Interview with Dr Theresa Burt de PereraPosted: September 22, 2013
Dr Theresa Burt de Perera first went to Oxford it was 1994, and at that time, she was a student. When she finished her PhD study, she met her partner. They went back to Mexico and lived there for nearly four years. She did a very short Postdoc and then came back to Oxford as a junior research fellow at Keble College. After that she won a royal society research fellowship and 10 year lectureship at the University of Oxford.
Her interested in science can traces back to her childhood, she always had a strong interest in science when she was in school. “When I was 13 or 14 years old, we took options and at that point, my focus was right way on the sciences, physics, chemicals, biology and math.” At the A level, she did biology, chemistry, math and business study. Mathematics and Biology were her favorite subjects, and she struggled to choose one of them. “Maths and Biology are the two things I love. it’s quite clear and quite quickly, biology is the thing I am going to take forward.” So she did her undergraduate degree in Biology.
During her study, she realised that there are so many aspect to Biology, so she started to reduce the number, and started a course on Animal Behavior, “ when I started my course, I absolutely loved it. I discovered that was specific thing for me, that’s what I really loved.”
During her academic career, she said she has been very lucky in a fantastically supportive department, and supportive area. However, she still find difficulties and challenges sometimes, such as balancing her personal life and career life. “I love coming to work everyday, but academic life tends to have very long hours, I feel tired at sometimes.”
“I work my normal hours, I have to pick up the children at 5:30 and I want to spend time with children. We have dinner together every night if possible and bed time is 9 o’clock, I quite often to have work to do beyond 9 o’clock in order to get everything done. so you do end up working long hours particularly in term time, you accept that you do when you have to.”
One thing she learnt from this challenge is time management and be organised. When she works, she work effectively. “I plan everything at least three months in advance. I know exactly what I am doing for the next three or four months.”
She mentioned that she couldn’t manage her life (personal life and career life) without her husband’s support. “He now take 50% of the childcare, we are a team. That’s the only way to possibly manage.”
One thing about women in science is to balance their personal life and science career, so many women drop out, Dr Theresa Burt de Perera thinks not just women, but men have to be sure in what they want. “ In order to do it and be prepared to put extra hours at the point when it is important to do that. but also been prepared to be flexible as well.”
Her advice for young girls want to pursuing career in science are,
“ Think about whether it is really for you, or if it’s something you really love. something you prepared to work harder than everything else will follow; be aware the fact that the jobs come up at certain times of the year, look ahead and contact people in the field, make yourself meet people at conferences.”