STEMM Profile: Jocelyne Mulangala | PhD Student | South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute | University of Adelaide | Adelaide | South Australia

Jocelyne Mulangala, AHA 2019 Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, USA. [Photo credit: American Heart Association]

“If you’re at the beginning of your STEMM journey, my advice is be to open to new opportunities and network! … Remember that growth only happens outside your comfort zone, so don’t be afraid to try. You are more capable than your think!”

Jocelyne Mulangala is a final year PhD student at the University of Adelaide, based at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) in Adelaide, South Australia. Her research is in the field of cardiovascular diseases, focusing in understanding the role that vascular calcification plays in driving peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Jocelyne graduated from the University of Adelaide in 2016 with a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours). After receiving a first class honours, she decided to embark on her doctoral studies in 2017 to continue her Honours research into calcification and angiogenesis.

Jocelyne is a young research scientist with focused goals and aspirations into medical research. She has a training degree in Aged Care and her passion for this cause is evident through her doctoral studies. She pursued a PhD pathway because of her deep desire to discover the underlying biological causes of diseases – something that she constantly witnesses in her ongoing commitment to caring for the aged community. As part of her academic career, Jocelyne has had great research success and has presented her research at both national and international conferences and has been awarded some prestigious awards for her work.

Aside from her PhD, Jocelyne dedicates her spare time in educating, teaching and mentoring younger generations to pursue careers in STEM. She is extremely passionate about diversity in STEMM and is an advocate for change for women of minority and marginalised groups. Jocelyne strongly believes in the power of social media to drive and assist in the recognition of STEM in the community, and demonstrates this passion and belief on her science Instagram blog, the.science_catapillar which she launched early 2019. She started this page with the aim to engage and share her passion for science with the community, in the hope of empowering and motivating girls to pursue careers in STEM. So far, she has grown networks with numerous other science communicators around the world and has found it to be such a rewarding experience. Her passion has allowed her to give invited talks to high school students to share her experience as a woman working in STEM and providing insight and advice on what it entails working in STEM fields.

What inspired you to do science? Have you always liked STEMM?

Growing up, I have always enjoyed science and mainly discovered this during my high school biology and chemistry classes. I also come from a family of medical professionals and so this helped shape me to want to pursue my career in STEMM. My other main inspiration for pursuing STEMM came from my role working as a personal care worker, as I often witness the burden that diseases can have on an individual’s quality of life.

What was the key thing that helped you get to where you are today?

The key things that have kept me going throughout my studies have been the “3 P’s – persistence, perseverance and patience”. I have experienced numerous failures inside and outside the lab. Each time, I learned to be patient and persevere to achieve my original goal despite the hurdles. This has helped shape a better mindset and to realise that despite the setbacks, things always work out in the end!

What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in STEMM?

If you’re at the beginning of your STEMM journey, my advice is be to open to new opportunities and network! During my undergraduate and post-graduate life, I was always afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone and missed out on many opportunities. Don’t be afraid to join that committee, say yes to that invite to give presentation at a conference; as this is the only way you’ll improve your skills for communication and meet new people outside of your circle. Remember that growth only happens outside your comfort zone, so don’t be afraid to try. You are more capable than your think!

How can we best support the next generation of women in STEMM?

The best way to support the next generation of women stepping into STEM is to provide great mentoring. We must begin to introduce STEM to girls early in childhood so that they can grow with the idea that STEM is diverse and inclusive to anyone, despite of their gender, race or ethnicity. They need to be exposed to good mentors and role models early in their academic life, and this can be achieved through programs and activities in classrooms and through other community outreach programs. I also believe there needs to be greater efforts to help increase the visibility of all women in STEM, particularly for minority group as representation is extremely important.

How do you cope with self‐doubt? How do you cope with imposter syndrome?

As a PhD student, imposter syndrome is something I experience so often. The crippling thoughts of not being good enough at what you do can have very negative effects on one’s mental health. My coping mechanism when I experience this is by reminding myself of how far I’ve come and what I’ve overcome to get to where I am so far. Each time I do this, I realise that I’m on the right path and I’m doing well.

Twitter: @JoMulangala
LinkedIn: Jocelyne Mulangala
Instagram: @the.science_catapillar