As a research assistant at EXEINS Health Initiative , Agatha Mia is currently working on the Malaria issue in Indonesia. She just received her Master of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences from the Liverpool John Moores University with British Council’s Women in STEM scholarship.
Previously, she studied Molecular Biology at the Universitas Brawijaya . “I was a molecular lab biologist for almost seven years. A few years ago, I realised that I need a different perspective to work on health issues here. Molecular biology is not enough to solve the issue. That’s when I saw a biomedical science course and realised I want to learn the subject,” explained Agatha.
Agatha’s interest in biology started since her undergraduate years. “First, I really like molecular biology because it cannot be seen, or not that physical. We can detect disease like COVID using molecular biology,” she said. At first, she was focusing on studying HPV during her undergraduate studies. However, she then received a job for researching about Malaria.
Malaria is still a great issue in Indonesia, especially in Papua. Agatha has been conducting field research in Timika, Papua, over the past three months. Her mission is to contribute in solving the malaria issue right now. For example, she hopes to solve the misdiagnosis issue with the disease. Tackling the diagnostic issue can really boost the Malaria program.
“The point is, I really want to make my work as worth it as possible to the government. After I’m done with my research here and along with my colleagues, I want to report it to the government, update them with our outcomes and, if possible, revise their intervention so it can have better impact to Indonesian people,” shared Agatha.
One of the main challenges to achieve this goal is the accessibility in the field, especially in Papua. “The access is quite limited here. For example, if you want to buy a freezer, you will need to go to several places and it is still quite far from our lab,” she explained. There are also issues with electricity and internet connection, which makes it harder to do the research in the field.
Another challenge that Agatha is facing as a woman in STEM is the stereotype and expectations. When seeing her other women colleagues, she feels that there are bigger expectations to balance family and work. Women often takes maternity leaves, which can take three to six months, and will need to readjust when returning to work.
However, being a woman in STEM helps her meet a lot of people in remote places. “It’s great that I have the opportunity to go to the field, and see the reality of what is really happening here. It is not just me watching television and the news. Not only in Papua, but also other remote places like East Nusa Tenggara,” shared Agatha.
Studying in the UK also helped her to learn courses that are not available in Indonesia yet, even until now. She explained: “That is why I choose the UK for studies because the course that I want to learn is not available in Indonesia yet. On the other hand, they already have it in the UK and have implemented it.”
One of those courses is personalised medicine, which is a subject that Agatha wants to bring to Indonesia. In addition, she also wants to bring the study culture from the UK to Indonesia. “Where we can study without any restrictions or politics. Especially when we want to take samples. In Indonesia, there are many paperworks. Whereas in the UK, there is no such thing,” Agatha explained. She also believed that studying in the UK has helped her become more open minded and independent in making decisions for work.