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Dr Ingrid Pelisoli

How did your journey into Physics begin?

My journey into science began almost thirty years ago, during a clear dark night in a small coastal town in the south of Brazil. On that night, my three-year-old self looked up to the sky and tried to count the stars, but quickly realised that there were too many to keep count. I asked my grandfather for help, who told me that it couldn’t be done even scientists thought that there were too many stars to count. That wouldn’t do for me, I had to know more. How come there are too many? Is the universe really that big? These and other questions kept popping in my mind over the years, and I decided that, if no one around me had the answers, I wanted to find these answers myself. That led me to pursue a degree in Physics, and to this day I’m still trying to find out how many stars are out there. Thanks to advances in the field, us scientists are now much closer to an answer than thirty years ago.

What is your favourite thing about your research area?

My favourite aspect of research is that there is always something new you can learn, it’s never boring. And in particular, there is bound to be a moment when you are the only person to know something, because you have just discovered or observed it for the first time. Being able to discover things, and then understand them and share that understanding with the world, is really a joy and a privilege.

Why do you think it is important to highlight women in science? What does it mean to you?

Even though the statistics have improved in the last few years, if you ask a child to draw a scientist, they are still very likely to portray a man. An European-wide survey carried out in 2014 found that a quarter of people cannot name even a single famous female scientist. This is even worse in the UK, where only half of British adults can name a female scientist. The only way we can change this dire picture is by showcasing the amazing science being done by women to the general public. This will help reduce, and hopefully one day eliminate, the gender bias that society has imparted on children, and encourage more women to pursue a career in science, in turn making it more likely that people can name a female scientist. Not only that, but more diversity in a research group means additional experiences, methods and opinions, and leads to better science. As someone who didn’t realise that science was a career option until teenage years, I think it is extremely important that we showcase science as a possible career path to everyone.