In these interviews we can meet more deeply the members of the recently established YEBN Board for the period 2020-2021. The next member to be introduced is Alexandra Nothnagel, YEBN’s Vice-President.
This is what Alexandra wants to tell us about herself.
As a German biochemist, I knew and profited all my studies from the offers of btS at my university, one of the German founding members of YEBN. During my thesis in neurobiology in Paris, I joined the organisation team of a biotechnology job fair – when they were looking for international partners I proposed the YEBN that I knew as a friend of mine, Irina Epstein, was a former president of the association. Once in contact with the team and concept, I got absorbed by the sympatric team spirit and opportunities within the YEBN. Networking in student and researchers’ associations is my fun leisure activity for 16 years already and feeling like a European citizen since my time in a European School were helping to easily engage with the YEBN’s aims.
What, in your opinion, makes YEBN special?
YEBN is driven by ideas that survive administrative formats, cross country borders, and reunite persons that never met each other around common goals of bridging science and industry and making biotechnology research and innovation accessible and well-recognized as it is addressing many UN sustainability goals with specific solutions.
How do you think YEBN can help you develop a successful career?
It’s all about team building, change strategy, professional networking, project and people management, governance and communication skills – The work in the YEBN executive board brings you a kit of competences needed when you found your own social innovation business as an entrepreneur and thus is a perfect preparation for many positions available in industry.
“ YEBN is driven by ideas that survive administrative formats, cross country borders, and reunite persons that never met each other around common goals.”
What are your goals for YEBN in 2020-2021 as Vice-president?
Make the YEBN grow with new regional boards and internal as well as individual members and link them with common goals to the growing alumni member community. From 2021 on, I wish to prepare the YEBN and its members with goal-oriented training to have its own regular big challenge-event for which I proposed the name Young European Biothackathon. A special focus will be laid on the YEBN inclusivity axis by supporting the preparation of a future scientific Europe tour with a sensor-equipped wheelchair with our partner association FEDEEH in France– stay tuned.
How do you try to make a change for the better?
Share all my ideas trying not to judge them alone with competent teams to permit some of these ideas to gain their own life and survive by gaining support from others instead of pushing them alone. I try to match the right ideas with the right people and the best conditions to initiate action to make “a change for the better” happen and not just letting “the better” exist in endless discussions. A key for me is to support needs, individuals, institutions, and this with the philosophy of equity – respecting every individual and personal need whenever possible.
In what point are you in your career?
I changed from basic research in infection biology and molecular neurobiology to a Software Engineer position (Studies and Full Stack Development) in an information technology and services company 2 years ago. The next step will be to combine all my skills from R&D, IT and industry in one job for the benefit of my clients and ideally the benefit of the civil society.
“From 2021 on, I wish to prepare the YEBN and its members with goal-oriented training to have its own regular big challenge-event for which I proposed the name Young European Biothackathon.”
What’s your dream professional career?
It was to become federal prosecutor in preliminary school and then a university professor working also in industry and getting a Nobel prize for my work since high school. In between there was also the wish to become president of the European Commission – but I made it president and vice-president of the YEBN which was even far better than of what I have dreamt. My dream professional career is building bridges aiming for accessibility of research and its benefits for everyone, it is multidisciplinary and international, bringing inspiration and assisting in change, providing inclusive and healthy working conditions, and aiming to better the life of everyone in our society.
What do you like/dislike most about your job or what you study?
In no matter which studies and job, I do not like to do things just because they were done like that before (maybe by generations) and empirically it worked out– I wish to understand. I do not like to admit, even if I must accept, that there is no way to understand everything immediately and often not enough time to go into the details and do research until reaching a deep understanding of different matters. Advancement needs compromises regarding many resources that are mostly limited –especially time. I would wish to have time bubbles with unlimited time allowing me to get into the very last detail of my studies or questions regarding my job without getting delayed somewhere else. I like a lot in my IT consultant job satisfied clients for which I produced concrete and useful individual solutions for the client’s needs.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Associations’ and civil society consultancy activities take most of my daily free time, besides that I love social dancing (West Coast Swing and Brazilian Zouk), to go hiking and working as an amateur photographer. Soon a lot of my free time will be consumed by a cute cat baby that I just adopted.
Important advice for others, what have you learned.
Stay loyal to yourself and listen to your intuition as well as to the people around you to extract the information needed to constantly improve and to become who you want to be – criticism and barriers are some gifts that others make to you to allow you to constantly improve. Be thankful for honest feedback and make the best out of it and yourself, always respecting the others.
“Criticism and barriers are some gifts that others make to you to allow you to constantly improve.”
Many thanks for your interview and sharing your great experiences!