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Stephanie Elizabeth Vargas Abonce

Research Scientist, BrainEver

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Never believe those who tell you you can't do something, or that your ideas are crazy, or that you are not able to achieve something.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I work with a mouse model for motoneuron diseases in the hopes that we get a therapeutical agent to treat them. Basically we have mice that get weaker with time and this weakness is associated to the death of motoneurons, my work is to evaluate the motor behaviour of the mice, inject them with our therapeutical agents and see how (if) they get better with time.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I've always wanted to be a "brain doctor", since I was 6 years old I knew that, unfortunately I discovered later on that medicine was not my thing. I tried another way to still reach my goal, I went for science! I focused every homework or project in college on stuff related to the brain and I did my Master's degree in Neurobiology, I just recently received my PhD and well, my six years old self would be proud to know we did become "brain doctors" at the end!

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

I guess the fact that science doesn't have to be hard nor do you need to suffer to be a good scientist. It is difficult to know this when the people that come before you and even mentor you tell you that they suffered to get where they are and that is only normal for you to go through the same. I discovered very late, just a couple of years ago, that this is not truth, that you can achieve great things in science without having to sacrifice your life to get them... I'm not sure it answers this question, but I definitely would have love to know that when I was starting my scientific career, it would have saved a lot of tears and frustration.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

I love most of the things involved in working in STEM, but the thing I enjoy the most is the thrill of a new question that until know has no answer, the wonder of making a hypothesis for a certain phenomenon and designing the steps to answer it! Is just the idea that no body on the world knows the piece of information that you're generating, even if there is no practical application for what you find out, or everything you thought was incorrect, you generated KNOWLEDGE and that is the most valuable thing we can do, this knowledge might as well change the world for those that come after you. The enigma of the unknown and the possibility of me being the one deciphering is what I wake up for everyday!

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

Never believe those who tell you you can't do something, or that you're ideas are crazy, or that you are not able to achieve something... For women it is particularly difficult to pursue STEM careers, and I do think it is mainly due to the way women are perceived by society, so I would just like to tell every girl that is interested in the amazing world of STEM to just listen to themselves and fight and thrive and then help others that might feel as insecure or unable or helpless as you once did. Persevere! Believe me, it is ALL WORTH IT!

INSPO / FUN FACT

“My first piece of advice is this: Ignore all advice. In my experience, most interesting art gets made by people who don’t know the rules and have no idea that certain things simply aren’t done: so they do them. Transgress. Break things. Have too much fun.”