Gemma Jones, Isca senior microbiologist

This week for International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are speaking to Gemma Jones, senior microbiologist at Isca. Gemma shares her experience of what it means to be a woman in science and the hurdles she has overcome.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science?

Ever since I was younger, I was interested in science. I always gravitated towards it as there is a definitive yes or no answer, which I feel more comfortable with. I was never one for the arts as it always felt too ‘fluid’. Although, I guess I have some of that in me as I work with natural biology all day, which is fluid in itself!

What do people say when you tell them you are a scientist?

I normally get the comment of ‘oh, you don’t look like a scientist’, assuming a scientist is supposed to look a certain way.

Scientists in movies are often portrayed as a bit cooky or sinister – a man with wacky hair in a lab coat. People have weird stereotypes.

How do you feel about ‘breaking’ this stereotype?

I love it. That is part of what drew me to science.

Why can’t I be who I am as a scientist? I like to prove everyone wrong. Personally, I thrive off that kind of energy.

The pandemic has put science under the microscope (pardon the pun). With that in mind, what can we do to attract more women into a career in science?

It goes back to the preconceptions that surround scientists. For the most part, scientists are just regular day-to-day people that happen to be good with numbers.

People, especially young women, do not perceive learning science or maths to be cool or fun.

We need to bring science into everyday scenarios and show it for what it is, which is pretty exciting!

What would you say to women looking to pursue a career in science?

I would tell them to look at the amazing women in science who have done incredible things. If they can do it, why shouldn’t you be able to do it?

Pretty much everyone I have seen in labs has been female, which says a lot about the changing landscape for women in science.

Do you think the future is bright for women in science?

Oh yes, absolutely. I think, there is every opportunity for women to thrive in science.

I don’t think women or men outshine each other. We both have the same to offer. It comes down to our knowledge and our abilities.

The ideal scenario is for there to be as many women in STEM roles as possible.

Diversity in the workplace is important as we need a workforce which is representative of the real world.

If you could go back in time and give some advice to your younger self, what would you say?

When I was younger, I tended to worry about everything. Over the years, I’ve come to realise that if you’ve got a goal in mind and you’re taking steps every day to get to it, chances are you will get there.

Shoot for the stars, you will land on the moon.

What is your inspirational message for girls and women who want to pursue a career in science?

The first thing I thought of with this was this quote. It is from Louis Pasture, a famous microbiologist, “Fortune favours the prepared mind.”

I love that quote because it’s in line with my own belief that if you work hard, you will get the opportunities that you deserve.