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Celebrating Women’s Day as a Woman Scientist: My experience in the Programme for Enhancing Health an


Being a woman scientist can be both challenging and overwhelming. Certain people can see you as a threat and do not understand why you are not babysitting or in the kitchen.

PEHPL Program Trip to Arusha National Park

Photo Credit: Catherine Herzog

On the 8th day of March we celebrated International Women’s Day. Before this, there was also a celebration of women and girls in science in February. All these events emphasize on the role of women in different fields and how they can inspire others to enter science, often in male dominated fields.

Knowing the importance of women, the PEHPL program is composed of 50% males and 50% females and supports the presence of equal opportunities to both genders. The program has a very genuine, positive work environment in which the professional culture is very welcoming regardless of your ethnicity, nationality, or gender. It is one of those professional cultures in which professionalism is all that matters and both males and females are treated with dignity and respect. You can have fabulous dresses, have a wide collection of shoes, and still be a good scientist. There are always those moments in which you need to focus without distraction, but I have found that it is important to remember that no matter how busy you are, to always take time to enjoy what is around you. It might be your only opportunity to do so.

PEHPL Program Trip to Arusha National Park

Photo Credit: Catherine Herzog

Emma Peter doing molecular work in the lab

Impact of the PEHPL Program on my life

Challenges affecting health and productivity of livestock have been part of my daily life. Coming from one of the disease hotspot countries, my passion was to study diseases at their hot points and contribute into bringing solutions to problems that I have been living with in my community. I have witnessed farmers becoming bankrupt after disease outbreaks such as African swine fever. I have seen animals aborting and producing less milk after suffering from diseases such as foot and mouth disease. As much as I wanted to be part of solving these problems, my challenge was to find a well-coordinated environment in which both sufficient facilities and support to do quality science were in place. The PEHPL program has provided me such an environment.

Emma Peter sharing her work with visitors

What I will take with me at the end of my fellowship

I joined PEHPL as a theoretical scientist and I have moved to working as an empirical scientist. The knowledge I have gained will be beneficial to my home institution when I return as a better equipped scientist after obtaining my PhD. My home department is a referral centre for diagnosis of notifiable animal diseases such as African Swine Fever. I will, together with other scientists, form a better team for this task. The knowledge I have obtained will also be shared with students in both theory and practical classes.

Emma Peter presenting at the November 2017 PEPHL Summer School Training Program. Photo Credit: Catherine Herzog

My influence of research in Africa and worldwide

Under the PEHPL program, not only did I build my capacity to do science, but I have also built network with other scientists both outside and inside Africa. Having the opportunity to interact with project members and receive mentorship from partnering universities such as Washington State University, University of Glasgow, Pennsylvania State University, and Scotland Rural College has broadened my thinking and built my skillset. These interactions form the platform for more collaborations in the near future. Writing of better proposals and combining efforts towards a central goal are among factors that will influence research networks and this has become the culture of the project. Moreover, under PEHPL I have improved my public communication skills including public presentation, paper writing, and even blogging. These skills are important for letting others know the extent to which my science is impacting to communities. I look forward to using all of my new technical and professional skills as I continue my scientific career.


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