“Ever since I was a child, I have loved Space. When I learned that it was possible to get a job studying space and that my Physics degree was relevant to designing spacecraft that would fly throughout the Solar System, that was quite a big moment for me! After 16 years of living in the UK I have just moved back to Dublin to lead a new Space Science research team at DIAS. I am a planetary scientist and specialise in studying Saturn and Jupiter. There is no end to our research because every new discovery brings a new set of questions. It can be hard to have a work-life balance. Managing two children and a job in science is a juggling act. For both births, my husband and I shared our parental leave. As you can imagine, my job didn’t just stop for those nine months. My students were still working and the research continued. I remember the first week coming back from maternity leave at my previous job, a male colleague said: ‘Didn’t you feel awful and sad leaving your sons at home? My wife would have felt terrible.’ I’m sure they didn’t mean anything bad, but it still gets to you and unintentionally it makes you feel guilty. I’ve won awards or been selected to panels where people said: ‘Oh well, they needed a woman for gender balance, so that’s why you were selected.’ On several occasions, people have mistakenly thought I was the administrator while I have been attending a research event – and even once while waiting for an interview! Things are getting better, but you can see how a hundred of these comments can drive women out of science. It’s very important to constantly fight against these biases. I always keep my focus on my research, but I recognise that as a woman, I have a duty towards the next generation and aim to be a trailblazer. Because all the women who came before us had to fight against worse injustices. I feel that whenever I am the first woman to apply for a job or encounter some kind of unfairness in the system, it’s part of my duty to push back and be a small part of the change.”
This post was highlighted by Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies – DIAS DIAS actively supports women in research, and to acknowledge their work we have created this series in the lead up to International Women’s Day.
The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) conducts advanced research exploring big questions of the 21st century and beyond. Its research gains insights into Celtic society and its legacy; progresses our understanding of our island, our planet and the universe; and deciphers the underpinning mathematical principles of nature. In 2020 DIAS will mark it’s 80th Anniversary with a range of public events. Check out our full DIAS 2020 programme!