Blog posts

Elena Virlan, Centre Manager, Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre 

“I have always had a passion for helping people and using my organisational skills to implement new processes.”

I have organised an exciting programme of events and activities for Postdoc Appreciation Week (PAW), which takes place this week. This has been achieved in close collaboration with my colleagues in the PFDC, Postdoc Appreciation Week Committee and several Imperial postdoc reps. This is a great opportunity for the PFDC and Imperial to show their appreciation for the postdocs who make the College a leading research and educational institution. 

Organising events such as PAW gives me a great sense of fulfilment and responsibility and I’m looking forward to developing new initiatives, focusing particularly on wellbeing. 

I have always had a passion for helping people and using my organisational skills to implement new processes. A combination of the two has been visible throughout my career and educational journey so far. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Event Management and Marketing and a Master’s in Psychology of Mental Health. I decided a career in Higher Education would enable me to combine aspects from both my degrees, so I started by working in Careers, first at the University of Reading, then at Imperial from January 2018. 

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Sheena Cardoso, EDIC Co-ordinator, Human Resources 

“I love how flexible my role is – every day brings a new challenge which I am always ready to tackle”

I joined Imperial in 2015, fresh out of university with a degree in Advertising Management and Marketing. I started as a temp and worked in several teams in the College, including the undergraduate office in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the People and Organisational Development team. I learned how different departments operated and how the College worked. This helped me in my next role, in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Centre 

I joined the EDI Centre as a temp and then became a full-time member of staff in 2017. I’m currently a coordinator for the team and look after our communications and social media channels, training administration, and any EDI project coordination. I also organise events and support and coordinate our EDI volunteers.  

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Sonata Petrauskaite, Soft Services Administrator, Estates

“The pandemic helped us to realise that it’s better to recycle, reuse or giveaway as we need to take care of our society”

The Soft Services team is responsible for all the waste recycling, minor removals, chemical and hazardous waste at the College. I joined the team four years ago, having originally joined Imperial 14 years ago.  

Before this role, I worked as a Senior Waitress with the Events and Conference department for ten years. After working as a maternity cover in the Soft Services team, I felt I was ready for a move to the team. It was daunting, but I trusted myself to take on a new challenge in a different environment.  

My role involves making our Imperial staff, students, and visitors aware of the right recycling procedures to maintain a healthier and safer environment. As a team, we deal with any incoming requests, as well as reporting issues, finding a solution to problems – we are Imperial’s little soldiers! We patrol between campuses, ensuring a safe working and studying environment is in place.  

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Sophia Quazi, EDI Coordinator, Mechanical Engineering 

“I always knew I wanted a career that helped people.”

My educational and career journey hasn’t been the most straightforward trajectory. When I was a kid, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded with cartoonist or marine biologist, quite like my idol Stephen Hillenburg who created SpongeBob SquarePants and was both. I didn’t really know that equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) or diversity and inclusion (D&I) was something that I could work in. However, I always knew I wanted a career that helped people. It all clicked for me when I selected Sociology as one of my A-Levels.  

My interest in social sciences grew and I studied criminology at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, earning a Master’s degree. My specific focus was eradicating violence against women and victimology. Both of my dissertations were focused on sexual violence on university campuses, and this was something I wanted to pursue career-wise.  

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Dr Adrian Najer, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Materials 

“I started a long-term project aiming to provide an alternative nanotherapy-mediated vaccination strategy for malaria.” 

After finishing my studies in nanosciences,  I decided to take on the challenge of a cross-field PhD at the University of Basel and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Switzerland. Ever since, my research focus has been to use nanotechnology for the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, mainly malaria.  

Malaria is a devastating infectious disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is responsible for the death of about half a million children every year. The current COVID-19 pandemic, among other factors, has led to a stagnation of the anti-malarial fight, which highlights the urgent need for innovations distinctively different to our current solutions. 

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Adriana Lobosco, Laboratory Technician Apprentice, Department of Bioengineering

“I have always had great admiration for women in STEM careers and now I am in that position myself”

My first dream job was to be a vet – this was quickly vetoed after my sister told me where my hands would end up! After I finished my A-Levels, I spent some time working in retail as a visual merchandiser and then working in the food industry helping to develop new food-to-go products. After realising that I wasn’t enjoying my job, I left in search of a science-based role.  

Apprenticeships have always appealed to me because I like the hybrid approach of learning and working. Before I came across this apprenticeship, I didn’t think it was possible for me to access a role like this without a degree.  

As an apprentice bioengineering technician, my role is varied, and every day is different. I am constantly learning new things and putting them into practice. 

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Dr Stephanie Wright, Lecturer in Environmental Toxicology, School of Public Health 

“Being able to work in the lab on important environmental health issues, surrounded by amazing brains who are genuinely nice people, is a privilege.”

I wouldn’t say my career journey was entirely conventional. Academic, yes, but I skipped an MSc and went straight from PhD to my first fellowship. These were considerable achievements, but establishing both my independence and my own research niche so early on was challenging. I also weaved through disciplines, from marine biology to ecotoxicology to physical and analytical chemistry, to exposure and air pollution science and back to toxicology. These have given me a solid, holistic understanding of the research I do. Now I’m a lecturer and lead a research team and I can’t wait to watch them flourish and make discoveries in the emerging field of microplastics and health.  

Over the last few months, I’ve presented remotely to a group of European consortia, and to College students on the other side of the world. The students were on a programme at the University of Akron, and as part of one of their modules, I was invited to give a lecture.

I also presented in-person to science enthusiasts at the New Scientist Festival in Manchester, and to toxicologists in San Diego at the Society of Toxicology annual meeting, my first international conference off UK soil in two years.   (more…)

Azellia A. Shafira Taught Postgraduate, Business School 

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial 

“I feel self-assured and confident because I wear the hijab”

Since I started at Imperial, people have asked me a lot about the hijab and why I wear it. I love to share this part of my story.  

There are no rules in my country about how you should dress, but there are rules in some families. My father’s extended family is more conservative – there’s an unspoken agreement that when girls hit puberty, they have to start wearing the hijab. My mum’s side is more free, there’s no pressure. Growing up, neither of my parents wanted to force me the way that some parents do. 

I had the liberty to choose, and the time to learn more about it. I didn’t choose to be Muslim – I was Muslim from when I was born – but deciding whether to wear the hijab was an opportunity to explore my faith.  

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Harbhajan Singh Brar, Director of Human Resources 

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial 

“My parents really instilled a lot of pride in me growing up as a Sikh.”

When I was growing up, the racist murder of Gurdip Chagga and the killing of Blair Peach during the Southall riots in 1979 had a huge impact on me. This led me to become quite politicised and influenced me to study politics and international relations at university. I then also went on to do a postgraduate diploma in ethnic relations as I wanted to understand what more I could do to make things better for ethnic minority communities.  

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Jerusa Brignardello Guerra, Research Postgraduate, Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction and Research Assistant, Department of Surgery and Cancer

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial 

“When you are Chilean, you feel proud because you come from a country that has overcome a lot of difficulties. We are extremely resilient.”

When you are Chilean, you feel proud because you come from a country that has overcome a lot of difficulties. We are extremely resilient. We have many natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes, so we are used to rebuilding everything. Bad things happen often, but we learn to carry on. 

There is so much about Chile that people are not aware of. Chile is a really wealthy country in terms of literature – we have incredible writers such as Nicanor Parra, Roberto Bolaños and Pablo de Rokha. We have wonderful celebrations, such as for 18 de September, where the country stops for a week to mark the first meeting that started the process of independence from Spain. Everyone gets together to eat traditional Chilean food like empanadas and asados and drink terremotos, piscolas or an awesome Chilean wine. 

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