Women in Science Day: Anastasiia Vasylchenkova

In support of International Day of Women and Girls in Science we invited several members of the TRANSNET Programme to chat about their chosen career paths. Here’s Dr Anastasiia Vasylchenkova from our UCL site.

Anastasiia Vasylchenkova is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow and part of the Optical Networks Group at UCL. Her research focusses on developing new analytical and numerical models of fibre propagation so that higher data volumes can be supported by optical communication systems of the future. She has been a member of TRANSNET since 2018.

What is your scientific background?

My work lies at the intersection of physics, mathematics, engineering and computational simulations. My Masters is in nuclear physics, but now I apply my research methods toolbox to the field of optical communications.

How did you choose your field of study?

After my Masters, I realised that practical and applied fields are more attractive to me. I was supposed to continue my research into high energy physics, but it was too fundamental for me. I like it seeing a direct impact with my research.

What’s the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve experienced during your career so far?

A research career has a long and low start but, eventually, a high and rewarding finish, and in general, your life expectations grow faster than your career. I found job hunting once I had finished my PhD quite complicated because I was still technically a student.

And what is your proudest achievement?

Six years ago, I won the International Physicists' Tournament as a member of the Ukrainian team. The combination of years of experience, dedication, and incredible team coordination and support made it such a rewarding experience.

How do you think we can achieve better equality in science?

Talking about equality, although sometimes frustrating and repetitive, is a crucial first step to generating action to realise it. The same about women-only awards and programmes. Also, I often come across guidance that says, in general, women should be more masculine: be more confident, be less emotional. For example, women are supposed to fight their impostor syndrome (and spend time and effort doing this) instead of creating an environment where this phenomenon does not influence our employability or performance. The is the wrong way to think about it; the benefit of equality comes from women being themselves, not by adapting to a male-dominated society.

What are your interests outside of science and research?

I enjoy painting, singing, playing guitar, travelling and photography. Hobbies are a nice way of getting boosts of motivation and confidence when you feel incapable to do your science.

What’s your advice for girls or young women thinking about a career in science?

In terms of its work and culture, a scientific career is something that you cannot find elsewhere. Carefully consider what is important for you in the workplace – community, variation, flexibility, impact, travelling, management, etc. Identify your priorities, and you will be able to find the best job for you.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is implemented by UNESCO and UN Women, and works in collaboration with worldwide governmental, institutional and societal partners, to promote women and girls in science. The purpose of the day is to encourage full and equal access to participation in science for women and girls.