Unique Scientist: Dr. Sophia Frentz

Meet the inspirational Dr. Sophia Frentz (they/them)! Sophia is originally from New Zealand and currently lives in Australia!

What kind of scientist are you?
My background is in biology (PhD in mitochondrial diseases) but I now work on the technology side as a technology strategy and transformation consultant at Deloitte. As part of this I get to research and communicate emerging technologies like quantum computing, as well as helping businesses (public and private sector) get the best bang for their buck out of the incredible abilities of technology today. Being a tech consultant is a combination of communication, research, problem solving, and working with diverse groups of people, and I love the work we do!

What made you want to become a scientist?
As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a scientist. I am fascinated by the rules that make up our world, and the fact that we can understand and decode these rules is such a wonderful part of being human.

“As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a scientist. I am fascinated by the rules that make up our world […]”

Dr. Sophia Frentz

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
This is a bit of a list! I’m non-binary, queer, and have a fun collection of health stuff–a chronic abdominal injury which means I sometimes walk with a stick and need a standing desk at work, also depression, PTSD, and I’m autistic! I wouldn’t call autism a disability–hyperfocus is the best, and a really nice way to get things done.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I have a podcast at www.thingsofinterest.co which is where my heart belongs and I’ve recently started gardening! I’ve never been interested in plants before but I hit my late 20s and suddenly just really wanted to grow things.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
The reason I left science is that postdoc roles are so insecure and your career is so uncertain at any point. One missed grant, one loudly debunked paper, one bad PI, all of these could ruin the rest of your scientific career. My wish would be to make these roles more secure, more stable, and more flexible with what scientists need. Because if we don’t, we’re selecting for privileged scientists who *can* bounce around the world, living from contract to contract, and that means we are missing out on a whole host of brilliant people who would contribute substantially to our scientific understanding.

“My story is about survival, success, and creating my own space. Someone needs to hear that. Someone needs to see another non-binary person, another suicide survivor, another disabled person survive and thrive beyond the expectations that try to fence us in.”

Dr. Sophia Frentz

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now? My childhood doctor would always take far too much time with our appointments because he’d get out his textbooks and start explaining things to me. Neither of my parents are science-related (although they’ve both enabled my passion admirably) so beyond teachers, my GP was the person I knew that first showed me that there was a world of scientific research out there, and that I could contribute to it.

Inspired is a difficult question beyond that because I’ve always tried to inspire myself. I had a terrible time growing up with depression, closeted, surrounded by homophobic and transphobic rhetoric, and now I’m just trying to be the person I needed when I was younger, because odds are that someone still needs that. Being that person is what drives me to work and write and record and talk about my experiences, even as I move away from pure science and across to industry. My story is about survival, success, and creating my own space. Someone needs to hear that. Someone needs to see another non-binary person, another suicide survivor, another disabled person survive and thrive beyond the expectations that try to fence us in. That inspires me to keep going and keep talking, because it’s not just me that is on this journey. It’s other people like me, who feel alone and who I can help make feel less alone.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I went to a friend’s place and played games and I won one of them!

Editor’s Note: Dr. Frentz added this note at the end of her submission, so we decided to include it here to culminate this #7InspirationalWomenInSTEM week:

“I’m white and middle-class – part of the strength of #UniqueScientists is that you get own voices discussion from a huge range of people. Equally, I cannot understate the importance of continuing and reading voices different to your own, whether that’s on Twitter, journalism, science books, or fiction. Looking over at my (small lounge) bookshelf, I can see Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Claire Coleman, the Best Australian Science Writing collections, Nessa Carey, Nikki Stamp, Margot Lee Shetterly, Stan Grant, Samuel Wagan Watson, Bec Shaw, Jiz Lee, Aarathi Prasad, Louise Erdrich, Erica Chan (writing as Lee S Hawke) and more. There’s some white straight men too – Ben Goldacre, Glenn Colqhoun, Randall Munroe – but this diversity of views across the range of science fact, science fiction, and fiction and poetry has helped shape me into a better person with more empathy and understanding of the world.”

Dr. Sophia Frentz

#WomenInSTEM, #QueerInSTEM, #DisabledinSTEM

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