Scientist in the Spotlight. Sophie P.

My previous Scientist in the Spotlight post went down a storm, so I was so keen to present more exciting women in STEM to you as quickly as possible. This week’s Spotlight post has got a bit of a fashion twist and features The Scientific Beauty herself.

If you thought that all scientists forever wore that long white lab coat and forever lived in ‘nerdy’ and ‘geeky’ attire, then think again! In the last few months I have been ‘introduced’ to some of the most glamorous and stylish girls out there, AND they are all scientists! This latest ‘Scientist in the Spotlight’ post features one of the most glam and most stylish scientists I’ve met, plus she has a great name! So, let me introduce to you, Sophie P.

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Sophie is a fashion-loving, final year Biochemistry PhD student living in Manchester, UK. This girl is glam, crazy, hard-working, fun and is ALWAYS overdressed no matter what the occasion 😛 This self-confessed lipstick addict who drinks far too much tea has hung up her lab coat and spends most of her time now sat at her cute little desk in her flat wearing super comfy clothes and writing up her thesis. Her PhD research has focussed on improving the shelf-life and safety of a developing protein drug to combat osteoarthritis.

 

Sophie’s Instagram (@sciencebeaut) and fantastic blog was one of the first I cam across when searching for other PhD students and science bloggers in STEM like me. The first thing that hit me was how glamorous Sophie and her Instagram was whilst living  a research life in the lab. Never before had I seen someone look so glam in a lab coat and specs, and it made me realise I needed to up my style game from the trusted high ponytail, jeans and boots. So once again, I was inspired and was so happy when Sophie agreed to be a part of my blog. So, if you want to know more about mixing science and style, look no further!

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First of all, you must tell me all about the Louboutins.

Sophie: Since my days of French in school I have been in love with the red soled stilettos from Monsieur Louboutin – such timeless French classics! I always promised myself that with my first pay-check from my first job I would buy myself a pair and honestly that thought has been keeping me going through the tougher times of my PhD. Through blogging this past year I have earned enough money to finally make this dream come true so I bought a classic black leather pair to celebrate finishing in the lab and help me take my next steps out into the real world!

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Sophie achieving her dreams and buying those classic Louboutins. Check out her ‘Achieving Dreams and Louboutins’ blog post about becoming a Louboutin-wearing scientist!

 

You mentioned your blog, what made you want to start?

Sophie: I started my blog to gain more experience in writing after an inspiring talk by science blogger Ed Yong at uni! I decided to write about the science behind cosmetics and beauty products on my blog thescientificbeauty.com because it was something I wanted to know more about and thought it might benefit people without a science background who feel confused by all those pseudoscientific adverts! I never thought it would grow this big or open up so many opportunities and I’ve become so passionate about it! Through my blog I have been invited to speak at a number of science communication events such as Pint of Science and Science Showoff and am currently planning an evening of science and beauty myth-busting in Manchester. I have also had the chance to do TV and radio interviews which was super exciting! That makes me famous right?? 😛

My advice to anyone wanting to start science blogging would definitely be to just go for it! I understand it seems scary but people are more interested and supportive than you might think! Get on Twitter and start interacting with people who already do #scicomm and see what they are all getting up to if you need inspiration!

Why is being stylish in the lab important to you?

Sophie: It is important to me because we shouldn’t have to change who we are to fit into the scientific environment and live up to the nerdy stereotype! I try to use my Instagram to connect with other Women in STEM subjects and to show that you CAN still be stylish and be a scientist, contrary to public opinion!

I am the co-founder of a blog called Sartorial Science (sartorial-science.tumblr.com) where we invite scientists to send a picture of themselves and answer some questions about their research and style inspirations. Hopefully, we can show the public and other scientists that we don’t have to fit into the frizzy-haired white male stereotype! Obviously with it being science there is a limit to how far you can go with your own style; if you’re rushing around the lab then strappy stilettos are neither practical nor safe! There are easy ways to dress up though. Ankle boots are a lifesaver and I always try to pair jeans with a smart shirt or smart trousers with a relaxed tee to find that balance between smart but not too impractical! Throw a blazer over literally any outfit to look instantly stylish and like you know what you’re talking about 🙂

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Sophie had a recent launch party in Manchester wearing her favourite Karl Lagerfeld tuxedo jacket! I love this look!

 

Right, we should probably talk about some science 🙂 What’s it like to be finished in the lab?

Sophie: Now I’ve  officially finished all of the experiments for my PhD, it feels so good! I had one final sample I needed to run but the protein stability machine had broken, what a nightmare! The other day a sales rep came in and gave me the chance to run the samples as a demo on a swanky new machine which does the same thing; lifesaver! But I am loving just writing up now! I love writing and I love seeing all my work come together in one big document. I have more time to myself too without the commute to the lab which leaves more time for blogging! I have been back to the lab for the past few weeks though training the new PhD student in hoe to produce and purify our recombinant protein in E.Coli.

Looking back at your PhD journey, what survival tips and advice have you got for newbies?

Sophie: The most essential thing in Grad School is confidence! You have to tell yourself that you can do it and stop comparing yourself and your progress to others because they are thinking the same things about you, I promise!

Definitely stay true to yourself! Don’t get so caught up in being the perfect academic and the perfect researcher that you beat yourself up everyday and forget who you are. I’m realising this all too late having suffered with my mental health throughout my PhD. You can be a great scientist whoever you are! One of my most memorable PhD moments I think is that first moment that you tell your supervisor that they are wrong and you are right! Having your supervisor start coming to you for answers and having faith in your results is a great feeling!

Finally, you must balance lab life with a social life. I always try to finish in the lab at a decent time and give myself the evening off to do some blogging or do other things that I enjoy. I don’t see the point of staying long hours in the lab just for the sake of feeling better about yourself when you’re not being productive!

Being so stylish and glam, why did you choose science?

Sophie: Ironically, my best subject at school was French; I loved writing essays and everything about French culture which I think comes through in my dress sense today! But I had no idea what I would do with a degree in French at the end so I chose science as I thought there would be more options and I was right! I remember hearing about a family friend who did biochemistry who was travelling the world attending conferences; I thought she must be confident, stylish and super-intelligent and I wanted to do the same! Though the furthest I’ve travelled with science so far has been Scarbourough…

So it’s safe to say your science journey has not been what you expected?

Sophie:  My science journey has definitely NOT been what I expected! I never thought I’d go far enough to get a PhD or imagined how difficult, mentally, that journey would be.

Unfortunately my research isn’t very pretty or glam. I don’t have any nice cell or microscope pictures to share! I deal with protein intermolecular interactions which I have to investigate without being able to see, which was something I never expected! I work with a bioreactor and I’m always impressed that I can remember how to build his thing from scratch, it’s almost like engineering. I have a toolkit and everything 🙂

I’m so grateful that my journey led me to blogging and science communication and has allowed me to express my passions, where once I felt like I had to cover  up my style to fit into academic science. Despite the difficulties, I think I have done my younger self proud in becoming confident and intelligent whilst still retaining my personal style!

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The bioreactor Sophie uses in her PhD research. It grow the E.Coli she uses to make the recombinant protein she works on.

 

Where is the next step of your science adventure taking you then?

Sophie: After my PhD, I’d love to go into Medical Writing. I was so happy when I found out about the medical communications industry as it allows me to combine my creativity and love of writing with my science training! Fingers crossed for the job hunt so I can start earning enough money to fund my shopping habit!

When you’re not doing science, blogging or being SUPER glam, where would we find you?

Sophie: When I’m not PhD-ing or blogging, which to be honest is most of the time, I love to dance. I have been dancing salsa and Latin American styles for over 10 years and love to compete in competitions complete with fake tan and rhinestones! I’m also a huge fan of snow sports and am a keen snowboarder or skier. Give me a snowy mountain over a beach any day!

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Sophie winning ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and that infamous glitterball trophy.

 

And finally, where should my next travel destination be?

Sophie: Over the summer I visited the Italian lakes and I would 100% recommend going. I’ve never seen anywhere so beautiful and you can’t beat Italian style 😉

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Sophie chilling by the gorgeous Italian lakes this summer.

 

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Well, I am inspired! I am inspired to be a more stylish scientist, and I am inspired to keep science blogging if there’s the small chance I could get some dollar from it 😛 A huge thank you to Sophie for getting involved in my blog and good luck with the writing and the job hunt! I hope to stay in touch and keep getting those PhD survival tips and more importantly those fashion and beauty tips on thescientificbeauty.com.

Follow Sophie and her blog ‘The Scientific Beauty’ on Instagram and Twitter.

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Find me and Soph talks Science on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

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