Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa. My ethnic background and country of birth is Zimbabwe. However, I spent the majority of my childhood in Botswana.
Tell us about your educational background.
I hold a BSc in Human Biology from the Univesity of Nicosia in Cyprus, a Research Master’s in Molecular Mechanisms of Disease from Radboud University in the Netherlands. I am currently a PhD researcher at the LCSB, where I model Parksinson’s disease using midbrain organoids.
Tell us about your science.
I study the changes that occur in the brain during the progression of Parkinson’s disease in order to identify molecular pathways that are affected during the course of the disease. I make use of patient specific human stem cell derived brain models that are able to model the disease.
When did you decide a PhD was something you wanted to do?
During the second internship of my Master’s I became confident that I wanted to do a PhD. Before that I was conflicted, but the internship really gave me a solid foundation and insight into what it could like doing a PhD within the neurobiology field.
Briefly describe your average work day as a PhD student.
What I love about my PhD is that for the most part, no two days are alike. But generally my days will involve a combination of experimental or practical work ( for example – feeding cells, microscopy, isolating DNA or proteins, performing a biochemical assay) and “office work” (data analysis, reading literature, trying to make sense of my data, etc.)
What would you say your biggest challenges have been so far in your PhD journey?
Before the COVID19, I likely would have had a different response, but at this point it is the amount if time I feel I lost by not being able to go to the lab due to the pandemic. It made planning really difficult and generally also impacted my mental health, which in turn had an impact on my work.
Aside from your PhD, what other things are you passionate about? What activities you do in your free time?
I’m passionate about using my voice to highlight and amplify individuals and groups that have been historically underrepresented within the Sciences. I am quite active on “academic Twitter” for example and use my platform to amplify the voices of the marginalized. Besides that in my free time, I write, I read, I cook. I try to prioritize self care as much as I can
Are you currently working on any side projects? Tell us about them.
I co-founded an organization called Visibility STEM Africa which aims to empower Africans to pursue and flourish in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. Our platform profiles Africans in STEM from across the globe to provide visible role models for the next generation and we are working on creating resources that can help individuals who are already on their STEM journeys.
What drives you?
Knowing that my reality could be completely different from what it is now. I know so many brilliant and bright Zimbabweans who haven’t been able to live up to their full potential largely due to the constraints their background and the economy has put on them. I have been so incredibly fortunate to have access to so many incredible opportunities, and so it has always been important for me to work hard, stay determined and aspire beyond what I used to think was possible.
What is your ultimate ambition in life?
To live a life that I can be proud of when I look back on it, whether that is through my work or the positive impact that I had on others around me 🙂 And (I know it’s corny but) to be genuinely happy.