|Posted on March 14, 2014 at 10:10 AM|
Dr. Anna Belu is the new editor for Biointerphases, an interdisciplinary journal which focuses on quantitative studies of soft matter interfaces. Besides her editorial responsibilities, Anna Belu is a Senior Principal Scientist and Technical Fellow at Medtronic Inc, in Corporate Technology & Innovation. She leads the Microscopy and Surface Analysis team, and her own research spans a wide range of interface science, including biomaterials, biointerfaces, surface modification, surface analysis, failure analysis, microscopy, imaging, molecular characterization of materials and medical devices. Her wide range of research interests and experiences made her particularly well suited for her new editorial role.
(Dr. Belu in the lab doing surface analysis using TOF-SIMS)
In addition to being a successful scientist, she is the mother of two daughters and a running enthusiast. As successful women scientists and engineers tend to do, Dr. Belu has learned how best to balance her roles related to career, hobbies, and family.
WIN had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Belu to learn more about her career, her inspirations, and managing a work-life balance:
WIN: 1) Tell us more about why you chose to be a scientist, and what you love the most about being a scientist (especially in your area).
Dr. Belu: My father owned a construction company, my mom took care of the home and family, and neither of my brothers have college degrees. I was the strange bird who liked to read and was good at math and science. I decided on chemistry after my freshmen year in college. My summer research project involved synthesizing and characterizing porphyrins, and I loved being in lab!
My parents encouraged us to work hard and promoted a world with no boundaries. I continued to graduate school and found I was best suited to analytical chemistry where I loved the discovery of unique chemistries of surfaces of materials as opposed to bulk phases. I appreciated the academic environment and continued as a post-doc in bioengineering where I gained experience with bio-interactions on surfaces.
Much of my work today involves materials issues, especially those that occur at surfaces and interfaces, across all of the businesses at Medtronic. I enjoy problem solving, particularly bringing the necessary information together to come to a conclusion. Working in the medical device industry is satisfying as the impact of my work helps improve the quality of people’s lives. I lead a team, interact with others, and enjoy the opportunity to work with so many motivated and smart people. I am active in several technical organizations as well as being Editor of Biointerphases. These opportunities allow me to stay abreast of new developments in technology and collaborate with leaders across the globe. In my career, I like the independence of deciding what I am going to do every day, and I appreciate having a flexible of work schedule.
WIN: 2) What were some of the challenges you had to face in your career? How do you balance your family and work?
Dr. Belu: One of the challenges throughout my career has been knowing what I want to do one or more years from now. Part of this challenge is being familiar with the possibilities, and another of part is that I like to do so many different things that it has been difficult to commit to one career path. I think I have been most successful by taking advantage of opportunities that come my way and doing my best with them. If an opportunity comes up and nothing tells me not to do it, I take advantage of it. I always learn whether I like that area or not, and typically a new opportunity opens up because of it. Many times the opportunities are extra work, but they have given me a broad background of experiences and skills that allow me to be successful today. I have been able to string opportunities together to build a career, and meanwhile I pursued my other interests as hobbies.
Balancing family and work is always a challenge, especially since both are top priority! Really though, it is that simple--anything else is a much lower priority so I only have to focus on the two areas. The biggest blessing I have is my husband who is a stay-at-home dad to our two young daughters and dog. Our choice gives my career a lot of flexibility and allows me to work long hours and travel when I need to. It also allows me to give 100% of my attention to my girls when I am not working--I don’t have to worry about shopping, or paying the bills, or even cooking or cleaning! OK, so no one in our family cleans the house very much, but nothing is perfect!
(A 6-legged 5K race that Dr. Belu won last year! Her two daughters are at lower right.)
WIN: 3) What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your leisure time?
Dr. Belu: I like being outdoors and being active. I am a trail runner at heart and I used to run marathon-plus distances. I don’t have the time or passion to train for the long miles these days, and am content getting out for 5-6 miles/day. I often bike ~12 miles to work. It is an effective way to clear my mind, get my fill of the outdoors, and avoid the congested highways. Fortunately, my family loves the outdoors also, so we spend much of our free time hiking and camping. We also enjoy volunteering and helping out in our local community.
WIN: 4) What are the advice you can provide for young scientists, graduate students, and college/high school students who want to pursue career in science?