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INTERVIEW: Science Engagement Research Partner Tina Blackmore

INTERVIEW: Science Engagement Research Partner Tina Blackmore

 

A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Tina Blackmore, who works as a  Science Engagement Research Partner for MARS.


 

Q:  Hello, Tina!  First of all, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to answer some questions for our readers!

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My first question has to do with how you got to where you are today – the basics. I was told that you wanted to be a veterinarian as a teenager!  What sparked your love for animals and inspired you to try to get into veterinary work?

A: Although I only had pet hamsters as a small child, I used to have horse riding lessons, and with that also came frequent contact with all the dogs and cats that were residents at the riding school.

I have always loved solving problems and think that is why, in part, I enjoy science so much. Veterinary science seemed the obvious way to link the two by providing an ill animal treatment after diagnosing them. However, whilst my original desire was to pursue a career in veterinary science, I decided to re-think my career following a couple of weeks of work experience at different vet practices. So, I continued to follow my love of science through academia, which led me to research. When I was younger, it was never suggested that I could combine animals and science through research, yet it is due to this that I am in my current role. 

 

Q:  Now you work as a Science Engagement Research Partner.  What sparked the change in interests?

A: My PhD was about a common disease for ponies, which meant I met a lot of horse owners who were keen to find out more about the research project. This allowed me to explore the ways in which I could explain the ideas, aims and results of my work to non-specialist audiences, whilst maintaining scientific accuracy. As a result, I developed an interest in science communication and a passion for making science accessible to anyone who wants to know more. This then led to my current role as the Science Engagement Research Partner for WALTHAM, part of Mars Petcare. 

 

Q: What basic message do you hope that your particular brand of science communication gets across?  What strategies do you use to get your point across?

A: All of the science communication at Mars Petcare ladders up to demonstrate how we can deliver our vision: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS™. There are a number of ways in which we do this, but our activities and campaigns are underpinned by scientific studies. WALTHAM, as a Mars Petcare research centre, is the primary publisher of original peer-reviewed papers and therefore a significant contributor to science communications by Mars Petcare. The key findings of these studies are then amplified by the Global Science Communication team across numerous media outlets. 

 

Q:  Other than science communication, what does your job at MARS as a “Science Engagement Research Partner” for Pet Nutrition entail?

A:  Mars Petcare now has over 70,000 Associates (employees). Ensuring that everyone understands how the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and its science contributes to the ecosystem is essential. We do this by sharing the work we do with visitors to the pet centre on a guided tour, in addition to internal communications. This is supported by the Communications teams at WALTHAM.

 

 

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Q: What would you say is your favorite part of your job?  What is the most rewarding portion?

A: It’s really rewarding to be able to share the great science we do at the pet centre and how this extends to support all the areas under the Mars Petcare banner. I love being able to aid peoples understanding in an area that excites them. Comments like ‘wow, I never knew that’ epitomise that feeling. 

 

Q:  Do you have any advice for those getting into science communication? 

A: Speak to as many people as possible about an area of science that really excites you. Your passion will shine through, and being able to explain a topic that you know so well to those with limited knowledge in the area provides valuable learning experiences.

 

 
This article was not sponsored.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

INTERVIEW: Senior Technologist Ana Garcia-Marchan

INTERVIEW: Senior Technologist Ana Garcia-Marchan

 

A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Ana Garcia-Marchan, who works is a Senior Technologist for MARS.


Q :  Hello, Ana!  First of all, I want to thank you very much for taking time out of your day to answer some of my questions for my readers!

So, for my first question, I want to ask something basic:  What exactly is your job in STEM?  I was told that you were a Senior Technologist at MARS.  What does that entail exactly?

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A: Being a Quality & Food Safety (Q&FS) Senior Technologist really means being an advocate for quality of our Mars Food products, including Uncle Ben’s and Seeds of Change. I work with factory managers and maintenance teams to help lead multiple Quality Management Processes, including Mars’ Internal Audit and Q&FS Management Review. Through risk assessment, I help drive improvements in Mars’ current manufacturing processes and systems by collaborating with different departments and implementing creative solutions to issues. For example, if an incident occurs and a product is placed on hold, I will not only investigate the incident but develop corrective actions to ensure that this does not occur again. 

 

 I also participate in external audits and inspections from the Mississippi Department of Health.

 

Q:  I was also told that you, as a biochemistry major, believe that STEM plays a huge role in the food industry.  Would you elaborate on why you believe that STEM has such a large role in the industry?  Sometimes, I believe this aspect of STEM gets overlooked.

A: STEM is really about bringing together the principles of science, technology, engineering, and math to; innovate, work on complex and interesting projects, and achieve a common goal.

Having been a biochemistry major, I see similarities between the food industry and biochemistry because both are complex and diverse. Metabolic pathways (biochemistry) and the food industry have steps that convert substrates/raw ingredients into a finished product. Each step is critical, complex, and is the key to the next step. In biochemistry, specifically in a metabolic pathway, each reaction produces a product, and that product becomes the substrate for the next step. Similar to biochemistry, the food industry takes raw materials and converts them into a finished product with the goal of getting consumed. 

I love being able to apply my knowledge of biochemistry to the food industry and being a part of a team that brings products to life. 

 

Q: What would you say the main goal of your STEM field is?

A: The main goal of my STEM field is to apply the concept of biochemistry not just to the processes that occur within living organisms but relate the same processes within day to day activity. 

 

Q:  How did you begin to pursue this career? What made you interested in this line of work?

A: Growing up, seeing my mother’s ability to use raw ingredients to create a meal sparked my interest in STEM. Many can cook, but I was so impressed by the science behind the art of cooking and how my mother mastered both. Once I got to school, science courses really gave me that hands-on learning experience and reinforced my educational aspirations within STEM.

 

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Q:  What does a typical day in your job look like?  And what’s the most exciting part of your day — or something about your job that you enjoy the most?

A:  Freedom- let me explain… My job is not the same every day. Although I have responsibilities and deadlines, I love that each day is different. One day I may be pulling a cross-functional team and brainstorming solutions to a particular problem and another day I may be leading quality and food safety training. 

 

Q:  Do you work in a laboratory?  Or does your field of STEM require that your work in other places that may not be seen as common places that science is conducted?

A: My field of STEM requires me to work in a manufacturing plant which is not what you would expect. There seems to be a misunderstanding that if you have a STEM degree, specifically a science related degree, that you must work in a laboratory. 

 

Q:  If you had some advice for girls or other women looking to pursue your career, what would you say to them?

A:  I encourage young women to reach out to resources (teachers, those who work in STEM fields, community groups, friends, family, etc.) to learn more about the endless possibilities within STEM. Don’t be afraid to apply to competitive schools or seek out learning opportunities within STEM wherever you may be. Join a STEM related club or activity and get involved in whatever way you can. The creativity and innovation that stems from STEM-related fields is essential to creating impactful, positive and far-reaching change.

 

 
This article was not sponsored.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

Work Burnout Can Have Damaging Effects on Your Mind and Your Physical Body

Work Burnout Can Have Damaging Effects on Your Mind and Your Physical Body

 

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You may love your job, you may hate your job — but either way, a lack of control over your work or work environment, frustration in the workplace, or even a lack of hope after entering into a job can cause what’s called “work burnout”.

 

Burnout is not clinical depression, as research has indicated that the two are “separate entities”.  However, they seem to share similar qualities, especially in cases where the person is suffering a severe case of burnout.  

 

What is Work Burnout?

 

Work burnout is a kind of chronic stress that can lead to mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.  Burnout is something that creeps up on you over time, the longer you have stress that hasn’t been addressed.  The severest cases of burnout can cause an individual to not be able to function on an effective level both in their professional and personal lives.

 

Burnout is something that anyone in any kind of job can develop, and this includes STEM fields.  

 

 

RELATED:  #STEMSaturdays by Melissa C Marquez — The Talk People Rarely Have — Getting Real About Mental Health

 

 

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In fact, women in STEM are more likely to suffer burnout according to research released in early 2017.  Two researchers, Daphne Pedersen and Krista Minnotte, who are both professors of sociology at the University of North Dakota, surveyed 117 people working in STEM.  About 30% of the responses were from women, and on average, they reported higher levels of job burnout than the men who responded to the questionnaire.  

 

This is most likely due to employers not making their women employees feel like they fit in, says a professor from the University of Reading, Avril MacDonald.

 

 

What Damage Burnout Can Create

 

As brought out at the outset, work burnout and have many harmful effects on the mind and body.  

 

(Resourced from Psychology Today) For one thing, maybe the most obvious symptom of work burnout, this amount of stress can cause chronic fatigue.  Over time, people suffering from burnout start to feel a lack of energy that they were not used to before, and can become physically and emotionally exhausted as the burnout continues. 

 

This can then lead to insomnia, because even if you feel tired, it can be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep due to the amount of stress.

 

This kind of long-lasting lethargy can lead to effects on the mind, such as lack of attention and concentration, as well as forgetfulness.  As the burnout becomes more severe, this can translate to depression and irritability that can become almost uncontrollable if it remains untreated.

 

We have all heard statistics that say that stress is on a steady incline in the US.  As far as burnout goes, many people from the ages of eighteen to twenty-nine knew of someone who was professionally diagnosed with work burnout.  54% of that demographic (of the people surveyed) didn’t know someone diagnosed with burnout, but 46% of people did know someone diagnosed with burnout.  

 

24% of people in that age ground said that the person they knew who was diagnosed with burnout was themselves.  

 

If you know someone, or you are someone, suffering from burnout: help needs to be found.  Whether in the form of finding a new job that causes less stress, taking a long vacation (if one can afford it), or professional counseling, burnout needs to be treated before it gets out of hand. 

 

List of free emergency hotlines via pleaselive.org.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.