Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa
What do you do?
I am a neuroscience and cell biology researcher. I make use of human derived stem cells and advanced 3D mini brains in order to model and study Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder. I perform various types of experiments with these cell based models to understand how neuronal connections change in the brain during Parkinson’s disease and the contribution of ageing to adult onset neurodegenerative disorders.
Why did you choose this field?
I always had a strong affinity for the life sciences growing up, and knew that I wanted to pursue a career where Biology and Chemistry were involved in some shape or form. However growing up I never thought being a research scientist was a viable career because in Zimbabwe where I grew up, it wasn’t something I was exposed to on a significant scale. I always assumed I would be a medical doctor. During my Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology in Cyprus, I got interested in neuroscience due to a family member being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. At the same time, I did my first research project on a metabolic protein involved in leukaemia, and I absolutely loved being in the lab. Research excited me in a totally new and inspiring way. From then on, I knew this was something I wanted to pursue.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Getting a full scholarship for pursing a Master’s in the Netherlands and getting a fully funded position as a PhD researcher in Luxembourg. I never imagined doing scientific research, let alone being able to work at such amazing institutes. It is still surreal to be totally honest.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love the process of research – defining a question, thinking of the most appropriate way to tackle it, performing experiments, analyzing the results. I love the critical thinking and problem solving aspect of research. I love how my job allows me to gain insight into how the brain functions. I also love the idea of contributing to knowledge that can ultimately help people with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. I wake up looking forward to tackling the challenge of the day. I love that every day is totally different, it is a very dynamic process.
Best advice for next generation?
Have the audacity to aspire towards goals that seem out of your immediate reach. Also, never let anyone tell you that your dreams are not valid. If you would like to be in STEM on any level, go for it!
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
My favorite app is Twitter. Once I started using it as a tool to connect with other scientists from all over the world, I really enjoyed using it so much. I like that it “humanizes” scientists and allows us to interact in such a quick, easy and fun way.