“Women still don’t feel comfortable getting pregnant during their science career”

"Women still don't feel comfortable getting pregnant during their science career"

Maia García Vergniory (Getxo, 1978) did not feel a vocation for science as a child. Her steps guided her year after year until she became one of the best-known researchers in physics. She is currently principal investigator at the Max Planck Institute for the Physical Chemistry of Solids and the Donostia International Center for Physics in Dresden (Germany) and The American Physics Society selected him as a Fellow. Annual recognition given to 0.5% of nominated physicists for their contribution in defining new topological materials.

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This scholar acknowledges that machismo is dominant in his discipline, as in the rest of society, but is optimistic and hopes that women after him won’t have to listen to the comments he has to hear. “I want to believe that something has changed and that sexist comments are no longer being made the way I went to college when we had no expectation of doing well in science or winning women. Nobel Prize. “If it wasn’t for these comments when I was studying Physics, maybe more women would have read this degree,” she says.

How did you know you wanted to enter science?

It wasn’t a professional thing I knew since I was little, it was something progressive. I really liked physics in high school and I was good at it, so when I went to college I decided to study Physics. When I finished, I wanted to learn more about it and did my PhD. After doing that, I wanted to go abroad and went to Berkeley, California to study as a postdoc. I followed these steps until I decided I wanted to be a scientist, and that’s what I loved.

What project are you currently working on?

I am working on the electronic and magnetic properties of topological materials. They are materials that were discovered just 20 years ago and have very interesting electronic transport properties, many applications and very low energy dissipation, which makes them very interesting to develop microelectronics with them.

In some cases he even said that “it is not necessary to encourage women to devote themselves to science, it is enough not to intimidate them”. Has anyone tried to discourage you in your career?

Yes, machismo exists in physics as a reflection of the existing machismo in society. What happens is that the world of physics is very masculine, so homosociality comes out more intensely. ‘Men’s clubs’ in science are perceived more clearly than other fields with greater gender diversity. I want to believe that everything has changed and that sexist comments are no longer made like when I went to college when we had no expectation of doing well in science or that there were no women who won the award. Nobel. That’s what I meant when I said this sentence. If it wasn’t for these comments while I was studying Physics, maybe more women would have studied the race.

We don’t have to base discrimination or the existing glass ceiling on our personal perceptions because research shows it.

Is discrimination against women in your workplace perceived in any way in your daily work?

I would like to make it clear that whether I personally perceive it or not, of course I do, there are gender studies in the field of science conducted by professionals in the field of social sciences, which show that there is discrimination against women. We don’t have to base discrimination or the existing glass ceiling on our personal perceptions because research shows it.

What do these studies reflect?

The number of women who dedicate themselves to science throughout their scientific career has been declining drastically over the years. There are studies that reflect how many women sign articles as first authors, how many citations are given to the articles they sign, how many projects are given to women and men, and there is a clear gender polarization in all of these.

He recently received a Fellowship from the American Physical Society for his contributions to topological materials. What did it mean to you?

This is a very important worldwide recognition because today the American Physical Society is the strongest physics society in the world. Recognition is carried out by members of the community themselves, i.e. their colleagues and all existing physicists, recognizing only 0.5% per year. I am so happy.

What was the hardest part of getting to where you are today?

I do not know. The scientific career is a marathon, I can’t tell which part is more complicated because it’s been continuous work and every step of it is complex. Now it has been difficult for me to adjust to managing a large group for example because I have to manage everything in addition to research.

Is there consensus in science?

Now they are trying to implement it but in science it is difficult to reconcile personal and work life because the problem is that the scientific career is long but split into 3 and 4 year packages and you have to do it between years. 30 and 40 are the ages at which women get pregnant. They try to protect the fact that a woman can start a family during her doctorate, but I believe that the day when women can easily get pregnant at the post-doctoral or thesis stage has not yet come.

It is difficult to reconcile private life with work life in science because scientific careers take place between the ages of 30 and 40, when women become pregnant.

You are currently working in Germany. Is it possible to devote yourself to the projects you carry out in Spain or is scientific research more developed there?

It is possible to devote myself to the work I do in Spain without any problems, but today it is easier to find financing in Germany. There is more funding, more calls, more projects and even better management of existing finances. We have a financial management problem in Spain that I hope will be resolved because there are currently great scientists who need more support and don’t have to wait until they’re over 40 to find a permanent job. Another thing that happens is that financing projects in Germany are long term. My research on topological materials took six years, and all this time we had funding to run it, thanks to the support of the Donostia International Center for Physics and its director, but not through national funding. The problem is that projects in Spain are short and only last about three years. On the other hand, German projects can take up to 12 years, which allows you to take more risks, make mistakes, correct them and dig deeper into your project. This is how good works come about, because immediacy doesn’t work in science.

What is the reason of this? Lack of resources or planning?

Lack of planning and good management. Resources are more in Germany but poorly managed in Spain.

Is this why so many Spanish scientists have to go abroad to do research?

Of course, they also demand from us abroad, we do not go. They offered me this job, I didn’t want it.

What advice would you give to a girl who wants to study physics?

Because a scientific career requires many sacrifices, he is willing to work hard and surround himself with good people. It is very important that the people around you support you and be with you in all circumstances while improving yourself.

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Written by Adem

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