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International Day of Women and Girls in Science – in conversation with Marcelina Cardoso Dos Santos

For Marcelina, society should accept that men take care of children as much as women.

Marcelina Cardoso Dos Santos is the only one in her family working in science and with a PhD.  Biophysicist at the CEA (The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission)  at Paris-Saclay University, Institute of Integrative Biology of the Cell since 2018, she is interested in biomimetic systems and biosensing.

Marcelina Cardoso Dos Santos

What motivated you to do research?

I have always been fascinated by cell biology and the complex processes that govern cells. For the mystery of life. And thanks to microscopy, we can observe these processes so closely. Since my first internships at the university, I have loved being immersed in the lab world.

What do you like most about being a researcher?

I have a passion for my job. I like the creativity it requires when it comes to imagining new projects. I like the eagerness to make things work and the great excitement when it starts to give results.

How do your family/friends view your career choice?

My family has always supported my career choices and is very proud of me.

What is your greatest success, and what is your biggest failure?

My success has been to get a permanent position in the academic field, and in France, this is a great challenge. My biggest failure was to see my friends leave the labs without having had this chance and the lab lost precious knowledge and experience.

What has motivated you (or who has motivated you) in difficult times?

My best colleagues with their words of comfort and the will to focus on the essential: science.

Any tips for managing both your career and your personal life?

I think every woman has to find her work-life balance.  You can be a good mother but to develop your career in parallel, you need a lot of support. So don’t hesitate to ask your family for help if possible.

In your opinion, what changes, if any, are needed in the scientific system to be more attractive to women?

I think there is still a lot to do regarding gender equality in the workplace. Society should accept that men take care of children as much as women. Maternity and paternity leave should be mandatory and of equal length so that women can devote themselves to their careers and become PIs* at the same level as men.

* In many countries, the term PI or Principal Investigator refers to a researcher holding a research grant and being the lead researcher of the grant project.