“We need to … bridge communication gaps, recognise how structural incentives limit people’s willingness to collaborate outside of their sector, and create more opportunities for people to move between academia, industry and government”
I’m a Canadian-Australian with particular interests in insect behaviour and biosecurity and the nature of research collaborations between academia, industry and government. My lifelong love of animals and figuring out why they do what they do led me to pursue research in animal behaviour.
During my PhD, I worked with honey bees examining how pheromones work in individual and colony regulation, a topic I chose because it allowed me to investigate both basic and applied research questions- giving my work potential impact and relevance both in and out of the scientific community. After my PhD, I did a variety of jobs and projects, which ranged from fiddler crab behavioural research in Darwin, to designing and lecturing for two different university subjects.
For the last year and a half, I’ve worked as Centre Manager and Industry Liaison Officer for the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Fruit Fly Biosecurity Innovation at the Macquarie University. I feel incredibly privileged to have this role because I can bring all of my strengths and interests to work every day. Not only do I get to contribute to insect research that protects Australia’s biosecurity and food security, I facilitate collaborations between research and industry stakeholders, I support higher degree research students and early career researchers, I design and implement suitable and effective science communication strategies, and I get to learn about what elements enable successful industry-university collaborations.
My aim is to build a career that allows me to continue to build collaborative links between academia, industry and government so that we can effectively tackle the environmental challenges we will face in the future.
If you have transitioned careers, what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
Academic science has a very clear pathway to success. Research, publish, research more, publish more, win grants, win recognition, and maybe eventually win secure employment. The biggest hurdle for me to overcome was/is to define my own pathway and what it means for me to be successful.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in STEMM?
Everyone around you will have an opinion on the best way to live your life in order to be successful in science. Individuals are only a sample size of one and reflect only their values and decisions that they made. Define your values and stay true to those. Only you will know what’s best for you.
How do you cope with self‐doubt? How do you cope with imposter syndrome?
As a woman and first-generation university attendee, my impostor syndrome can be pretty pervasive. To push through my trepidation, I talk to other people to remind myself I’m not alone and I make myself do the things that scare me the most. After I’m done, I find it wasn’t as scary as I thought.
What have you learnt during your career to increase your resilience?
I’ve learned that not all criticism is valid. For example, a reviewer of my first manuscript argued that the bees I studied must have emerged in February because that’s what had been observed in southern USA. Where I worked in southern Canada, February emergence would require that the bees have incredible cold tolerance and the ability to forage entirely on snow.
How can we foster a culture of STEMM innovation?
Cultural change is often slow and incremental, but things can move quickly when people across disciplines and sectors are working towards a common goal. We need to work to bridge communication gaps, recognise how structural incentives limit people’s willingness to collaborate outside of their sector, and create more opportunities for people to move between academia, industry and government.
LinkedIn: Marianne Peso