Audrey is a Zimbabwean born Biologist working in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Due to the deteriorating state of the economy of Zimbabwe in 2005, she migrated to Germany with a clear goal to study. Today, she holds a B.Sc. in Applied Biology and an M.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences both acquired at the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, Germany.
Currently, she works at UriCell, a start-up that uses urine as an innovative source for isolating renal stem cells, and thereby providing service for industrial and academic research for drug testing and personalized research. The work involves lab research and attending conferences that include sharing work results and expertise with other researchers from all over the world.
Audrey also finds time to give back and thus is part of the Next Step Organisation (www.the-nextstep.org) based in Germany; a group of young professionals providing advice and support to young people in Germany, especially young women from several African countries, who are in different areas of their career paths.
Why did you get into STEM?
Growing up, my passion has always been to work in the medical field. Being an African, we know parents take pride in their children being doctors, lawyers, pilots, etc. – not that I had any such pressure. To say the least, my parents were happy to see me play doctor with my dolls. In school, the sciences were always my strongest subjects and I pursued that later in life. I learnt that not only does one have to be a medical doctor to have an impact in the medical field, but there is more beyond this field and research plays a big role. As a student, I did internships in hospitals, as well as in the Institute of Stem cell Research and Regenerative Medicine with Prof. Dr James Adjaye. That is where my interest in research was further fuelled. The more I was exposed to the world of scientific research, the more it became apparent to me that this is exactly the career path I am destined for.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
I am happy to have had the courage and taken those steps to move far away from my family and the one place I called home, to pursue my career aspirations and to be where I am today.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
Having moved to a different country, being a woman of colour and in a male-dominated field, one has to be resilient and be smart about it too. Sometimes your voice will not be heard, but you just need to stand your ground and push your ideas forward. The keys are consistency, delivering the work and having a good mentor to support you.
With both my parents living in two different African countries at the beginning of my studies, I had to make ends meet by working during the semester breaks. Later on, when I was eligible, I applied for scholarships to finance both my degrees. I have had times I felt like giving up. However, holding on to the thought that I am not only doing this work for myself but also for the greater good of mankind, I am able to push myself to keep going.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
Do not be afraid to pursue your dreams. Sometimes, things may seem impossible, but you just have to push yourself to take those necessary steps towards your goals. We are all destined to be someone in this world; so find yourself, go places and meet people. Because one day, you will find yourself in the right place at the right time.
Be open to learning from others, and community is necessary in order to thrive in this life – no man is an island. Don’t forget to study hard!