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122: Tenure Tracker – The Life Non-Linear with Dr. Jimena Giudice


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Podcast: Hello PhD
Episode: 122: Tenure Tracker – The Life Non-Linear with Dr. Jimena Giudice
Pub date: 2019-10-11

Dr. Jimena Giudice has all the traits of a promising new faculty member.

Through her training and early career, she has earned more than a dozen grants and awards. She’s co-authored two dozen papers. And she has trained students and postdocs, gaining a reputation as a highly effective mentor.

You’d expect that Dr. Giudice’s undeniable success was the natural result of an early immersion in science and a dogged adherence to the well-worn path through college, grad school, and postdoc.

But of course, you’d be wrong. Before discovering a love for scientific research, Dr. Giudice spent ten years answering a different calling.

Changing Focus

Dr. Jimena Giudice

Growing up in Argentina, Jimena didn’t know that her eventual career in science was even an option.

“My parents are architects, my sister is an architect, my cousins are architects, uncles are architects or graphic designers. So I really didn’t have anyone close that I could imagine you could do science as a career,” she recalls.

So after high school, she enrolled in college to study industrial engineering.

Four years into a six year degree, she put her studies on hold and made a personal decision.

“I changed my path, and that’s when I started considering being a nun. I entered a congregation when I was 21.”

Jimena knew that after three years in the congregation, she’d have the opportunity get back to school to continue her studies. Her congregation was focused on education, which gave her valuable experience.

“I was teaching at different levels. Primary school, kindergarten, secondary school, people in the street, rural schools. I was full time working and teaching,” she says.

As her fourth year of service approached, she started to think about what she could study during the next three years that would help in her congregation. She visited the university to explore the available courses, and found that her options expanded well beyond the architecture and engineering paths she had known as a child.

“I remember the first image I have in my head is seeing students with white lab coats and the labs with glass windows and walls. And I have that image in my mind. I said ‘That’s what I want. I want to do that. I want to be with a white lab coat doing what they were doing.’”

That moment was transformative. Afterwards, she says, “I always had the dream of doing experiments, even though I liked education and teaching. Thats when I saw for the first time that science is something where you can study and work and have a career.”

One Good Turn

With her passion for science ignited, Jimena had a new problem. A chemistry degree in Argentina takes six years, but her congregation allowed just three years to pursue a degree while also working during the day.

She did the majority her classes at night, and traveled an hour and a half between the community where she lived and the university.

“I had to multi-task a lot of things. My philosophy was: when I am in classes, I am in classes, and I have to get as much as I can from here because I don’t have a lot of time to study at home,” she remembers.

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