Teresa is a PhD student in Sustainable Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. She graduated cum laude from La Sapienza – University of Rome in 2014. Her current research is based on C-H activations and how to develop more sustainable chemical reactions. Teresa is the Founder of phdtosuccess.com, and she runs a YouTube channel (Teresa Ambrosio) where she talks about her research and interesting facts about the periodic table. You can also find Teresa on Instagram @phd_to_success and Twitter @teres4amb.
My name is Teresa and I am a PhD student at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. I have always been curious about the world and what is happening around us. Since I was a kid, I was always asking loads of questions and keen on learning. I have known that I would have chosen chemistry as an undergrad since I was 13. Back then, I took a module about chemistry at secondary school and I was very much fascinated by atoms, electrons, acids, bases and chemical reactions.
At the moment, I am working on a project focused on biomimetic catalysis. In simple words, we look at the way nature does some chemical reactions and we try to replicate the same chemistry in the chemistry lab. Nature is the best example we have to design green and sustainable processes and reactions. I strongly believe that taking inspiration from Nature could help in addressing the current challenge of providing a sustainable world.
I am very passionate about my research, I have started this project on C-H activation on my own. After months of reading scientific literature, I have noticed a gap in the literature and I decided to fill it with my research. I was tremendously pleased when my I managed to discover new catalytic reactions after a few months of commencing my PhD. Despite this, I question my abilities as a scientist every day. I struggle a lot in the lab because my lab skills aren’t amazing and I am clumsy and careless by nature. Additionally, I have been suffering from depression since I was 15 and the negative thinking kicks off anytime during the day. The biggest challenge for me, along with becoming a doctor, is to fight depression.
I am the only female in my lab and my little academic world is predominately male. We share the lab with another research group and the members of this group are all men. My supervisor is a man, my second supervisor is a man and my internal assessor is a man. I have never faced discrimination since I moved in this lab, no one ever made a comment in reference to my gender and they all respect me because I am the only female in the lab. They are harsh sometimes, but this has nothing to do with my gender. The academic world is harsh and demanding itself and whatever you do they will always say that you can do better. I believe that the reason why I can stand out in this man world and they all respect me is due to my strong personality. Confidence is key to success and training women to be more confident and bother less about people’s opinion will make academia a more suitable place for women.
In my opinion, a PhD is all about learning, learning about science and above all learning about yourself. Over the last 3 years, I understood that helping people is what I enjoy the most and this is when I started my blog and advocacy for PhD students to help them discover their potential. I would like students from all ages to believe in themselves and understand the power of education. I would like to see women to be more confident and stand out for themselves with their opinion. It is important to communicate that the strongest tool to achieve freedom and independence, above all, for women is education. This is why I have decided to leave academia after my PhD and hopefully work with the United Nations. In ten years time, I will be happy if I have changed at least one person living with my message.
I strongly believe in the power of education as education changed my life. I don’t come a rich family and my childhood was problematic. Education saved my life, made me believe in myself and stronger than I have ever been before. Despite economic issues, my family, especially my father, always wanted me and my sister to be accomplished at school. We were always told that accomplishments come from hard work and sacrifices and this is why we have come so far.
Along with my PhD, I have collaborations with the Society of Chemical Industries and I have been nominated Ambassador for Sustainability by a Chemical Company. I am active in science communication, I organize events to push science beyond the boundaries of academia and I use social media to inspire new generations to enter the STEM community. I have combined all these activities by creating my own website phdtosuccess.com, which I would like to be a guide for grad students to get the most of their PhD graduation. I also run for charity and took part in many campaigns to raise money and support research on Alzheimer and cancer.
To follow Teresa, check her blog: phdtosuccess.com, Instagram @phd_to_success, Twitter: Teresa Ambrosio, YouTube: Teresa Ambrosio