Knowledge for a sustainable world

Dr Sophie Bouvaine

Plant & Insect Molecular Biologist

Why or how did you get into science?

I have always liked science, so it was an obvious choice for me, what kind of science to do was less clear though, it took a few trials and errors to decide.

Sophie 1Did anyone in particular influence you?

Growing up, I honestly don’t think so, I knew no one who was a scientist or even interested in science around me, but I was encouraged to pursue what I liked. I probably missed out on having inspiring role models early on While at university I was inspired by many talented lecturers and supervisors who knew how to convey their enthusiasm in science.

What is your particular field and how did you choose it, or did it choose you?

My choice was almost random. I was first convinced I wanted to be a doctor or work in a medical field. After a disastrous year in medical school, it became obvious I was on the wrong path, and very scared of blood, so I went into the one area of Biology where it was guaranteed I would not have to handle blood: plant science. I moved there first without much conviction but then I discovered plant virology and I found it fascinating. I also quickly realised how many fundamental biological questions could be answered more easily with plants rather than animals.

What advice would you give to other young women reading this who are thinking of pursuing a career in science?

Sophie 2I would say firstly, read and reach out to scientists of all genders to discover what area of science really interests you, there are probably more options than you are aware of. Secondly, it is worth considering your career aspirations. Women tend to undervalue their worth, so I would say think about what you are capable of achieving in your career and aim for at least two steps above that.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career so far?

I have two; first I wished I had made contact with a mentor earlier on, to help me progress with more self-confidence. Secondly, I used to accept that sexism and gender stereotyping in the workplace just happens and it was better not to rock the boat. I have zero tolerance for this now, but I really wish I had never thought that way.

What does the significance of this, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, day mean to you?

An important recognition is that we are here and valued, and a great opportunity for girls to know that.

Link to NRI profile: