Mini series #WomenInScience Part 3

Dr. Maria Mahrova is a chemist from Estonia and has been working for MOTOREX for more than 6 years. It gives us a look behind the scenes of the story and her work at MOTOREX.

In part III of our Mini-Series #WomenInScience we have the pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Maria Mahrova, one of several women working in our laboratory.

Tell us more about you and your story Maria
Originally, I come from Estonia. It is my 6th year for MOTOREX now. I hold the PHD in chemistry and an MBA degree. I did my PHD in Spain in within the scope of the Marie Curie ITN MINILUBES project. During this time, I also met my current colleague Parvin. The interesting thing for me was, that the program had a minimum female participation of 40%. I finished my PHD in 2013 and completed then my postdoc in Germany. I worked there for a Lightening Company for 2 years. At the end of my contract, I started working for MOTOREX. I have never planned to come to Switzerland. I have always been very free and I was also looking for jobs in Australia and Japan at this time. My decision maker has always been my interest and this led me to the most diverse places. Sometimes you just have to have the courage to try things out and, in the end, they pay off.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I still remember very clearly – I was 16 years old and during summer, I was visiting my older brother who was studying for his PHD. That was the first time I have ever seen a laboratory in real life. He told me all about chemistry and physics with shining eyes and he was so excited about all this that it was somehow contagious. I liked the idea of becoming a scientist more and more.

What fascinates you about your profession?
For me it is the discovering part of it. The feeling of putting together individual small parts into something big is breath-taking. I like the idea that what we create goes out into the world. We don't keep what we create, but ultimately share it with others, with customers, fans and interested people. Science work must be shared and exchanged.

On the other hand, I appreciate to work mixed and multicultural teams, just as we have it here at MOTOREX. This gives the opportunity to see things from the most different angles.

How does your daily life in the MOTOREX laboratory look like?
My day is very dynamic. I work with many departments and am not just in the lab in front of the test tubes all day. I advise people from production and sales, I visit customers or I consult and exchange information with the technical customer service. I appreciate this exchange and to move around.

More concretely, I take care of R&D for industrial products. I work on water miscible metalworking fluids and I am very excited about this tricky topic. It needs a lot of interdisciplinary thinking to work on it. You have to think about customer needs, chemistry, sustainability, applications and quality. But otherwise, it would be too monotonous for me.

How do you see the role of women in science?
Unfortunately, women still have it difficult these days, even in Europe and my home country Estonia. I was lucky that my family was very open and progressive. I realize that there are still more men than women in the lubricants industry. But I have accepted it and I do not think about it much anymore. I know my strengths and believe in myself. People who don't know me are often surprised about my knowledge in the technical field and that I can give them competent advice.

But we also have to remember that there are not only gender prejudices. Age also plays a role. I'm still a bit young for many people and that makes them feel insecure.

How can we encourage more women to go a similar way like yours?
First and foremost, women need to have an interest in the industry. One way to make them aware of is during childhood. Kids should have the opportunity during compulsory education to get insights into different fields and to try out various things. Parents can also make a big contribution. For example, they can take their girls to a workshop and introduce them to such topics as well.

Companies can generally become more attractive to women by offering certain benefits. Or they can offer soft skill training for their employees, where they can provide information on various topics. It's important to remember that it's not just about sharing expertise - today, with our fast-paced lifestyles, we should not forget about the interpersonal relationships as well.

Is there something you would like to share with the future generation of female scientists?
It is okay to be a woman. You do not have to adopt to the habits of others to fit in. I used to see it as a compliment when a boy said, "You're cool, you're like us." But I have changed that opinion today. I am proud to be a woman. Women should not become like men just to make them heard. Exactly these differences give us diversity, various viewpoints and new impulse to find innovative solutions for the more and more complex problems we are facing.

 

- Thank you Maria for your interesting and revealing answers.

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