I am very excited to have Batsi on the blog today – she is a scientist who majored in biochemistry in college and is now working in the epidemiology field. She was my RA (Resident Advisor) in college and was such a wonderful role model for me – she was smart, ambitious, and encouraging to others to pursue their interests. I always found her so impressive and I am sure that you will agree! I’ll let Batsi take it from here…
Hi! I’m Batsi and I went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) from 2003 – 2007 where I studied Biochemistry, with a minor in International studies. Then moved to Pittsburgh and went to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health from 2007 – 2008 and got a Masters of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology. I am currently on maternity leave but worked at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in the respiratory epidemiology department. I live in London, United Kingdom (UK) with my husband Taku, and two daughters Maya and Ana.
Why did you become a scientist?
I wanted to find a way to combine what I enjoyed, with helping people. In middle school and high school, I discovered I had quite an aptitude for math and sciences. I did what I needed to do to fulfill my humanities requirements, but found myself always in the chemistry lab or helping run the science fairs in high school because that was where I was most challenged and excelled. When it came time for picking universities, WPI was the prefect size, had the science and math rigor I wanted and I really liked all the people I had met from there. I intended to go to medical school after WPI and decided to go for a Biochemistry Bachelor of Science and fulfill the pre-med requirements in-tandem with the bachelors degree requirements. To make myself a more well rounded medical school candidate, I went and did the MPH and started working as an Epidemiologist in New York after that.
What projects have you done while studying or working as a scientist?
While studying at WPI, I was in a team that managed to go to Thailand and worked with a cancer hospice there assessing their home care services for cancer patients as well as looking at quantifying patient quality of life with the cancer diagnosis. This project essentially led to my decision to pursue a public health Masters, with a cancer epidemiology focus.
Having the epidemiology focus enabled me to join the respiratory epidemiology team at GSK many years later, where I was fortunate enough to help with some of the epidemiology data gathering for their new chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) medication, which was recently approved for use in the US and the EU.
Have you had the chance to travel anywhere? If so, where and why?
I have been fortunate enough to live in over five countries as well as travel to many others. My mother was a diplomat and so I grew up in a number of countries. I am originally from Zimbabwe, and moved to Brussels, Belgium when I was ten. We then moved to Geneva, Switzerland and I completed high school there, and moved to the USA for university. After getting married, I moved to the UK.
I have lived for short periods of time in Thailand and the UK for WPI projects, as well as Botswana a little after my first daughter was born to stay with some family there.
As for other travel, I have been fortunate enough to visit about eight other countries either for school trips, or holiday.
What is a fun/interesting opportunity you have had through your career as a scientist?
One of the most interesting things I have assisted with is the epidemiology data gathering for drug approval whilst working at GSK. The amount of work, the number of people and number of years it takes to get a single medication on the market is astronomical, but is incredibly rewarding knowing you were a tiny part of the process for a medication that can drastically improve the quality of life for people suffering with a chronic illness.
What have you enjoyed most about being a scientist?
I think the most interesting thing for me is how the training you get as a scientist prepares you and is applicable in many different fields, not just your specifically chosen one. The critical thinking skills, as well as rigor prepare you and make you somewhat comfortable with buckling down when things in work get tough, but also processing problems without panicking too much.
Any advice to aspiring women interested in science/technology/engineering/math (STEM)?
My advice to any aspiring STEM ladies is to stick with it, find other women with aspirations as high as yours to keep each other motivated, and remember to enjoy the entire journey, and not just focus on the final destination or the hard parts. And explore the STEM fields, you never know what you may discover you love doing or can do, using math and sciences.