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Diversity is key

Anja Groth is 36. She leads an international group of scientists at BRIC at Copenhagen University. The subject is epigenetics. And diversity is key in more than one way.

‘Epigenetics? - what is that?’ you might say. Well, in our eyes, our hands even or teeth we have special cells. They are all built differently, but contain exactly the same genetic material. So how do they know what kind of cell to be? The point is, that if you can answer that question you might be able to stop cancer cells from growing mad. Anja’s group is occupied with basic research trying to understand how this is done.

‘I’m always at work more or less. Even on my holidays. And I don’t divide my time into work and time off. It’s actually OK because I enjoy what I do’! Anja explains. So she always carries her iPhone and she doesn’t go on holidays without her computer. Another thing is that her creative mind never stops working. So there is a good chance that a new idea appears while she is dancing flamingo or reading a good book.

Anja has no kids, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a strong opinion on how to make the job as a scientist so much more appealing to women. ‘I see a lot of women who would fit perfectly into a science career. But they chose not to. They wish to raise a family, have children and hold on to their other interests instead. It is a shame. If society was more flexible and catered for women’s need to combine family and a science career, we could hold on to this vast but lost amount of potential’.

To Anja it is not important to think rigidly about hiring an equal number of men and women for her team. More important to her is to think diversity in general. ‘We are not here to discuss either food recipes or soccer. We are here to make research. We need both men and women to do that. But we do also need people with different cultures and backgrounds to bring different ideas and viewpoints into play’.

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