“You Can Only Aspire to Be That Which You Are Aware Of.” — A Conversation with Dr. Theresa Rambaran, Founder of ACLaS

A Conversation with Dr. Theresa Rambaran,

Dr. Theresa Rambaran

Dr. Theresa Rambaran is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at Umeå University in Sweden. Her research interests involve the formulation of biologically active supplements to counter obesity, diabetes and other cardiometabolic diseases using clinical trials through a healthy aging initiative. In 2010 she received awards from the National Agricultural Marketing & Development Corporation, National Flour Mills and Universal Foods Limited for her academic performance in courses including Food Chemistry and Food Engineering. She was a nominee for the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for academic excellence in 2011 and in 2012 she received the Caribbean-Pacific Island Mobility Scheme (CARPIMS) Scholarship, funded by the European Union. This enabled her to conduct aspects of her Ph.D. research at the Centre for Drug Discovery at The University of the South Pacific in Fiji, where she was one of the first Jamaican to enroll. Dr. Rambaran was one of the Ph.D. candidates selected from commonwealth nations by the Royal Society to attend the Commonwealth Science Conference in India in 2014. She was also awarded the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Seal of Excellence by the European Commission in 2018 and was the recipient of the prestigious Kempe Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship in 2019. While her passion lies in the sciences, Dr. Rambaran has also ventured into business and launched a manufacturing company, EZ Eats, in 2017 and more recently an NGO, ACLaS (A Classy Lady of Science) in 2019.

ACLaS is an organization which is geared towards attracting women and girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. This is important because a massive gender-imbalance exists in STEM worldwide and has resulted in the under-representation of women in science. ACLaS also facilitates the holistic development of young ladies by offering training sessions in various soft skills and availing positive role models.

1. Where did the idea come from to start the STEM organization ACLaS for girls?
There is an antiquated mindset which persists in certain spheres as far as science is concerned. If you mention the word ‘scientist’ to a group of young people, the majority will think of a male and automatically assign a masculine pronoun. In the few instances where they think of a woman, they tend to think of elderly women. After observing this I thought this very mindset could be the reason fewer women pursue careers in STEM and so I decided to start an initiative which is intended to break certain stereotypes and motivate women and girls to pursue science. Over time, I have also noticed that practices that can be detrimental to the development of girls is being glamorized on social media (to a certain extent) and so I figured an initiative such as ACLaS would be helpful in providing positive role models for girls.

2. Tell us the reason your organization is focused on girls?
The contributions women have made in science are countless and so it is unreasonable and quite unfortunate that persons (both men and women) can be of the belief that a career in STEM is not for women. The mindset that women who do pursue science are tomboys also needs to be banished. ACLaS focuses on girls because we have to get the message out that science is for all types of girls. Whether you prefer to wear Toms or stilettos there is a place for you in science. The practice for women in media to dismiss the impact they have on impressionable minds that are watching is also a cause for concern. ACLaS, therefore, offers a platform which allows girls to be exposed to positive influences.

3. Tell us your personal story on how you got involved in Science.
I hated business subjects but I loved the arts and sciences. I do not know when our society started encouraging a student to pursue a single field of study but if you read on some of the most famous people to have ever lived (such as Leonardo da Vinci), you would realize that they were polymaths. They studied widely and were not confined to a single discipline. I, however, figured I had to choose one passion and so my overpowering love for Biology and Chemistry lead to my decision to pursue science. While my love for science has been unwavering, my career choice changed over the years. Looking back, I realize that none of the careers I considered is what I am actually pursuing right now. As a child growing up in rural Jamaica I could not have decided that at some point in my life I would like to be a research fellow in the area of clinical medicine because at that point I had absolutely no idea of what someone in that area does. You can only aspire to be that which you are aware of. It is for this reason that a significant aspect of ACLaS is to have women who hold various careers in science participate in career day activities at high schools and other events so students can become exposed to a range of career options in STEM.

4. How can others get involved in ACLaS?
ACLaS was recently launched and we will be hosting a pilot run of the initiative which will officially start in September 2019, when the new school year begins. One of the main features on our website is an interactive forum which allows members to get assistance in various STEM subjects. Members are also assigned a mentor after registering on the site. For the pilot run, only selected schools across the island will be participating. The initiative will then be accessible to the public after this pilot run.

5. How many girls has your organization helped so far?
ACLaS is just getting off the ground and is poised to help over 200 girls within the first year.

6. What question do you get the most in Sweden about Jamaican culture?
Persons are most fascinated with our beaches and, of course, our year-long summer weather. They often want to know where are some of the best places to visit and what are some of our most popular dishes.

7. What is one thing you love about being Jamaican in Sweden?
I love the fact that persons are always curious about my accent. Whenever I enter a new environment and I speak persons usually ask where I am from. Whenever I reveal that I am from Jamaica I always love their reaction. It is always priceless.

8. What do you do for fun?
I am a lover of music and I also enjoy doing art pieces. If I am not doing these then I am either with my husband at the gym or we are out sight-seeing or travelling to other countries.

You can learn more about ACLaS on their website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

About the author

Brittany Khaleel