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The Future of Science is Female
Inspiring more females into science for International Women’s Day
Growing up in Romania, influenced by her family, Dr Carmen Guguta, global head of business development at Technobis Crystallization Systems, had an interest in science from a very young age. At five years old, Guguta was already fascinated by chemical reactions, and specifically remembers one of her cousins conducting a colour change experiment for her. On International Women’s Day, Guguta shares her story of growing up as a female in the lab.
From that experiment onwards, Guguta would find any excuse to join her family in the laboratory during their studies. Here, and during her time at school, Guguta recalls that there was a healthy mix of males and females in her classes. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Even today, Romania is one of the leading countries in the world for women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). In fact, 41 per cent of scientists and engineers in Romania are female, compared to a global average of just 26 per cent.
“Growing up as an only child, I was hugely influenced by my cousins, who held roles in pharmacy and medicine,” said Guguta. “I wanted to care for people and always planned to study medicine. However, as I progressed through school, chemistry stood out to me as an alternative.
“I was fascinated by how drugs worked in the body and how they were developed. Chemistry offered a way of seeing the whole drug development process — from small molecule to how they affect the human body. When it was time to choose a university and a course, my mind was made up. I enrolled in a chemistry course at Ovidius University in Constanta, Romania.”
Education is extremely important in Romania — amongst all EU countries, it is eighth for diplomas obtained per capita. Vitally, university education is free in Romania, subject to passing entrance exams, which likely helps to keep the country’s number of university attendees high. Despite this, around 17 per cent of people who were born in Romania emigrate — a route that Guguta chose to take ahead of her PhD.
“During my MSc, I attended a conference to showcase some of my work,” continued Guguta. “There, I met a Professor from the Netherlands, who asked me if I’d like to carry out a project in his lab. It was a joint project with Stanford University, looking at the chemistry of solar cells. However, having been so heavily influenced by pharmaceuticals, it didn’t feel like the right route for me.
“I think the Professor could tell straight away, but since he knew that I wanted to do a PhD, he put me in touch with a couple of contacts from another university, which eventually led to an opportunity to study active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). When I heard about it, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the project for me. I enrolled at Radboud University, Nijmegen, and have called the Netherlands home ever since.”
Guguta excelled during this time and graduated in 2008 with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Solid State Chemistry. However, the huge difference in gender splits between the Netherlands and Romania was evident. In fact, Guguta recalls that at one of her jobs, the only other female in her department was the secretary. From the day that Guguta accepted her first position working in science in the Netherlands, she made it her mission to inspire other females into the industry.
This is still the case today, in her role as global head of business development and marketing at Technobis Crystallization Systems, where she advocates for diversity across the workforce and for females working in management roles.
“While the Technobis workforce isn’t quite a 50/50 split, we can no longer count the number of females on two hands, which is a move in the right direction,” Guguta commented.
One year ago, Guguta was approached by the board members of the Dutch Association for Crystal Growth. Traditionally, the association had been extremely male-dominated, and after seeing her success in the industry, they asked Guguta to join as chairwoman.
“Being offered the role of chairwoman — the first female ever to hold this position — was a huge moment in my career. I’m extremely thankful to the rest of the board for recognising my achievements and seeing what I could bring to the association.”
Even at home, Guguta’s work inspiring the next generation of female scientists doesn’t stop. “I have a young daughter that is already showing an interest in science experiments,” said Guguta, “She sometimes says that she would like to be like me when she’s older, and if a career in science makes her happy, I’ll support her every step of the way.”
Carmen Guguta has been part of the Technobis Crystallization Systems team for eight years. If you’re a young female starting a career in science, check out the company’s careers page.
About Technobis Crystallization Systems
Technobis Crystallization Systems is a world leading technology provider for solid-state research, process development and formulation. Our mission is to help research succeed!
Since 2005, platforms for accelerating crystallization research have been successfully developed and installed in nearly every pharmaceutical research lab in the world. With more than 600 units in the field, a large community of scientists have been enabled to make a significant contribution to the accelerated development of new pharmaceuticals. In the last few years, new applications have been developed in agrochemical, fine chemical, military and (bio) fuel research, food and personal care creating new markets focused on understanding the importance of crystallization research.