GET TO KNOW CAMILA
Camila Chacon is a master’s student with the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Manitoba. She completed her Bachelor of Science at McGill University with a major in Physiology. Camila is studying the integration between cells involved in locomotion and how their propagations might influence sympathetic function through anatomical and functional studies.
She attained a Faculty of Graduate Studies Research Completion Scholarship based on academic performance and having defended her thesis proposal valued at $5000 CAD. Apart from this, she has two publications from posters presented at national (Canadian Association of Neuroscience) and international conferences (Society for Neuroscience). She is fluent in English, French and Spanish and is passionate about leadership and teaching. She will be an in instructor for the newly coined Multidisciplinary Health Research Experience (MHRE) and hopes to spread her love for scientific curiosity to other young aspiring researchers, particularly girls wanting to pursue a career in science.
Q & A
Q: What is it like to be a woman in bioscience?
A: Being a woman in bioscience is challenging and exciting! I really enjoy the aspect of collaboration between my peers and having a genuine curiosity to find answers to scientific questions we ask ourselves in the pursuit of research. It is exciting to constantly be learning and integrate multiple aspects of training and research techniques in the lab.
Q: Who or what inspired you to become a Master's student in neurophysiology?
A: I have always had an interest in math and sciences. I have more of an analytical personality where a concrete answer is more satisfactory than open-ended conclusions. Interestingly, I have learned that science isn't as black and white as I thought and we do not have all the answers. My interest in chemistry, physics, life sciences pushed me to become a Master's student in neurophysiology, and based off of my experience in undergrad, fully immersing myself in a subject that I didn't understand was the best way to learn it.
Q: Who are your women role models and not necessarily in science?
A: I have many female-identifying role models. Firstly, my mother is a software engineer, and I am sure her experience in a male dominated education/profession 20+ years ago was not the easiest, having to prove herself twice as much as her male-identifying counterparts. One of my best friends is a medical doctor, and again, being in a male dominated profession (although this statistic is changing), has not come without its challenges. Another best friend, a teacher at a special needs school, who identifies as queer is also a big role model. All these women have similar characteristics I admire. They are unapologetically themselves, are confident in who they are as people, have faced and continue to face adversity in their professions but are resilient and continue to challenge societal norms proving that women are strong, tenacious individuals capable of anything.
Q: Do you think there are particular structural roadblocks that impede the progress of women in science?
A: I think organizations are becoming more aware of inclusion and diversity to promote women in science, however, gender bias still plays a great barrier that needs to be overcome. Women are typically seen as more emotional beings and not believed to be capable to perform at the same level as men, so it us up to us as women to continue to break this stereotype. It is also up to men to understand where their gender bias comes from and acknowledge when they have it to try and break stigmas in the workplace and in science.
Q: Would you say that through your career, things have become better for women working in the bioscience industry?
A: I think women have been paving the way for a long time and things have improved thanks to women that were vocal and came before me. I have never felt an instance in my workplace or in my education that I have been discriminated against because I am a woman. If anything, all the students in my lab are women! It is slow and steady change and there is still a lot of work to be done, but women are a force of nature!
Q: How did you reach your level of success, given the sector’s gender gap, especially among leadership?
A: I have reached my level of success based on not only merit, but by working very hard! I believe that anyone, regardless of gender-identity, should get to their level of success based on merit. I know this is not always the case, but by showing people who I am as a person, I hope that my leadership skills and capabilities as a scientist shine through, and ultimately, I believe, this has gotten me to where I am today.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
A: The biggest obstacles I have had to overcome are from fellow male peers (people my age - ie other students) not believing that I am capable of doing the same things that they can! In these situations, I just hold my ground and stand up for myself in a non-confrontational way. I reassure myself that I am knowledgeable and that the premise of their arguments are not sound. There is no point in arguing and the best way to show that you are capable is by proving to others your capabilities.
Q: If you had the option to give advice to a younger version of yourself, what would that be?
A: I would tell my younger self to not take everything to heart and not read into everything. I still have to remind myself of this, but it takes thick skin to be a woman AND to be a woman in science. We face challenges and adversities everyday and it is not worth it to lose sleep over menial things and back-handed comments. Work hard for yourself and eventually it will be reflected to those around you.
“Try again, fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett
LinkedIn: @Camila Chacon