Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Atiqa Sajid, working as a research associate at the Aga Khan University Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research (AKU-CRM).
Your inspiration for pursuing a research career in science?
As a child, I was always curious about how things worked in organisms. I remember reading about the DNA when I was in grade 9 and getting curious about how this 6 feet long molecule fits inside a tiny nucleus and makes us all so different from each other. This mystery has fascinated me since then and motivated me to study this field in greater depth. My career as a researcher stems from this curiosity and passion for exploring the secrets of the human genome.
How did you prepare for starting a career in science?
After high school, I pursued an undergrad programme in biotechnology and then a master's degree in biosciences. What thrilled me the most as a student in these programmes were the courses on molecular genetics and the lab modules. I would spend hours conducting experiments looking for the spur of excitement when things worked.
During semester breaks, I did internships and volunteered to enhance my research skills before starting my journey as a researcher at CRM.
Tell us about your experience as a young researcher at CRM?
Initially, I felt a bit lost as I had little experience of working with advanced techniques that were in use at CRM. But the mentoring support from the director and my supervisor helped me to expand my expertise in both computational and wet-lab analysis of chromosomes using the cutting-edge technology at CRM.
The work environment at CRM is highly professional and competitive. It provides young researchers like me a platform where they can aim big and realise their dream of building a scientific career.
Overall, the journey at CRM has been extremely enriching, It has helped me to evolve into a better version of myself both personally and professionally.
What more do you want to do to progress in your career?
With all the research experience and skills gained here at CRM, I have secured a PhD position at the International Helmholtz-Edinburgh Research School for Epigenetics. It is a collaborative programme between the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Munich, Germany and the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, UK. I am looking forward to beginning this new chapter of my career. It would be a great opportunity to delve deeper into the field of genomics in search of answers to some of the unresolved questions.
Your advice for women who want to build careers in science?
If you are passionate about science and want to pursue a career in research, identify the right place and the right mentor to build a strong foundation for your future. That is what I did when I chose CRM, and I must say joining CRM was the best decision I ever made.