In celebration of February 11, International Day of Women and Girls in Science
‘If you can do something for a living that you enjoy, then you are very lucky, and I feel very lucky to be a professional scientist in my country’
Dr. Skevi Kyriakou is the Reproductive-Postnatal Team Leader at NIPD Genetics. She is part of the Research & Development department and she is responsible for designing, developing and overseeing genetic tests such as carrier screening, infertility, neonatal and postnatal testing.
When and how did you decide you wanted to study science?
When I was at school, I really enjoyed science lessons. I liked how different and hands on they were in comparison to other subjects. When I had to choose subjects to study at A-level I chose Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. I didn’t know at this point what career I wanted but I knew that I enjoyed these subjects and wanted to study them further. The fact I enjoy science and find it interesting has helped enormously. If you can do something for a living that you enjoy, then you are very lucky, and I feel very lucky to be a professional scientist in my country.
How did you decide on the specific field of science?
I was inspired by one of my Professors who was passionate with Genetics. He revealed my real potential to me and helped me realize I really can do anything I set my mind to.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for girls and women in science? What are the best ways to overcome these?
As a woman in the field of scientific research, I have been subjected to some problems in my career concerning the difficulty to balance family and work. In our work as a scientific researcher, there is no difference between men and women, we both work with the same manner and schedules, same work hours. So, I have to find ways to balance my social life and my work, which is not that easy. As a mother, I will always be busy, so I do not allow any opportunities to slip by.
What aspects of your field do you find the most interesting?
Combining industry with science. You have to think outside of the lab, how your research and your results can be translated to what the market needs, and how you can offer that. It’s a multidisciplinary work.
If a young girl interested in science walked up to you for advice, what would you tell her?
If you don’t have any real passion for your subject, you'll eventually run out motivation.
Do you think there is a difference between male and female scientists?
Nowadays, I don’t believe there is a difference between men and women in the scientific world – at least not in the work environments that I have been subjected to. What matters are your ideas, passion and hard work – not your gender.
Which scientific discovery has impressed you and why?
I find that there is great knowledge in scientific discoveries made accidentally. Many of the most incredible discoveries in the world came about when someone found something they weren't looking for. In a research lab, you have the opportunity of experimentation and there are some days that nothing goes as planned. By troubleshooting and trying to find why this happened, you comprehend the subject even more.
Qualities I find indispensable for a researcher:
Ability to solve novelty of issues and data-driven decision-making process
Lessons I have learned along the way:
Success comes through hard work and confidence.
Dr. Skevi Kyriakou received her BSc in Molecular Medicine and Biochemistry from the University of Essex, UK, and went on to pursue a PhD in Medical Genetics at the University of Cyprus and the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING). She worked as a laboratory scientific officer at CING, with her European collaboration project on non-invasive prenatal diagnosis being distinguished with an innovation award by the European Commission. Dr. Kyriakou has taken part in numerous scientific conferences worldwide and has written several scientific publications. Dr. Kyriakou has been working with the NIPD Genetics team since 2011, and has officially joined the company in 2016.
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