Rinalda Proko

PhD student, research assistant at University of Arkansas

,,

Never stop believing in your dreams and passions.

What do you do?

My job is my lifestyle and my passion is what motivates me everyday. As Barbara McClintock said "...I am like a child because only children can't wait to get up in the morning to get at what they want to do". I truly believe in her quote and I believe that enthusiasm is very important to pursue the dreams. I am a PhD student studying cellular control of septin proteins in M.oryzae, a global cereal killer.

Why did you choose this field?

My grandfather, a retired doctor from World War II, gave me a book called Dolly, the First Sheep Cloned when I was little. An immense curiosity captivated me, and I finished the book within a night.
Being a female in a developing country was not easy, I have experienced situations where the voice of the women was barely heard, where women were always victims of domestic violence or sex trafficking, and where few women were involved in politics or science. Thirsty for knowledge and eager to contribute to my community, I found myself digging into libraries, reading books from science fiction to classic literature. Influenced from my grandfather’s background in medicine and from my father’s background in law, I decided to pursue my undergraduate studies in biology and, at the same time, be involved in a civil society to advocate for women’s rights and equality. As I have always believed that the improvement of a society starts with the empowerment and economic advancement of women and girls, I joined Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), a nongovernmental organization. During my time at YWCA, I volunteered in many activities to increase decision making and promote leadership among women and girls. This was a learning experience, as I improved my communication skills in public speaking, but I was also able to help rebuild the self-confidence of the young girls.
My grandfather inspired me with his work in gut bacteria inspired me to explore the essential role of bacteria in ecosystems and human health. Therefore, I decided to do my Master’s degree in Molecular Biology. Later, I started to work as a molecular biologist.at the National Reference Virology Laboratory, Institute of Public Health in Albania. I sought the guidance of my cell culture professor at the University of Tirana, who helped me to develop the skills and knowledge needed to be a successful researcher. Part of my job was to determine genotypes of influenza viruses. Duringthese experiences, I built networks, increased my knowledge base, and gained a deep appreciation for the impact of research on people’s lives.

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

I wish to know more how to be pluged in science. I wish that when I was at high school I could have better lab infrastructure at school or internships. I wish that I would know more scholarships, studying abroad and how to be connected.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working in STEM because I believe that each of us has a role to improve this society and by being contributing in STEM, we can make an impact. Discoveries can improve other people's life such invention of methods for better health or food security. By working with passion in STEM, we feed curiosity of young generations, so that the contribution can still continue and be better. So, by pursuing your dreams in STEMS, it helps to enjoy the trip of innovations and critical thinking everyday. I look forward to use, improve my knowledges and inspire the others to bulit a better future, a sustainable development society.

Best advice for next generation?

Never stop believing in your dreams and passions. Live with them and don't let anyone to tell you that you are not able to get a degree in STEM. Be always the most hard worker, read a lot, be patient and never give up. Love and enjoy your trip at STEM!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

It is a poem: “When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don't in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn't anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you'll have understood what these Ithakas mean.”

by Constantine P. Cavafy

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