On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Anne Skøttrup Mørkholt, 2N Pharma’s Project Manager talked about her career to date in bio-pharmacology and her role in the search for cures to incurable diseases.
What was it that made you choose a career in science?
“For me there was no single moment that I can remember. Many people’s parents or school advisors often push them in a certain direction, but not so for me. I found mathematics chemistry and biology interesting and I did well in them, and like most people I liked the things I was good at. The more attention I gave it, the better I got.”
What do you like about the world of science?
“Science is always evolving. I love to work in a field that promotes health and is focused on the future. It’s very rewarding to be able to give hope to patients and this gives me great satisfaction. I enjoy that I’m able to be of some public service.”
Were there any role models that inspired you and support for women considering such a career?
“There was none I can remember and with the few numbers of women in science I wish there had been. Science is still vastly male dominated and not equal. Men still get the top positions. As science is for everyone and is part of the knowledge economy there’s no good reason why it can’t become more equally balanced. I know there are some organisations such as the Lundbeck Foundation who make some grants for women and I think more of this kind of action is needed to make the rapid change that’s needed.”
How did you get your break? Did you have a set career path?
“You can’t be sure where opportunity will strike, it can come from the most unexpected places, often you just need to be open to it and in the right place at the right time. I was doing my master at Aalborg University when John Nieland, 2N’s Co-Founder came to our university. We talked and agreed on applying to Lundbeck Foundation for a PhD fellow grant studying lipid metabolic dysfunction in CNS diseases. It felt so right to continue in my chosen specialty, neuroscience. I happened to be coming back from maternity as 2N was being formally established, and so once again the timing was fortuitous. On paper it looks like a good career path, although it never felt so formal and certainly wasn’t planned at the time. I still feel that I’m just following my passion and seeing where it will take me. I feel extremely lucky and grateful and know many others will need to be active to create the chances they need.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
“I’ve always been fascinated by the human brain, it’s so complex and elegantly organised. I am following my interest and my inquisitive nature. You have to be curious in science, ask all the questions, rule things out one by one and see what confirms your idea or completely rules it out. Sometimes it’s these complete unknown results that can lead you into the areas of greatest insight. Aside from the actual work I love being able to do this near my hometown where I grew up. I am close to my family and friends and a good work: life balance.”
What was unexpected about your job?
“Being part of a small company has opportunities and challenges that you wouldn’t necessarily have in a big pharma company. In a smaller team our roles cover more areas of research and business. We certainly get to develop diverse transferable skills and have greater responsibility more quickly. You don’t need to rush to join one of the big players – sometimes these skills and experience are worth more than the big name!”
What do you think will encourage more women to enter science?
“It’s great to see a more unisex approach to education and careers these days, a focus on equal participation in STEM subjects is very encouraging, although it will still take time for this to filter through. I would certainly continue the positive discrimination in grants and think maybe there could be more support in mentoring and sharing the great work of women across all scientific fields. Many people today follow influencers, and it would be great to have some people in STEM become more famous, to show there are meaningful career options that make a positive difference to inspire and celebrate.”
What would you say to a girl considering a career in science?
“I would say to follow where your curiosity and interests take you. Try to get a great all-round education in STEM subjects. To see what you’re good at and enjoy and do more of that. The interesting areas of discovery now are where different technologies and fields come together. What can art, sociology or nature tell us about how to tackle a medical condition? I’d say it’s good to have a plan but to be open to opportunity and to try new things. Open up your world and never lose your sense of wonder. You have plenty of time to find out where it will lead you!”
Find out more about Anne and the rest of the team at https://2npharma.com/about