As part of the CALIPER project, we are conducting a series of interviews with inspirational women who work in STEM research and innovation. We explore what motivated them to choose their career, their experiences and the barriers that they faced.
About Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
The Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) is a leading European research university with a strong commitment to academic excellence, innovation, and social responsibility. Founded in 1834, ULB is home to several research centres and institutes, which conduct cutting-edge research in various fields, such as biotechnology, physics, and humanities. With its multicultural environment, ULB attracts students and scholars from all over the world, making it a vibrant and dynamic academic community.
Role models representing ULB
- Karine Van Doninck, Professor, Unité de recherche Molecular Biology & Evolution (MBE)
- Alessia Cuccurullo, Assistant Professor, ULB
- Sarah Wauthy, PhD student, ULB
- Nora Laaroussi, MSc Student and Vice-President of WomInTech, ULB
Watch the video
Sarah Wauthy, PhD student
“I became a scientist because I love understanding the world, how it works, and because I also like to learn new things. I’m hyper-curious, and the great thing about science is that you learn things almost daily.
When I was around 12, Alain Hubert, the Belgian explorer, came to my elementary school, and it’s funny because the teacher – even before Alain Hubert came to give us his little explanation – asked us: “Who wants to go to Antarctica?” And I was the only one to raise my hand in class. It wasn’t something where I said to myself, “One day I’ll go to Antarctica”. But it did finally happen, so it’s a pretty funny story.
I study ice cores from Antarctica to reconstruct the history of snow accumulation. It allows us to see what the consequences are of human activity in this region, and to help better predict what Antarctica’s contribution will be to sea level rise in the future.
Pursue your dreams, chart your course. We don’t care about stereotypes and judgements. Go ahead.”
Karine Van Doninck, Professor, Unité de recherche Molecular Biology & Evolution (MBE)
“Every day is different, every day I do something different, every day I learn.
I lost a friend to cancer – she was young, 12 years old, and it touched me very much. And that day I said to myself, “I want to understand what cancer is.”
In my research laboratory, we study adaptation to extreme environments. Sometimes my researchers come to me with a gel image – a picture where a new discovery is made. You don’t understand what it is, and I love that. And these are moments when I really feel the adrenaline that rises in my body, the excitement.
My message to the next generation of scientists is first of all, to be passionate. Stay curious, because in fact there is so much to discover. The longer I am in research, I find there are more questions than answers.”
Nora Laaroussi, MSc Student and Vice-President of WomInTech
“I decided to do science because I immediately understood that through science, I could answer all the questions I had. What excites me about science is that it is an infinite universe and we can always learn more – it’s never-ending. My biggest dream is to be able to do projects that have a direct impact on society. To be able to say that thanks to what I do, many people have benefitted from it, and that I have been able to help them.
If you have dreams and goals to achieve, have confidence in yourself and do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.”
Alessia Cuccurullo, Assistant Professor
“In the films, scientists were always the ones to save the world when superheroes were not available. I am passionate about being a scientist, about the power of an idea. How an idea can be transformed into technology, a finished product, a solution to a problem.
I met a professor who came from the university of civil engineering when I was at secondary school. He explained to me the reason why sandcastles can be made, which can be explained with geotechnics. Why can you do this with wet sand and not with dry sand, or very wet sand saturated with water? I’d always done it, but I’d never asked myself these questions. And so when this teacher gave me the answer I thought, “Everything around us really is science.”
Science is not male or female. It is a choice and it is your choice.”
To find out more, please visit the CALIPER Project website.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 873134