International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2024
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Sunday 11th February marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This day celebrates the achievements and contributions of women and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This day recognises the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the scientific community.
Ahead of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we have interviewed Nicola Kane, the R&D Manager here at Biorex Food Diagnostics (BFD), to share her experiences in science.
Why did you pursue a career in STEM?
From an early age I was always inquisitive and always eager to understand the inner workings of things. It may seem cheesy but around the age of 8 or 9 years old I got a chemistry set for Christmas and from that age I knew I wanted to be a scientist! During my school years, I really enjoyed studying science and also developed a keen interest in food and its crucial role in safeguarding human health. When considering careers it just made sense to involve both my passions to study food science at university. It proved to be an excellent decision for me, and looking ahead to today, I’ve dedicated the past two decades to working in the field of food safety.
Have you found it hard or different to secure a career in STEM as a woman?
Absolutely not, in every workplace I’ve been a part of, gender equality, including at the senior management level has always been consistent. In my experience from working in the STEM industry I have found that success is not determined by gender, but by one’s competence as a scientist – whether you’re effective or not, rather than being a man or woman. I’ve never felt that my gender hindered my advancement in the STEM industry.
What is your role in Biorex Food Diagnostics (BFD) and how long have you worked for the company?
For the last 8 years I have been working as the R&D Manager of Biorex Food Diagnostics. My role is primarily focused on the management of all research and development activities to create innovative food diagnostic products and technologies. I oversee the design, testing, and implementation of new diagnostic assays or devices, ensuring they meet regulatory standards and address market needs. Additionally, I seek out collaborations with other key players in the food safety industry including academics to partake in EU funded projects together with the aim to drive product development from conception to commercialisation. As an R&D manager it is really important to focus on emerging technologies and trends in the diagnostic field to maintain the company’s competitive edge. In the ever changing world of food safety and security it is important to continue to look for faster, better and more efficient ways to ensure food safety is paramount globally.
What would you recommend to other women interested in a STEM role?
Don’t feel pressured to make a decision about your career straight away, choose a range of subjects/degree courses that you have an interest in but that are also varied enough to give you options later in your career. Many individuals I know began university studies only to switch after the first year to pursue subjects they genuinely enjoy. Another recommendation would be to seek out work experience, even if it has to be unpaid or only for a few weeks. Such experiences offer invaluable insights into various industry sectors and job roles, providing hands-on exposure to a typical working environment.
What are your greatest achievements and plans for the future?
In my career I have 2 achievements that initially spring to mind. The release to market of my first development test kit and secondly, the first EU funded grant that I secured. There is a great sense of achievement after months of research, optimisation, validation and stability studies to see all your work come together into a finalised kit. R&D can be tough and definitely requires resilience and determination to stay positive and focused even if you have weeks where nothing seems to work! All this is usually forgotten about as the pieces of the puzzle all begin to fall into place.
Securing my first funding project was a more recent achievement and it was the very first time I had ever attempted to write part of a funded application! The consortium were also happy for me to lead the Eurostars/European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation project that demonstrated their confidence in my skills and was a very proud moment in my career. To date I have now secured nearly £850k in funding since 2017 which I plan to continue and focus more on in the future.