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HANNAH BLAIR

Software developer, Deutsche Bank

 

And - Founder, VR:Calm. Winner - Sky Women in Technology Award

What drives me to keep going is making a real, positive impact on society through technology.

What do you do?

"I built a VR experience to help people with dementia." 

Herdeline Ardoña, Postdoctoral Researcher, Wyss Institute/ Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

 

  • How would you describe your job or what you do, to other people? Please be specific.

  • I’m a materials chemist, currently working in a bioengineering group, studying how nanomaterials impact or interact with biological systems by using engineered models. Our goal is build models of cells/ tissues/ organs that can be used for high throughput screening of toxic nanomaterials, which can help to minimize the need for conducting animal testing. In building such platforms, we also investigate the materials and components that we use to mimic these biological systems—making sure that we understand the interaction between nanomaterials and certain proteins that comprise cells, have the correct stiffness for the models, and have the appropriate surface reactivity for the substrates where the cells will adhere to. 

 

  • Why did you choose this particular field? Was there a particular moment you realised this is something you would like to pursue? (Please consider school, extra-curricular experiences, career history, personal/familial background, role models amongst other things)

  • My current career trajectory is most likely inspired by my grandmother. She’s a chemical engineer. It had so much impact on me to see, from a young age, a woman working in STEM. Back home, being a scientist (or a woman engineer) is not a very popular career track. But my grandmother inspired me with the idea that it is not impossible to pursue such a career at all! I did consider going to medical school for quite some time but I really enjoyed my Chemistry class in high school. So when I got to college, I chose Chemistry as my major for pre-med. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would and never pursued medical school anymore. I liked how Chemistry has so many branches; each of them is very different from one another, but all of them are towards understanding the fundamental properties of matter. That is very interesting to me. After graduating college, I knew I had to learn more and so I decided to pursue a PhD in chemistry. My whole family is very supportive about me pursuing an advanced degree in Chemistry too, despite me having to leave my home country to study abroad. In grad school, I was very happy to be in such an environment where interdisciplinary research is fostered. Doing hands-on research is a whole different experience than just reading books and papers. I learned so much from that experience. I like taking different approaches to solve fundamental questions in science and engineering. That’s what my current lab in bioengineering is doing, and that’s how I want my lab in the future to approach research.

 

  • What achievement to date do you look at and think, ‘I wish younger me would have known this was possible’?

  • It’s not an achievement, but I did have that moment when I started as a PhD student. I wish younger me would have known that PhD programs exist for science. I had no regrets with the path that I had to take to pursue a PhD but I wish that more kids knew that being a scientist is a career that is possible for everyone. I hope that in the future I’ll be able to bridge opportunities to younger students so they can prepare for a scientific career at an earlier stage. 

 

  • Why do you love working in STEM? What do you wake up looking forward to?

  • For me, the challenging questions that we get to answer through experiments is the best part of research. At times, it can be the worst part too… But it is very fulfilling to have the independence to ask relevant questions and have the capability to answer these through systematically-designed experiments. Moreover, having mentees who learn from these experiments and how to critically think about the results is another exciting part of this work.

 

  • What would you say is the best advice for the next generation of girls in STEM (inspiring them to pursue STEM)?

  • I don’t think there’s really one way to pursue a career in STEM. Choose the path where you’ll be most happy and excited. It is your enthusiasm towards small steps that pushes you towards bigger success. Focus on the science.

 

  • Miscellaneous – a fun fact, a role model / hero (man or woman, dead or alive), favourite website or app

 

Headshot: please submit a headshot alongside your answers. (see attached in the email)

 

Your network: please name one (or as many as you would like!) women in your

network along with their contact details that would be open to being part of 1MWIS

that we could reach out to.

Dr. Suzanne Adam: Suzanne.adam@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr

Dr. Allix Sanders: ASanders1@kitepharma.com

Dr. Darcie Long: darcie.long@gmail.com

Why did you choose this field?

Mondays

4:30 pm

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What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Mondays

4:30 pm

Tell people more about the services you offer. Use this repeating layout to display content. It's an easy way to keep your customers up to date with what's happening. Want to make this content your own? Simple drag and drop elements like text, images and links, or connect to data from your collection. Tell people more about the services you offer. Use this repeating layout to display content. It's an easy way to keep your customers up to date with what's happening. Want to make this content your own? Simply drag and drop elements.

 

Tell

Why do you love working in STEM?

Mondays

4:30 pm

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Best advice for the next generation

Even if you fail – keep trying. Be resilient, because every failure or rejection is an opportunity to learn.

Role model 

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