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Celebrating The International Women's Day 2022

March 8 is the International Women's Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women's achievements or rally for women's equality.

A great occasion to talk to some of the brilliant and inspiring minds at work at C2i, Iolanthe Lan, Rosanna Fong and Mandy Ho.

Iolanthe Lan

What is your role at C2i?

I am a Research Scientist working on one of the key projects of the “Mosquito-borne Viruses” programme. By combining omics approaches with fundamental cell biology and virology strategies, we aim to dentify and characterize host factors important in flavivirus replication and immunopathogenesis and to develop evidence-based interventions targeting the host factors to restrict viral replication and pathogenesis.

How did you become a scientist?

I am a trained cell biologist and virologist with a background in pharmacy and pharmaceutical science. After completing my PhD in Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Hong Kong and joined the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole for postdoctoral training before joining C2i.

Throughout my studies and trainings, I have always been strongly interested in understanding host-pathogen interactions, and my knowledge and experience in several fields allows me to bring a multidisciplinary perspective to the study of fundamental cellular networks involved in pathogen invasion.

Growing up both of my parents had a lot of influence on me. They’re in seemingly opposite career paths (one in STEM, one in the arts), but both gave me the similar formula that they believe to be important in one’s choice of a lifepath: Passion + Talent + Something larger than yourself, and even better if it pays the bills. I have always known that I want to work with something driven by curiosity, creativity, discovery, and the aspiration for knowledge. With that piece of advice from my parents on mind, science came as a natural choice.

How do you feel about being a woman in your field? What challenges did you have to face?

I am a researcher who happens to be a woman, and it shouldn’t feel any different than other groups of people who choose to pursue their dreams in science, contributes to our well-being, and expands human understanding of the world.

On the contrary, it should be embraced, respected, supported, and celebrated equally. Being a scientist and a woman at this unique period of time means that I’m at the front line of a movement which empowers women to acknowledge their own abilities and self-worth, to raise awareness of the importance in including gender perspectives in science and other sectors of the society, to recognize the problems and be open about them, and to initiate meaningful conversations that help shape the future of the Scientific Community.

I would advise young women to choose the direction that fits them, and to read literatures and engage with the people in the field of their interest as much as possible. Meanwhile, you need to understand yourself better---what works for you and what doesn’t, and make sure your choice is always close to heart.

Science is a very long journey with highs and lows, it takes not only passion, but hard work, devotion and persistence (sometimes a bit of luck too!) to move forward. So be confident, be authentic, and be patient, trust your own voice and stand your own ground. At the end of the day, we all have our own timeline and we all have our own path.


Rosanna Fong

What is your role at C2i?

I am a Research Nurse working with the Healthy Human Global Project – Hong Kong (HHGP-Hong Kong).

HHGP-Hong Kong invites Hong Kong residents to join a cohort study to explore the differences in immunity across individuals. It aims to understand the factors underlying the differences in immune responses and the parameters defining a healthy immune system within the local general population.

I am humbled to be a Research Nurse witnessing the participants volunteering in the Research Studies, donating not only their ‘blood and flesh’ but also their time and effort. Their participation is essential to advance clinical practice for a better treatment of human mankind.

How did you become a Research Nurse?

I am a Registered Nurse and Registered Midwife in Hong Kong, and Registered Nurse in Australia and the United Kingdom. My initial training was a hospital-based diploma course in Hong Kong before studying a nursing degree course at Curtin University, Western Australia. After that I got my master’s degree at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. After moving to the UK, I have completed a Diploma in Diabetic Retinal Screening. I started to work in Research and Development since 2010.

40 years ago, the academic and working opportunity for women was much less diverse or abundant than the present and we didn’t get much information. I followed my mum’s advice and joined the Nethersole School of Nursing, my alma mater.

How do you feel about being a woman in your field? What challenges did you have to face?

When pursing nursing as a career, there are more than clinical or hospital aspect of nursing. Young nurses should take a good look at various opportunities - mental health, education, management, public health, and research. I would encourage young women to explore all the options available.

To be a good nurse, one should have a resilient attitude towards any difficulties that you have encountered and an inquisitive mind to allow you to explore the best evidenced practice, which is the basis of providing safe and effective practice.

I have not met any discrimination at work as a woman in Hong Kong, Australia, or England (except age discrimination in Hong Kong). I had my three children during my career. However, like many other women, I found it quite a challenge to pursue my career and to raise a family at the same time. I would not have been able to do so without the support of my dear husband.


Mandy Ho

What is your role at C2i?

I am currently a Research Assistant working on developing novel vaccine platforms for influenza A viruses under Professor Leo Poon.

Flu causes 290,000–650,000 deaths annually worldwide and the necessity of a highly effective vaccine against continuously changing variants has become a burning issue. Our project shed lights on finding the alternative universal vaccine platforms that capture multi-variant strains of both human and animal influenza viruses and induce long-lasting, potent immune responses.

How did you become a scientist?

I studied Biochemistry and Cell Biology in HKUST.

After graduation, I worked on food microbiology in HKU and started working in microbiology. Since Covid-19 has been raging, I was intrigued by the threat of infectious diseases and joined C2i to work on combating influenza A viruses.

Working in healthcare industry gives me a sense of accomplishment as I am one of the many people who are working to save lives and this makes me want to work even harder to create a greater impact.

How do you feel about being a woman in your field? What challenges did you have to face?

It’s thrilling to work on challenges in science with my friendly team and I always feel that I get the same opportunities as men. I’m also glad to see that more and more women are working in this field and their work got recognition, like Katalin Karikó who won the Lasker Award by developing mRNA technology as the basis to producing mRNA vaccines like Moderna and BioNTech.

For girls who wish to join scientific research, I would say: don’t hesitate and just apply for anything that you’re interested in. I believe your hard work will pay off regardless of your gender, especially here in Hong Kong where equality in the work place improved a lot.


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