For Daniela Quintero, a female researcher and international student, COVID-19 has meant the loss of her father, a situation that has tested her perseverance in science. Daniela is a Mexican candidate to PhD in Geology who studies the role of bacteria in mineral formation under environmental conditions. In her path to become a doctor under Dr. Danielle Fortin’s supervision, Daniela has faced several obstacles such as a fire in the building she lived and two health emergencies. In September 2020, “I heard my father was coughing on the phone and two weeks after, he was very bad. I flew to Los Angeles to take care for him,” says Daniela, who had to stay in California to face other family situations after her father passed away.
Professor Fortin, her research group and the Faculty of Science have supported the PhD candidate in this process. The vice-Dean of graduate studies signed a letter that allowed Quintero to maintain her status as an international student despite being abroad. Dr. Fortin has maintained permanent communication with the student, which has been critical to keep the balance between accompanying the family in mourning and the challenge of completing a PhD thesis. “It has implied both patience and keeping academic standards. I identified students who could make the liaison between Daniela and the lab experiences and data,” Fortin says. “She has done all the work, now she deserves the conditions for finishing it,” says Dr. Fortin.
Daniela has always felt treated equally in Fortin’s geomicrobiology research lab. She has learned a lot from working together with other PhD students who study topics similar to hers. “Joint projects and spaces to talk are a main strategy for creating inclusive labs,” says Dr. Fortin, whose research group has had speakers of eight different languages at the same time in the past. For this researcher, “Students from different backgrounds and disciplines help us understand that science is not thought in the same way and problems can be solved in different ways.” For both, efforts to think problems together and to make women persevere and raise their voice in research are necessary to make science more inclusive.
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by Diego Herrera, EDI Advisor for Research