STEMM Profile: Sophia Frentz | PhD Student | Mitochondrial Research | Department of Paediatrics | University of Melbourne | Murdoch Childrens Research Institute | Melbourne | VIC
Thesis topic: Developing model systems for mitochondrial disease and investigating potential treatments
“Science is formalized curiosity and I am a curious person. I love chipping away at a problem until it is solved…”
Sophia Frentz is a PhD candidate and chronic overachiever studying mitochondrial diseases at the MCRI. Funded by a scholarship from the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, she appreciates their support in her moonlighting as a writer, speaker, and general do-gooder.
Sophia has had work published in The Conversation, Archer, The Cusp, and Lateral Magazine, on both scientific and non-scientific topics. She was named one of “20 young Australians on the cusp of greatness”, despite being a New Zealander, was recently featured in “20 scientists to watch” in the RiAus Ultimate Science Guide, and spoke at the Final Frontier Festival about women in space. Currently, she is Vice-President of Women in Science and Engineering (University of Melbourne), a counselor for the Royal Society of Victoria, and hosts a podcast called Things of Interest with fellow kiwi scientist Serena Chen.
With all that, it’s surprising that Sophia has time to have hobbies, let alone do her research. Her main hobby is napping, closely followed by computer games (which are like really exciting naps). But if she’s being honest, she legitimately loves her project more than anything else in her life, and can forget to eat or go home due to being totally absorbed by her work.
What is it you love about science?
Science is formalized curiosity and I am a curious person. I love chipping away at a problem until it is solved, and the idea that you may discover or create something that has never existed in the world before is so overwhelming and amazing.
What has been the highlight of your studies so far?
I’ve had depression and anxiety my entire life. During my Honours year I realized that it was okay to feel sad and stressed, and that if I could figure out how to move forward, I didn’t want to curl into the fetal position beneath my desk. It was a huge personal highlight.
What motivated you to get involved in supporting women in STEMM?
As a queer, mentally ill science nerd, I had no role models. Nobody had blazed a trail for me, or at least nobody who could be public about it. I had to be my own role model, my own favourite scientist, everything – and that’s really hard. I don’t want other women to go through that.
If you could do it all over again, would you make the same choices?
I would have taken less sh*t, been bolder, and gone out partying more.
Do you experience `imposter syndrome’? How do you deal with it?
I do! I “fake it till I make it” – I act like I know what I’m doing, like I’m incredibly important and everyone loves me, and eventually it becomes true. When I started doing this I could overshoot and come across overconfident, but I’ve settled into a comfortable place. I try to remember: humility is just socially-acceptable lying.
Follow Sophia on Twitter: @Sophia Frentz
[Image attributions – in order: Nicole Lake; Blacklight Photography]