Since 2016, the 11th of February has been celebrated as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and its goal is to highlight the importance of women throughout the scientific world. At the same time, our university is celebrating its 30th birthday and on the occasion of both of these events we offer you an interview with one of its interesting members.
Sandra first started studying Biophysics and enrolled into General Medicine in her fourth year. As of now, she has successfully finished her Biophysics studies and added Biology on top of her General Medicine studies. She spends most of her time in the Blood Cancer Research Group laboratory, where she develops a therapy utilizing immunity cells to treat what is known as a myeloma bone disease. For her vast range of activities, she was awarded by the city of Ostrava through the programme Talent of the Year – which was not even her first award.
You are involved in a research aimed at the development of a new local therapy of the myeloma bone disease. Can you briefly describe the disease?
The so-called myeloma bone disease is accompanied by a malignant disease called multiple myeloma, which is caused by the presence and uncontrolled multiplication of aberrant plasma cells in bone marrow. They are capable of inducing osteolysis of bones which creates osteolytic bone lesions. Simply put, bones develop cavities, become brittle and frail which, among other things, burdens the patient with excruciating pain.
You also participate in the preparation of various workshops and conferences. What is your role in this regard?
Our research group organizes conferences quite often. We regularly organize the Multiple Myeloma & Cell therapy workshop which is an international workshop focused on the mentioned multiple myeloma disease and cell therapy. The preparation itself includes various activities – addressing participants and speakers, preparing the program, arranging accommodation and many other activities necessary for the event to run smoothly.
I also take care of organizing the Visegrad Symposium, which is always held together with Pařízkovy dny – an international conference of doctors and researchers. The activities in organizing the event remain mostly the same.
When will the findings of this research be used in practice?
If we are talking about the use of immune cells in general, then you can already come across these therapies around the world. As far as my research is concerned, it is completely unique. The therapy we develop is, among other things, relatively versatile and could be used to treat other types of cancer in the future. At the moment, we have undergone in vivo experiments (testing the therapy on living organisms) and are preparing to publish the data. For the therapy to reach patients it would have to go through clinical trials, which is certainly going to be a marathon.
What about your field or area of expertise fascinates you personally?
What I really like is that through the results of my research I can help people. By doing science in the medical field I can help people all the more intensely. And I also believe that in the future, as a trained physician, I can do so with the therapy I developed. That’s what I like the most, there is nothing better in the world than helping a sick person. I also realize that research in any field is important, not just medical.
The 11th of February is known as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Do you think it is harder for you to get ahead among your male colleagues?
I definitely do not feel that way. Our research team has a wide representation of women. From my point of view, there is really no difference in proving successful or the attitude of male coworkers. In my environment, women face the same conditions as men.
Researchers are often expected to spend longer periods of time on various international internships. Could you imagine being away from your family like this sometime in the future? Do you feel that the women who already have to take care of children have it harder than men in this regard?
I could definitely imagine it, it just depends on how long. I do think that women who take care of children probably have it more difficult. It is definitely an individual matter and I believe that longer international trips are doable with a good family background and careful planning.
The university offers the opportunity to travel almost anywhere in the world. Why should the students or academics, or people in general, travel?
I have yet to travel anywhere with the university, mostly because I would not be able to combine all my activities. But I am thinking about going on a short internship. I am lucky that our research team is international – therefore I know how science is done abroad or how other nations’ academia work and for that I am very grateful. Travelling will certainly broaden the horizons of students and improve their language skills – English is absolutely essential to any scientific activity. I also think it’s good to take advantage of all the opportunities that the student years bring (smiles).
Translation: Marek Suchanek