Eleonora Moratto has won the Woman Scientist of the Month Award, given by the European Platform for Women Scientists (EPWS).
The EPWS regularly interviews a distinguished European woman scientist, of various ages and disciplines, who is recognized by the scientific community for their achievements and also concerned by the gender-equality goals of EPWS. The award winners are true role models and a source of inspiration for the future for other women scientists.
Eleonora Moratto is a BBSRC DTP student in the Department of Life Sciences, who uses electric fields to slow the spread and symptoms of root rot in cocoa, durian and oil palm, caused by the Phytophthora palmivora pathogen. As well as her research, Eleonora is a highly proficient ballet dancer as seen in her Dance your PhD entry, which reached the final in a competition by Science Magazine.
We caught up with Eleonora to learn more about her work and the award.
How do you feel to be chosen as the winner of this award? Can you tell us about the importance of gender equality in science?
I am honoured that the European Platform for Women Scientists featured my story as an example of one of the many possible pathways women pursue in STEM. I believe that, while things have improved, there is still a long way to go before gender balance is achieved in STEM. By sharing my story I hope to show that being a woman in STEM does not have to come at the cost of fitting into a mold. As a ballet dancer, polymath and SciArtist I enjoy shattering this stereotype and hope to show that multiple interests and expertise can come together in a single individual.
"Being a woman in STEM does not have to come at the cost of fitting into a mould. As a ballet dancer, polymath and SciArtist I enjoy shattering this stereotype and hope to show that multiple interests can come together in a single individual.'. Eleonora Moratto
Can you tell us a little about your research?
In my PhD research, I investigate how electric fields can affect plant and pathogen interactions. My aim is to find solutions that can increase crop yields by reducing losses caused by plant diseases without harming the environment. I focus on the tropical pathogen Phytophthora palmivora and explore the use of electrotaxis, movement in response to electric fields, as a means of preventing infection of plant roots.
You say that you are a scientist but also a polymath, can you tell us a bit more about this?
A polymath is a person who has expertise in multiple fields. I have always been very curious by nature and interested in everything that surrounded me. I ended up specializing in plant biology and ballet which I practice professionally. I have worked on combining the two through SciComm and SciArt projects by using the storytelling capabilities of ballet to explain science concepts. I also continue to have non-professional interests in art history, physics, Sci-Fi and historical literature as well as historical dancing and reenactment. One of the main advantages of being a polymath is the ability to grasp the context and look at the big picture which sometimes goes beyond the limits of a single topic. This has been extremely useful during my PhD.
What are your future plans?
I am currently writing my thesis and working on publishing some of my PhD work. I will continue working in research on plant-pathogen interactions as well as in ballet. I also continue to be involved in SciArt activities.
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Department of Life Sciences