Dr. Rita Blaik is a science communicator and sci-artist. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Science in 2015. Since then she has been published and featured in both scientific and artistic publications. She has also held positions teaching both science and design.
1. Why did you become a scientist?
At first, it was kind of expected of me. I knew I was good at math and science. I had a mechanical engineering mentor during high school. I thought it sounded great so I decided to major in mechanical engineering. I hated it! I took a materials science and loved it and decided that was what I had to do.
2. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would still take a scientific path: but, I wish I’d taken more art classes as I would have more artistic skills and felt more able to become a sci-artist
3. What is your favorite aspect of your work?
I’m really lucky as I get to work with all sorts of people. I get to collaborate with scientists, designers, artists, and entrepreneurs. I like brainstorming with them as we are all trained to think in very different ways!
4. What does being a scientist mean to you?
Now I’ve gotten my Ph.D. it has changed. Before it was learning facts and memorizing stuff. Now it has become a way of discovery and learning
5. What has been your greatest failure, and what have you learned from it?
I’m not sure if there is one greatest failure, science is consistent failure. Eventually, you learn that failure is ok.
6. What has been your greatest achievement in science?
Probably just getting, my full fuel cell to work for the first time. I figured out how to power medical devices using sugars in the blood and enzymes for my Ph.D. thesis!
7. What problem would you most like to see solved by science in the next 10 years?
One project I was working on was seeing nanoparticles to target and kill cancer cells! That would be great. I’d also like to see a pace maker fueled by a fuel cell.
8. How do you think your field will change in 10 years?
I’ve started to see more awareness of the consequences of nanoscience. I’m also seeing a lot more interest in the intersection of science and art. Even within science there is a lot more focus on outreach.
9. What motivates you?
The opportunity to work with people. It gives me new perspectives. I found grad school a bit frustrating, as it was a lot of isolated work.
10. How do you define success?
Let me think about that. In grad school, I failed so often that when something finally worked. I didn’t even believe it! You need to trust yourself and trust your work
11. What one discovery in science do you most admire and why?
Discovering the method for creating single sheets of graphene. Researchers used scotch tape to peel a layer off again and again. The researchers won the Nobel Prize for this! It is so simple!
12. What one book do you recommend everyone read?
I’ll give a few books. For science, I’ll say 6 Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman and The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. They distill hard physics into understandable. The Harry Potter series and 1984 really shaped my views on morality and politics so I’d recommend those too.
13. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
The best piece of advice that I have received is that I am in charge of my own life. My Fiancé told me this at a time where I was feeling really powerless. It reminded me that I do have choices.
14. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful scientist?
15. If you could go back in time what advice would you give your high school self?
Don’t let other people confine you. When I was young I thought that art and science couldn’t mix. I have learned that you can be whatever you want to be.