Unique Scientist: Aster Esra Pijning

Surfing the waves comes Aster Esra Pijning (She/her)! Aster is a PhD Student originally from The Netherlands working towards her PhD degree in biochemistry at the Centenary Institute in Australia!

What kind of scientist are you?
After working as a research assistant for a few years I have started a PhD in biochemistry, looking at the regulatory function of disulfide bonds in thrombosis.

What made you want to become a scientist?
A short story by Yann Martel called ‘Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios‘. I started a master’s degree in infection biology and immunology because of my interest in HIV infection and a drive to use my skills to help where I can.

“Here, I feel like I can be as girly as I want to be, wear what I want, and not be ashamed of having interests outside of science.”

Aster Esra Pijning

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I have always felt a little out of place in the science world in The Netherlands, thinking that I was too girly and that this was a disadvantage. I remember doing an internship with a professor (male) at the end of my undergraduate degree, who upon leaving told me that he had especially liked my variety in outfits. After being in different labs in the Netherlands I was not sure I would pursue a career in science until I moved to Sydney, Australia, where I felt there was a more inclusive and broader range of different people working in the field. Here, I feel like I can be as girly as I want to be, wear what I want, and not be ashamed of having interests outside of science.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I surf! It is my biggest passion in life and I am fortunate enough to be able to combine it (so far) with science. I live close to the beach and surf every morning before work, rain or shine. This does mean getting up early, living far away from the lab, and spending little time at home.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
That good scientists wouldn’t be forced to leave the field because of lack of funding. I’ve always found it so strange that as a scientist you are supposed to be great at everything; sciencing, grant writing, teaching, presenting, you name it! I think there are so many people with such amazing skills that are being forced to leave science because the current system requires them to move up or move out.

“[Surfing] is my biggest passion in life and I am fortunate enough to be able to combine it (so far) with science.”

Aster Esra Pijning

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My previous boss and current PhD supervisor has been amazing ever since I joined his lab. I had a lot of trouble getting funded in Australia as a foreign national, and he has stood by and helped me at every step along the way, and still is!

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
Outside of the lab I practiced my backhand top-turn and it’s going well ;). Inside, I got an abstract accepted for an oral presentation at the International Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis! Speaking of which.. I really should be working on the presentation right now.


#WomenInSTEM

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