Scientist born in Macau wins German finale of FameLab

Dr Olga Sin (Courtesy Bielefeld Marketing – Sarah Jonek)

Scientist Olga Sin, born and raised in Macau, recently won one of the largest competitions for scientific communication worldwide, the German finale of FameLab.

Currently conducting her research on the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind human brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, Sin secured first place and won the Audience Award in the German finale of FameLab.

Following her win, the researcher is slated to represent Germany in the international FameLab finale to be held in Cheltenham, England in June.

The scientist – who lived in Macau for 13 years – studied in Portugal and the Netherlands.

Presently based in Germany, Sin is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Biomedicine, as well as a member at the Young Academy of the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence.

In particular, Sin is currently studying a phenomenon called “protein aggregation,”  where certain proteins clump together.

Her current project focuses on how protein production is linked to neurodegenerative diseases.

Speaking with the Times, the scientist recalled that she discovered her passion for science over time.

“I felt drawn to go in the science field because I liked the idea of scientific methods – how clear and objective it was,” she explained.

Sin admitted that it was challenging to enter the renowned competition, which is now held in more than 30 countries, due to language barriers and the fact that the presentation on the complex scientific processes is three- minutes-long.

Asked whether she had thought of winning before entering the competition, the scientist recalled, “not at all,” due to the language barriers.

Although the competition acknowledges English speakers, it would be more favorable for the jury and guests for the presentation to be held in German.

“I was already aware that I would face a language barrier that I can never overcome but I just went for it anyway to test myself and see whether I could break down complicated terms to simpler terms.

Sin defined her winning moment as “a big surprise,” adding that there were 8 finalists all of whom she considered outstanding.

Sin also shared that it is her passion to remove the boundary between people within science and people external to it.

According to her, she wishes to make science easy and understandable for everyone, which caused her to look for ways she could present her research.

However, the scholar admitted that research is a competitive field and unfortunately the system is slightly unforgiving.

“It pressures scientists to publish a lot and in high-impact journals, sometimes at the expense of good quality research. One needs to have a good publication record in order to get funding for his or her research,” Sin explained.

“Consequently, one needs to have funding so he or she can continue publishing papers. This cycle makes the life of a scientist a bit unpredictable and unstable, so you have to be prepared to embrace uncertainty and take risks,” she continued.

Yet the researcher considers herself lucky to conduct research, as she was awarded two postdoctoral fellowships: one from the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research and one from the European Commission for her current research project.

Asked what advice she would give to the local youngsters who wish to pursue a career in science, Sin responded, “Go abroad, travel, go to international scientific conferences and show your works.”

She also advised that it is important to be engaged in other activities that will allow youngsters to develop transferable skills.

“For example, be an active member of your local student association and organize scientific meetings by inviting top-notch scientists to Macau,” she added.

“I would just like to say that I would be so proud to see young talents from Macau succeed in science and put Macau in the scientific landscape,” the scholar concluded.

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