defence University and now finally have my own postdoc project for 3 years, which feels like a really really long time after the more precarious period.


We would love to know what or who inspires you?


Kindness and other feminists, young and old.


What do you think are the biggest challenges in the research world in general? 


All the structural issues: precarity and uncertainty, lack of funding and jobs for a lot of very talented and hard working people.


Can you identify some turning points that have influenced your career? 


 See above the  all male panel stuff…


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of female?


Yes and no. In many ways academia would be an easier place to navigate as a man, but then again I think I’ve done much more interesting work and things because as a woman I’ve come across those walls (as Sara Ahmed would say), and have been enraged because of the gendered injustices I’ve seen. There is more awareness about gender issues and more work towards equality these days, yet the work is far from over. And the backlash is real. Also, we need to keep intersectionality in mind when looking at inequality in academia and working towards a more just academia.


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing and slow-paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going? 


All. The. Time. Sometimes it feels like all I’ve done in the last 10 years is to complain that I think, read, and write too slowly. I honestly don’t really know what keeps me going, stubbornness maybe? Or the fact that I think I have things to say and to contribute? Lot of the time it’s all the fantastic people that I’ve met in academia (and outside of it too), at worst academics can be nasty and horrible, but at best they are amazing and I try to find ways to mainly work and interact with the latter. 


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend or whoever?


I want to applaud every single woman in academia who makes it through this pandemic. As we are already seeing, this time is a huge unequalizer and as such danger to women’s careers and I think we need collectively to make sure it doesn’t harm women, and especially women of color and women from the global south.


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! How would you like to see women in research in 30 years? 


I want to see true diversity in academia, not only in terms 50-50 gender division, but in terms of other axis of differentiation. 


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything?

Fire away, we are ready to face them!

Be yourself and do work that truly excites you, find kind people to work with and to support you, and always be kind to others.

 

Hannele Savela

PhD, Research Coordinator at Thule Institute, University of Oulu. Photo: Ari-Pekka Kvist 

Sohvi: I have had the privilege to get to know Hannele through our yoga-teacher training. I soon found out she also shares the passion towards Arctic science! Hannele is one of a kind - always positive and encouraging.

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


I am a research coordinator and work at Thule Institute in the University of Oulu in Finland. Since 2011, I have been the Trans-National Access Coordinator in INTERACT, the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic. www.eu-interact.org    


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


I was working in coordination of an international Masters’ Programme when the position opened up in INTERACT. The network of Arctic research infrastructures and the work description sounded super fascinating and something that would suit my best abilities, so I decided to apply for the position. And here I am, still loving my job after nine years! Originally, it was my dream to become a research scientist. During my PhD studies, I realized that I’d probably always be a rather mediocre scientist, but instead had a real strength in my organizational and social skills, which led me to the field of project coordination. However, my research background has been a huge benefit when working with research infrastructures and scientists.  


We would love to know what or who inspires you?


It inspires me to see people create ideas and work together to reach common goals, to see how the “bigger picture” starts forming from small bits and pieces, and to help putting all of that together in a coordinated manner.    


What do you think are the biggest challenges in the research world in general? 


At least in the field of long-term monitoring, conducted by many research infrastructures, the problem is the lack of long-term and sustained funding. It’s a challenging situation when long-term monitoring has to be sustained with short-term project funding.  


Can you identify some turning points that have influenced your career? 


Definitely the biggest turning point was when I realized my talent is in coordination more than it’s in actual research and decided to apply for a position in coordination in 2002, while still working on my PhD that I completed in 2005. The three years doing both research and coordination at the same time, while also being a single parent, were the most challenging in my life but confirmed that I’ll have what it takes to be a coordinator. The second biggest turning point was to apply for the position in INTERACT network, which led me to the world of research infrastructures and international collaboration. 


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of female?


Are there still situations like that? No, that is something I have never wished for. Actually, I remember thinking already as a little girl that I’d never want to be a boy, life as a male seemed so boring to me! 


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing and slow-paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going? 


Yes, research can often be all of those things, and the same applies to research coordination. What keeps me going is that from experience I know things often take time to develop and mature, and in most cases things “come together” eventually. Hard work, patience, and flexibility to change approach are needed to overcome the challenges.  


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend or whoever?


I want to applaud the woman nearest to me throughout my life, my mother. She has provided me with the roots and wings to succeed in life and has always been my biggest support and role model. 


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! How would you like to see women in research in 30 years? 


In 30 years, I would like to see a research world where women and men alike do not have to feel they are treated differently because of their gender. And that parental responsibilities would be shared gender-equally in a way that would enable women to have the same career possibilities with men. Nowadays I think women still bear more responsibility in parenting and that often poses a challenge on their (research) career development.     


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything?

Fire away, we are ready to face them!


I use the same words of encouragement that my mother always told me when I was growing up: Keep your head high, you are just as good as everybody else. When you do your best, you can always be proud of yourself, no matter what.  

 

Aino Kalmbach

PhD candidate at Aalto University's Department of Economics.

"At the start of my PhD I thought that it would be easier to live with the gender imbalance in economics. It has however proven to be quite stressful, and if has had a serious impact on my career aspirations."

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


I am an economist with a master’s degree in social sciences from the University of Helsinki. Currently I am a PhD student at Aalto University’s department of economics. I study labor economics and economics of education. I’m mostly interested in understanding educational choices and how our childhood environment shapes our attitudes as adults in the labor market. I’m in the fourth year of my PhD and hoping to finish it in a year or so.


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


Before even finishing my master’s degree I was recruited as an economist in a policy institution where I had previously done a traineeship. I worked there on labor market policy – the work was challenging but also rewarding.  I was there for almost two years, but at some point I realized I was more interested in really getting to the roots of the issues I was working with and understood that to do so I would have to pursue a career in research rather than in policy. 


I was tempted by PhD studies already at the end of my studies, but getting an exciting job offer led me elsewhere temporarily. Research hasn’t always been my dream – for a long time I thought I wasn’t smart enough for it and that I wouldn’t fit in the academic world. I think having virtually no female faculty in economics at the university during my bachelor and masters studies contributed to this: it never even occurred to me that “someone like me” could work as a professor. 


We would love to know what or who inspires you?


Currently I’m inspired by the many opportunities I would have if I would finish my PhD, haha! 

One of the most fun part of my PhD has been teaching and interacting with students. It is definitely something that inspires me a lot: how could I teach a difficult topic so that it would make most sense for the students? I learn a lot from teaching and preparing my lessons. Also students are very smart and fun and interacting with them is great.


What do you think are the biggest challenges in the research world in general? 


The work is lonely and it is hard to see real progress. I often feel like for each step forwards I take two steps backwards as every problem solved always leads to discovering new problems. Learning to deal with these feelings is probably part of the process of becoming a researcher, but it does not mean that it is easy. 


Can you identify some turning points that have influenced your career? 


I had the opportunity to visit MIT for a year as a visiting student at the department of economics. I learned a lot and it was a very inspiring year!


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of female? 


Yes: often. Not only because I think that my surroundings would take me more seriously as a male, but also (as research has shown convincingly) men are a lot more confident than women. I see this in my peers, too. I would definitely need a boost to my confidence every now and then, even a slight amount of overconfidence might not hurt when it’s time for me to pitch my research ideas. 


Also, as all our department’s faculty are male, I think that some social situations might be easier if we had at least our gender in common. Even though I wish it wasn’t so, I have noticed that my male peers find it easier than I do to socialize with senior male faculty members. 


To be honest, at the start of my PhD I thought that it would be easier to live with the gender imbalance in economics. It has however proven to be quite stressful, and if has had a serious impact on my career aspirations.


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing and slow-paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going? 


Haha yes! I absolutely think so. For me, what works is that I keep track of my working hours. Even when I feel I am not making any progress, I can look at the numbers: I have worked this much this week, if nothing worked out then it is not because I did not try. Also maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having fun and interesting hobbies helps – basically, it’s good to have a life outside of work, too. 


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend or whoever?


I’m inspired by all the brilliant female scientists who persist regardless of the masculinity of their field.


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! How would you like to see women in research in 30 years? 


The research world,  to some extent, still seems to be designed for a person (most often a man) who has someone to take care of the home and family so that the researcher can only focus on their career. The rest of the “team” is expected to follow as the career-maker travels across the world pursuing jobs with usually very little employment protection. This is seen as normal and “essential” to the progress of science. Sacrificing one’s personal life is taken as granted. I wish that things could be done differently. Also, in the future, women in research would be equal to men. 


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything? Fire away, we are ready to face them!


Always put your health, both mental and physical, first. This might seem like an easy choice, but it’s not. Don’t live your PhD as it were a “transitory” phase before the “real” working life: rather you should shape your PhD as representing the life you actually want to live. To students I’d like to say: research at its best is extremely rewarding and when the work goes well it’s a lot of fun. So if you think you might be interested in pursuing a PhD, go for it!

 

Karoliina Hurri

PhD candidate in World Politics at the University of Helsinki. Affiliated with the
Aleksanteri Institute (Finnish Centre for Russian and Eastern European Studies) and the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS). Photo by Enni Kallio.


Sohvi: Me and Karoliina met when we both started working in the same research group a few years ago. The journey would have been very different without her! I admire her work
ethics and self-discipline - sometimes I have to lure her to have coffee with me during the day, when she just wants to concentrate on work and I want to gossip.



Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently

I am Karoliina, a second year PhD student researching climate politics and particularly construction of China’s climate leadership. My background is in Development Geography but I have slowly drifted from Kumpula’s Science campus to the City center campus of Social Sciences. My dissertation is in World Politics but I would still say that I am a geographer at heart. Currently, I am working in an international research group on environment at the Aleksanteri Institute, at the University of Helsinki. I have also affiliation with the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS). Besides my career, I love board games, coconut ice cream, water slides that are not too fast and I am a sworn fan of Harry Potter.


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


I ended up to research really topic-oriented. I think this is the way to do my share for climate change and build awareness of climate politics and its challenges. My dream has always been to work with global climate negotiations, but be based in Finland. A more personal dream, having followed the climate negotiations for more than 10 years now, was to attend an UN climate conference someday. I always thought this would happen when I have grey hair. I still have to pinch myself to believe it is true but now I have already attended three of those because of my research and I am only 29. So, I guess I can say that this job has always been my dream. Through achieving these goals, I have also realized how much I wish to continue working with the climate negotiations after my PhD.


We would love to know what or who inspires you?


The fact that things are changing for the climate. Finland has the carbon neutrality goal. The inspiring thing about corona virus was to witness how quickly the society is able to change if we want to change it. People getting excited about Greta Thunberg. I am surprised how much Greta’s attitude has inspired me, for such a young person she has the wisdom to listen and let everybody else talk. I met her in the UN climate conference; her press conference created a traffic jam at the security control in COP25 Madrid in 2019. When everybody arrived there, she decided to sit their quietly and let the other young activists speak who do not get so much media attention otherwise. I have respect for this kind of gesture; she used her attention for a good cause in a smart way. I think this is also an example of the unfortunate unfairness that sometimes the focus is too much on the fact who is speaking rather than what they are speaking.

What do you find are the biggest challenges in research world in general?


Well I guess the competition for funding and its influence in research, but I am going to answer something that receives less attention. I think that the importance of recovery is not appreciated enough in research world. It is so sad that hurry and even exhaustion seems to be almost the new normal in academia and in work life in general. The competition, pressure to succeed or pressure to find funding and the lack of regular working hours make people work all the time or feel guilty when they are not working. It is a delicate balance to simultaneously be ambitious and be proud to leave the office at 4 o’clock. You have to find the practices that suit you and be confident enough to not compare your habits to others’.


Can you identify some turning points, that have influenced your career?


I think that without the Copenhagen climate meeting in 2009, I would not be researching this topic. Particularly the communication between the developed and developing countries seemed frustrating and I wanted to understand this interaction better in my Bachelor’s thesis. China was blamed for the failure in Copenhagen, which is probably why I started looking at China in my Master’s thesis and since then I have remained on this path. Also, my student exchanges in Fiji Islands and India, and seeing how they face climate change there, has strengthened my will to hear developing countries’ voice stronger in the climate negotiations. In addition, a clear turning point for my career was my first grant from Tiina and Antti Herlin Foundation in 2018. I will probably always remember the moment when I heard the news about the grant and I realized like “Ok, I am really gonna do this dissertation”.


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of female? Are there still situations like that?


No, not really but I have noticed that there have been moments where I have been extremely proud to be a young female researcher and this way understood that possibilities for men and women are not always the same. Sometimes I wonder if men suffer from similar kind of imposter syndrome thoughts. Particularly, I have noticed at least in my circles that men are often more self-confident to apply for a job even though they would not necessarily fulfill all the requirements of the call.


How would you like to see women in research in 30 years?


I hope that in 30 years, the number of women in top-level positions would have increased. I hope that the situation would be more equal that women would not have to fear that for example maternity leave would influence research funding or hiring. At the moment, I think that women also participate in joking about when is the “appropriate” time to have a kid during your PhD which I think is quite sad.


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing and slow paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going?

Yes and I am often my own worst critic. You have to find the way to praise yourself. During a long project, I have tried to celebrate achievements also on a lower level. For example, if I have completed all the tasks for the week on Friday, I have gone to the movies or something else. After I returned my first article, I received a prize from myself: a week’s holiday. I believe that scheduling is one of the most important skills in doing a PhD. I try not to work during evenings and weekends but when a deadline is approaching, it gets complicated. I try to be gracious but it is a learning process. I have noticed that walking home from the office is best for calming my thoughts. In addition, I believe in listening to nature sounds from Spotify when I write, doing Pilates and meeting my best friends for “Tuesday-wine therapy” after work. I definitely need also evenings when I have nothing planned.


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend or whoever?


I wish to applaud my sister for her courage to make decisions in life by prioritizing well-being. I think she would be a great example for many. At the office, I have to applaud Sohvi, the editor of this blog, for the important peer-support and being my PhD twin sister. I believe it is quite rare that you meet a person through work that you instantly know is going to be your friend for the rest of your life.


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible!


One day I was wondering what would happen if everybody in academia would have to follow working hours for example from nine to five. I appreciate the freedom to work whenever and wherever too much to support this idea but still there is something tempting about it. Everybody would have the same rules, now it sometimes seems that the ones willing to sacrifice the most, are the ones who succeed. In my fantasy research world, working during holidays and weekends would not be something to be proud of and funding competition would not influence the research topics. In addition, I think that in academia where everything you write is (and also should be) questioned, it is important to develop skills to give constructive feedback and turn more
and more negativity into positivity.


Feelings about corona? Work, life, world?


I am grateful that I am still able to continue my work despite this lock-down situation. I am part of the risk group, so I have been mostly at home which I have actually enjoyed a lot. I consider this as nature’s way to get us to stop and notice that we are going to the wrong direction, to remind us about the truly important things like health, solidarity, loved ones and our beautiful nature. I think it was somewhat reassuring that all the things in my calendar was in the end cancelled so easily. I feel that when working from home, it is even more challenging to distinguish your work and other life. There is a risk for attempting to overachieve the things that you otherwise are “too busy” to do. So in this sense, I wish that the situation would have slowed me down even more. World-wise I am worried about the impacts on developing countries. In Finland, we argue whether the thousand mechanical ventilators are enough but what happens when the virus spreads for example in the slums of Mumbai? We are so privileged here in Finland with
unemployment benefits, clean water and healthcare.


How has it impacted your research?


Well, my plans to do research visits in Copenhagen and Beijing this summer have been postponed or cancelled which are the most visible impacts for my research. Also, the UN climate conferences that I follow have been postponed which will influence my research on longer term. I am scared how this will influence countries’ climate ambition. I would not like to be pessimistic but this was supposed to be the year of increasing the ambition, and countries delivering their enhanced plans and targets. With the economic impacts of corona, it is difficult to view that for example China’s targets would be upgraded sufficiently. I think this is an excellent example of what societies can do for the emissions rapidly if they really want to. It is so sad that emergencies like these need to happen before people can actually see blue skies in the Chinese cities, for example. I believe corona is kinda like the last opportunity for us given by the Earth to change our way of life. But following the discussion of juxtaposing corona and climate change also in the Finnish media, it seems unlikely that this opportunity would be seized.


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything? Fire away, we are ready to face them!


Well, I start with the depressing. Be prepared that at least in Finland achieving a PhD study right does not mean so much before you are able to receive funding. And receiving funding, well it takes time. The application periods and waiting times are long, be prepared to wait at least a year before you can actually start. Part from that, there is so many positive things. When I started at the university, my professor told us to always choose to study the things that truly inspire us. Then you will actually become good or even top at that field because you care so much. I think this is so true and so important. I could never do a PhD if I would not really care for my topic.  And go abroad. Visit different institutions. Do exchanges. These experiences will
revolutionize your worldview!

 

Katariina Koivusaari

Katariina Koivusaari, a visiting researcher at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and PhD student in a doctoral programme called Food Chain and Health in University of Helsinki. 


Maija: I have been lucky to know Katariina since 2010 when we started our bachelor studies together in food technology. I suppose we both would have laughed out loud back then if somebody told us we’d someday be studying for a doctoral degree in food science. It’s been exciting to see how Katariina got very excited about her master thesis topic, nutrition, and research in general. She is very precise in writing and excellent at finding typos in any text.

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


I am Katariina, a PhD student from Helsinki University. I am enrolled in a doctoral programme called Food Chain and Health, and I do my research at the Public Health Unit of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


Research has definitely not always been my dream. At the time I was finishing my master studies, I was pretty sure I would never study again. During my graduation I was working in a company in quality assurance, and my Master's thesis supervisors asked me if I would be willing to continue with my thesis topic. I considered it for a long time but finally decided that I am so interested in the topic that I want to continue. At the same time I said goodbye to a permanent job and salary, but saluted the freedom of being a PhD student.  


The first time I got interested in research, however, was earlier, as I was working in a lab in Parma some years ago. My supervisors there introduced me to science, and I really liked working there. Before that, lab work was also something I thought I would not like to do for living. 


We would love to know what or who inspires you?


Especially one of my supervisors shows a very genuine, inspiring interest to science (for her it's not that much of work but pleasure to read my paper during the weekend, or at least that’s what she says). In addition, two of my scientific idols are Katri Saarikivi and Lauri Reuter. Both are very talented in popularising science, and they appear in media very optimistic and enthusiastic. 


What do you find are the biggest challenges in research world in general? 


Financing, obviously. I have been lucky to get funding for my studies at least so far, but not everyone is as lucky. It also feels that timetables never keep in science, things proceed very slowly. Sometimes there can also be some ethical problems behind the scenes. 


Can you identify some turning points, that have influenced your career? 


I would definitely mention my internship in that laboratory in Parma. Also starting my master's thesis at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, and getting to know the data I use also now, and my supervisors. I doubt that I would be doing a PhD if I had ended up doing the master's thesis at the uni. 


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of female? Are there still situations like that?


Not really, this has never crossed my mind. Perhaps because my topic is related to nutritional epidemiology and food sciences, both of which have a lot of women working on them. 


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing and slow paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going? 


I do, especially slow paced. But I also think that it's marvelous that someone pays me for studying things that interest me, and that I can work on my own project. It might be sometimes disappointing, but it's also luxurious to have the possibility to attend many courses, seminars, conferences etc. and have named supervisors who you can go to, if you really need help. 


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend or whoever?


My mum, of course, in many fields of life. I could also mention several girl friends of mine, who work determined and do super cool things (e.g. Maija 😄)


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! How would you like to see women in research in 30 years? 


There would be no conflicts about the order of the authors of a paper. PIs would have good leading skills. To the last question: equal to men. 


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything? Fire away, we are ready to face them!


Some people seem to think that doing PhD is very cool, but I think one doesn't have to be especially intelligent to become a doctor, just be interested in learning and have enough motivation and self-discipline. I also want to recommend the funny PhD accounts in Instagram for all PhD students out there, they help me go through a tough day!

 

Pinja Näkki

PhD candidate at the University of Helsinki & Researcher at the Marine Research Centre of the Finnish Environment Institute. Photo by Jani Järvi.

“To my own surprise, doing research hooked me completely!” Pinja is a marine biologists working with microplastics in Helsinki. You can follow her fascinating research at @sykeresearch on Instagram!

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


I am a biologist (M.Sc.) graduated from the University of Helsinki. I am working as a researcher at the Marine Research Centre of the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), and currently preparing my doctoral dissertation on the fate and impacts of microplastics on seafloors. As a member of a marine litter research group (“Roskasakki” in Finnish), I am working with a wide variety of issues related to marine litter. During my years in SYKE I have participated for example in the monitoring of microlitter in the Finnish waters, estimating the sources and emissions of microlitter in Finland and conducting experiments on the ingestion and impacts of microplastics in food webs. Besides research I also actively take part in marine litter education and public outreach done in SYKE.  


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


As long as I can remember, I dreamed about becoming a biologist. I entered the university in a strong belief that I would become a biology teacher, as I love to share my enthusiasm to the natural world and spark it in others, too. At some point during my studies, I got distracted and developed interest in science communication and environmental education, and for a brief moment I considered those as alternative career paths.


However, until starting an internship and my master’s thesis at SYKE during my last years of studies, I was still relatively confident about becoming a teacher. To my own surprise, doing research hooked me completely! Research allowed me to use all my strengths, and also satisfied my need to immerse myself deeply in a topic that interests me – and that’s how I ended up here! It wasn’t a straight path, but I’m happy I got the chance to explore and develop other skills that I now can also utilize in my job as a researcher.


We would love to know what or who inspires you?


I find inspiration from thinking researchers as modern-day explorers or voyagers discovering new worlds. It is exciting and rewarding to work on the limits of your own and communal knowledge, and to be able to add your own tiny piece of information to the “world map” or puzzle scientists are collectively building. And of course, the most important aspect is that I am working for the environment and feel that my work contributes to making the world better!


In addition to that, I am inspired by people who are passionate about what they are doing. Passion and enthusiasm are contagious, and sharing those feelings gives also other people the desire to find what they are most passionate about.


What do you think are the biggest challenges in the research world in general?


A universal problem in the research world is the lack of funding and the vicious problems it produces. We are educating more and more scientists, but at the same time the funding situation is getting worse. This leads to harsh competition for limited resources among researchers. Grant writing is laborious and takes time away from the actual scientific work, which also needs to be done in order to produce publications and to secure funding in the future.


"Publish or perish” is a phrase often heard in the scientific world, and to put bluntly, often the quantity of publications is more important than quality. Bold results get published more easily compared to research not finding effects or replicating studies done previously, which distorts the reality and can eventually lead to bad science. Research is already demanding, and adding the pressure to apply more and more short-term grants and to compete with your colleagues on top of your work creates a pressure to work long hours, which in turn leads to decline in general well-being.


Can you identify some turning points that have influenced your career?


Definitely! One of them was my student exchange; spending half a year studying marine biology in Gold Coast, Australia, turned my head from terrestrial ecology to marine biology, and as I came back to Finland, I started immediately looking for possibilities to continue studying marine biology here. That quickly escalated into an internship at SYKE, which sparked an interest towards a career in research. Without my study exchange, I would have not ended up where I am now.


In general, my career since then has been highly influenced by coincidence, mainly by who I have been lucky to meet. I would say that another big turning point was starting my PhD, which has led me to many amazing experiences, and for that I must give credit for people around me, who have given me support and also advocated me in their own networks.


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of female?


I can’t remember a single occasion, but this does not mean that I have not had negative experiences as a young woman in research. However, I have many times found myself wishing I had more self-confidence to defend myself in unfair situations and to appear more credible and professional in the eyes of others. Nevertheless, at the end of the day its not your appearance what matters, and it is the best feeling to prove someone’s assumption of you wrong!


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing and slow paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going?


I completely agree – I would even say, that it’s often stressful, disappointing and slow paced. I have struggled with these thoughts, too, but found it reassuring to change the perspective by zooming into details rather than looking at the bigger picture. Desmond Tutu has said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” So I have tried to be patient and instead of worrying about the whole timeline of the project, I try to focus only on manageable chunks of the project, such as one week or a month, and notice and enjoy all the small successes and advancements during that time. It also helps to think about the nature of research – if one is generating new information and doing something that has maybe never been done before, how is that supposed to be easy? Disappointments are part of the deal, even though they really suck sometimes.


Do you want to applaud a woman in your life? At work, home, friend or whoever?


I would like to express my sincerest thanks to my mentors Maiju Lehtiniemi and Outi Setälä at SYKE. Without their encouragement and support I would have never had the courage to start pursuing a career in research.   


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! How would you like to see women in research in 30 years?


I would really hope to see an improvement in the balance of skilled researchers and available funding, and in the lengths of funding periods. Longer funding would enable long-term projects and more efficient collaboration between different disciplines, which in turn could lead to better quality of research and bigger discoveries.


I also hope that researchers’ time would be seen more valuable and they could use their days efficiently in doing research instead of drowning in the administrative work.


When it comes to women in research, I hope that the phenomenon called “leaky pipeline”, i.e. the progressive disappearance of women as they advance in their career, is fixed, and that also other minorities are well represented in the scientific world.


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything? Fire away, we are ready to face them!


Dream out loud! Tell your friends and colleagues about your aspirations. This has two benefits: first, it makes your dreams more concrete, and you get yourself to think about the possible ways to reach those goals (it also gives you some pressure to start pursuing your targets, when others know about them).


Secondly, you never know, what the other person might be able to offer you. It might be a valuable piece of advice, or you might find like-minded people willing to collaborate, or somebody knows someone who can help you. If people know what you want, it is easier for them to help you.


And remember to also help your peers when you can :)

 

Judith Pallot

Emeritus Professor in Christ Church, Oxford University & Research Director in Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki. Photo by Niina Into. 


Sohvi: I have had the pleasure to get to know Judith through my yoga classes, which she faithfully attends. We work at the same institute, so this interview was done face to face - she had such interesting stories that it was hard to stop! I cannot but admire her.

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do currently?


Well, first of all, I am pretty old. I went to University in the late 60s, so I am part of the 60s generation. At that time in the UK the number of people that went to University was about two percent, (or could have been the number of women), but however the number was really small and women were a minority. 


I come from the south of the UK, but did my degree in the north, in University of Leeds. At some point I got interested in Russian studies (Soviet studies back then) and did my doctoral degree in University of London (?).  After that I worked as a lecturer in Leeds University, until I was offered a lecturing position in Oxford. 


It was 1979, and I was the first woman member of the governing body of Christ Church, one of the most traditional colleges in Oxford. There had been no females there before, besides cleaners etc. I was appointed a year before female undergraduates were allowed. There is actually a portrait of me in Christ Church, I am the only woman on the wall (apart from the two queens!).


I am formally retired, but no one really retires in Oxford. But anyhow, I was a professor in Oxford, I retired, and then decided to move to Finland and bring my new research project here. 


My first degree is from geography, from historical geography. I got interested in Russia, or Soviet Union at that time, early in my studies. First I worked with peasants in the Soviet Union, and then I became interested in prisons. Actually my interest towards prisons arose in rural areas of the Soviet Union, when I met women prisoners who had been sent far far away. 


My current research is focusing on prisons in Russia and how difference is handled in the prison. 


How did you end up in the current position, or to research in general? Has it always been your dream?


Luck! Christ Church, the college in Oxford from which I got the position, had just changed its status to a mixed college. It was one of the last ones to change the status to allow women to become members of the governing body of the college. This had changed a year before I got the position.


I had never been to Oxford before -  so I really did not know what to expect. There was a row of men in black gowns, I did not know where I was! 


You got to understand, the difference from today's academia to back then is huge. When you were part of a very small percentage of people who had academic degree – well, everything was possible! They told me: Judith, the world is your oyster! During the last years in University, you didn’t  have to worry, you had so many opportunities it was almost a problem.


I was kind of on the sellers position, and when the possibility of doing research was presented to me, I realized it also meant I could go to Soviet Union and spend time in the University of Moscow. 


You know, I always liked to do something slightly different from the others. Everyone else went to India to meditate and to smoke substances, or  to the US, to rent a car and drive from coast to coast. And by contrast I went to do my research in Russia, which is that sort of thing I always liked to do. I have kind of devoted my whole career to Russia (or to Soviet Union).


We would love to know what or who inspires you?


Well, first of all the amazing Soviet women, for example Natalya Gorbanevskay. She was a dissident and civil rights activist, who was arrested during a demonstration on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1969 and put to psychiatric hospital. 


In the academia – well, women who have pursued academic careers from the beginning of the century, banging their head to the glass ceiling. Women who have become professors, who have aimed to be recognized as serious scientists, women who have paved the way – such as Dorothy Hodgins. 


When I went to Oxford, I joined a group of women – you know women from these men’s colleges, there was one or two women in each of the colleges, and we formed a women’s group. The result of our actions was a gender office, which intervened with harassment and so forth. There were such inspirational women there, I was hopeless compared to them! They were truly remarkable people. 


In Leeds, surely I had met few intellectuals, but in Oxford I was surrounded by these amazing women, who had gone through the Oxford system. Before that women were not allowed to graduate, and there was still a debate going on about changing women’s colleges to a mixed system.  You see, when they were changed, all the posts went to men and there was a need to reserve places for women. 


Women have been a minority in Oxford, even ten-twenty years ago, and only very recently the balance has started to change.


What do you think are the biggest challenges in the research world in general? 


Hmm, generally speaking –  I find the biggest challenges to deal with the  neoliberalization of higher education. Of course, I have a nostalgic view on how things were when I started, but the influence of business, of state, of grants…they are all threatening the autonomy and integrity of research.


It is getting increasingly harder to find funding for blue skies research, when you have to describe in advance the output and impact of your research. I mean, the problem with that is that you have to know in advance what your outcome is. You know, it might not have an impact, it might, who knows.


The other thing is the overproduction of research outputs. Young academics are to produce a certain number of articles in certain years, with all those restraints and strings attached. It has a bad impact on scholarship.


The structures are undermining informal cooperation, I think that as emphasis is on interdisciplinarity, co-operation and so on, the proper change of ideas is undermined by some of these requirements. And of course, teaching is less and less valued, while administrative stuff has grown like topsy.


I am pleased I’m not entering academia now, even though you younger people are of course socialized to it. I had a contract with one sentence, and no pressure to get research grants or so on. I didn’t actually apply for one until the 1990s! 


Can you identify some turning points that have influenced your career? 


My first visit to Soviet Union for sure, I was very intrigued by that. Then of course

getting a job from Oxford, no-one in their right mind would have considered leaving it.


Having my daughter made a big difference. It was back in the days when you felt  pressured to show that having a child does not affect your work functions, so I had to make different kinds of arrangements to make it work. My husband and I met when I was 30, and for a while we lived in different places. Then he got a job from Oxford and we had the child. 


Another turning point was moving to Finland, getting that ERC grant and bringing it here. 


Oh and of course, the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was so much work - rewriting all the lectures and so on - but also an opportunity to move my research in a different direction. It was then when prisoners started to interest me instead of peasants, after the collapse we were allowed to go to the field, before that researchers had to stay within 30km from Moscow. I could go to the places I had been writing about! It was so interesting - collaborating with people, interviewing people in the rural areas during the transition. I met some prisoners in the north, and that's when I got interested in them - why they were still sending them to peripheries, particularly women were sent further. So that was definitely a turning point in my career.


During your career, have you ever wished you were a male instead of female? Are there still situations like that? 


Hmm, I would say I have had points in my career when I wished all my male colleagues were women. 


There have been certain stages in my career, when I was more hesitant to put myself forward than my young male colleagues. I still see such situations, when a young man immediately applies for the professorship, and women waits for 10 years. Of course not all, but certainly, looking back, lots of research shows that women have been less successful getting big grants. 


But this does not mean I wish I was a man!


We think doing research is sometimes stressful, disappointing and slow paced. Do you ever think so? What keeps you going? 


I would say...I would add to  the list – loneliness. Especially in the PhD stage, when you are the only one who knows your topic, particularly in the last phases, it can be a lonely period. When you have deadlines and so on, it's stressful. 


The process certainly has changed, and does the system support the process now, I wonder.


The number of good academic jobs that constitute the career - there are a lot of short term contracts, that affect negatively on young people. When you look at the people – people have to change their research focus to  get a postdoc all the time. Nowadays you see people with extraordinary CVs, they have had to shift the focus to get postdoctoral places. 


In my generation I became fascinated by something and continued, and that’s not available for young scholars anymore. Once you get a postdoc, after a year you have to start to search for a new one. This certainly has a  negative impact on the project.


So I would say something is not right with the system. 


What would your own fantasy research world look like? If anything was possible! How would you like to see women in research in 30 years? 


Hmm women in research in 30 years...well I would like to see them! 


My fantasy would have to be something to do with managing work life balance. I would like to see women on top level, (equally or slightly more), at all levels of careers and not have to make difficult decisions on everyday choices: how to manage having children, domestic life, having time for leisure..  Still women have to make choices men don’t in relation to work life. 


What would you like to say for young researchers and students? Encouraging, depressing, anything? Fire away, we are ready to face them! 

     

Keep at it, keep fighting.  It's worth it. And it's important for society, it's needed. There are a lot of women out there to support and encourage your endeavors. 


Go to yoga. 


Academic life gives you enormous freedom with interesting things, meeting

extraordinary people, being in a place when you meet young people...it is fascinating.  


It is a world of ideas. 

 
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