Flavia Sousa, Adolphe Merkle Institute

Dr. Flávia Sousa is a Senior Researcher and NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials WINS Fellow at the Adolphe Merkle Institute (University of Fribourg). She is a pharmacist by training and she obtained her PhD in Biomedical Sciences in 2019 at University of Porto in Portugal. She has been developing new biological nanotherapies for brain cancer using a new gene-based nanovaccine for immunotherapy.

Why are you a scientist? 

I was always a curious child, and I always had a passion for both science and education. Therefore, I always knew early on what my dream job would be and worked hard to achieve it.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? 

It is knowing that I am working to impact our society by improving patient outcomes with more efficient treatments that will allow for a better quality of life. This is my daily motivation, working hard to improve someone’s life. If I don’t, I hope my research will benefit the next generation of scientists.

What are your research goals?  

My research goal is to find a new brain cancer treatment to improve patients' survival rates. My main focus is helping cancer patients by creating non-invasive and effective treatments accompanied by fewer side effects. For that, I am developing a cancer nanovaccine to be delivered locally in the brain, aiming to change the tumor microenvironment.

What are the challenges women face in today’s society? And in science in particular?

It is not easy to be a woman in science. Fortunately, the academic system is changing, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. It is difficult for a woman to reconcile family life with a competitive academic environment, and taking on a leadership role isn’t easy. Unfortunately, many great female scientists give up their dreams due to the challenges we face in academia.

What are your proudest achievements in your science career?

I am proud of some awards I received for my research, determination, and ambition. I received grants such as the Fulbright, the Marie-Sklodowska Curie, and the WINS from the NCCR. Apart from that, I was recently nominated as MIT Innovator Under 35, Female Science Talent from Falling Walls Foundation, and I gave a TEDx talk about the academic system.