Meet Our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2022 Highly Commended Nominees: Raquel Campos
It’s time to meet the first of our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2022 Highly Commended nominees! Raquel Campos is a postdoctoral researcher who was nominated by 15 of her colleagues for her dedication, passion and commitment to neuroscience. Colleagues described her as “a very trustworthy, kind and reliable partner to have in a lab” as well as “a natural leader” who “always encourages her colleagues to pursue their goals.”
Raquel is a neuroscience researcher at the Carlos Chagas Filho Biophysics Institute, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her current research focuses on neuro-immune interaction and the involvement of the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid medicine in this field.
We chatted to Raquel about her career so far, the importance of mentoring, and her advice for younger scientists…
Congratulations, Raquel! How did it feel when you found out that so many of your colleagues had nominated you as their Lab Hero?
I felt very grateful to have such wonderful colleagues who thought I deserved the nomination. It was extremely moving for me to read all their reasons for why I should win, mainly because most of the reasons are things that I do without expecting something back, and because I believe we need to help each other in the science community. Also, it was a surprise to see that some of them described me as team leader because I don’t usually see myself this way.
How did it feel when you found out you had been chosen by our panel as 'Highly Commended'?
I was extremely happy and surprised! I knew some colleagues had nominated me but to be chosen as “Highly Commended” was a shock (a very pleasant one)!
Why do you think it’s so important to celebrate life science researchers, and what more could be done to show life scientists recognition?
Being a scientist today can be really challenging depending on where and how you are doing it, and sometimes you feel very frustrated about it. When I saw the comments my colleagues wrote about me, something lit up inside and made me feel that even though we struggle sometimes, it is always worth it. Also, it reinforced to me the idea that science is something that you do as a group. I always try to help people with their problems because I’ve been helped a lot in the past (and I still am!) and the people that took time to help me overcome my difficulties have made all the difference to my career. I think explaining to society and the general public about the importance of science and how it impacts everyone would help scientists to get more recognition for their work.
Did you always want to be a scientist when you were younger, and if so, why?
I was always fascinated by biology and animals when I was a kid. When I turned 12 years old, I learned about cells and organelles in school and decided I wanted to work in that field.
What do you enjoy most about working in STEM?
I really like the fact that every day is a different day. You don’t usually have a routine in a way that you do the exact same thing every day. Each day you do a different experiment, with different people, maybe in a different facility.
Your colleague described you as ‘completely committed to mentoring students’ - what do you enjoy most about being a mentor?
I strongly believe that knowledge should be shared, especially because at least 80% of the things I know how to do today is because someone took the time and had the patience to teach me, so I believe it’s part of my duty as a scientist to do the same for others. Also, it is really rewarding to see my students grow and perform the experiments by themselves.
Can you tell us a bit more about what you're working on in the lab currently?
I’m one of several researchers focusing on neuro-immune interaction and neuroinflammation, but my main research involves using CBD rich cannabis extract as a therapy for Chronic Neuropathic Pain symptoms in a rodent model and the role of the neuro-immune interaction in this context. This research emerged from the high use of cannabis extract by humans to treat chronic pain conjugated with the lack of information about how it works and the elements involved in the improvement described by the patients that use this treatment.
What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?
I usually arrive early in the lab because I’m more functional in the morning, so I like to go straight to the bench to start my experiments. Depending on the day I'm usually done by 2-3pm and then I check to see if I need to do any solution or anything else for my experiments the next day. If not, I go to the microscope to photograph some histology I’ve done, or work on my computer for a few hours.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing life scientists at the moment?
Speaking from a Brazilian scientist’s point of view, it’s the lack of investment in research and the high bureaucracies and obstacles to obtain reagents and equipment from outside of the country. Not only were several science grants cancelled in the last year, but also we have to pay extremely high taxes to import science supplies from other countries.
What key piece of advice would you give to a younger scientist just starting out in their career?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, any question. Also, take every opportunity that is presented to you, don’t think you are not good enough. We have the tendency not to believe in our potential.
How do you see your career developing in the future/where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I really hope to get a faculty position and be able to not only manage my own research lab, but also to teach at the university.
Which scientists working today do you admire the most?
I’m lucky enough to work, and to have worked, with people that I admire, not only the supervisors that I had during my PhD and post-doc, but also my lab colleagues. It is a privilege to see them working and doing science so close.
What’s your favourite science quote?
“Here we teach because we research”, from Carlos Chagas Filho, the researcher that created the institute where I work.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us, eg. specific issues or initiatives in science that you are involved with or are passionate about?
I am part of a scientific dissemination team called @TimeCannabis. We focus on popularizing and demystifying cannabinoid medicine for the population and have several initiatives to simplify science information regarding the endocannabinoid and medicinal cannabis for Brazilians (or anyone that speaks Portuguese!). Follow us on Instagram, we do weekly posts with different information and news about these topics.
Thank you so much for speaking to us Raquel! And congratulations once again on being highly commended! We look forward to keeping in touch with you and following your career as it progresses.
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