“I think impostor syndrome is really common in academia though and talking about it with other people definitely helps”
Which area of fire science do you specialise in?
My project is investigating the effect of African landscape fires on something called the Earth Radiation Budget, which is a measure of how much radiation comes in to Earth and how much is emitted. We are essentially trying to evaluate the relationship between fires in Africa and global warming.
What do you like about working in fire science?
I find it fascinating how many different scientific angles need to be considered when talking about fires. Fires in Africa have an impact on the atmosphere as well as the local environment and biodiversity, and they are an integral part of how people live, so when trying to understand them properly and holistically you encounter so many different areas of science, from Physics to Anthropology.
What challenges have you faced in getting to where you are now?
I think I’ve been quite lucky, and my biggest obstacle has been, well, myself. There have definitely been moments when I have doubted whether doing a PhD is something I should, or even could do. I think impostor syndrome is really common in academia though and talking about it with other people definitely helps.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to keep active when I can – I am currently training for a half marathon, and I recently started climbing with a friend. I am also involved in the Students’ Union, where I chair the Union Council and sit on the Board of Trustees this year. When I have time in the evenings I like to sew and I’m hoping to teach myself to knit soon.
Do you have any advice to give women wanting to pursue a career in science?
Look for opportunities to talk to other female scientists in your field of interest. It’s always good to talk to people like you in a career you are thinking about – it not only helps with inspiration and networking, but it will also help you imagine yourself doing a job like that as well.
Michaela Flegrova is a PhD student in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London
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