Dr. Nguyen-Vi Mohamed is one of those people who seems to be interested in everything. A rugby player who flies planes, she also owns two bakeries in Montreal. And then there’s her day job. Dr. Mohamed, who is a neuroscience researcher, loves her work in the fascinating world of mini brains – miniature balls of human brain cells smaller than a pea. She is driven by the unique opportunity that mini brains offer to better understand neurological diseases and accelerate drug development. Dr. Mohamed is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. She conducted both her B.Sc (Biomedical Sciences) and M.Sc (Cell Biology, Pathology and Aging) at the Université Paris V in France. She conducted her PhD (Cell Biology, Pathology and Neurosciences) at the University of Montreal. Her long-term dream is to find effective therapies for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
My first job ever was… I was a McDonald’s employee when I was 16. This is one of the most interesting jobs I have had because I discovered smart design protocols, which allows anyone to work within their restaurants without experience.
I chose my career path because… I always knew that I would like to be in the biomedical field. I am totally fascinated by the brain — this organ that defines who you are. I also have an interest in baking. I love working with my hands, and creating something that others will enjoy. I find that working in a bakery and working in a lab have a lot in common. We work as a team and control external parameters to grow life.
My proudest accomplishment is… Opening a business in a new country.
My boldest move to date was… Switching recently into the stem cells field, which has allowed me to develop the mini-brains model at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, in order to study Parkinson’s disease.
I surprise people when I tell them… I am a rugby player. Many people think it is an unusual woman sport, but Canada has one of the best professional women’s team in the world.
My best advice to people starting their career is… Follow your passions. Do what makes you happy and excited. Do not be afraid to fail; face the risk.
My best advice from a mentor was… My math teacher told me: There are no problems, only solutions.
“There are no problems, only solutions.”
I would tell my 20-year old self… Push the walls harder.
My biggest setback was… When I quit high school at 17 years old.
I overcame it by… Coming back at the end of the year, two weeks before the final big exam, working day and night on making up my missed classes, and achieving the grade that allowed me to enter university.
Being a woman in STEM is… I feel lucky to be a young woman scientist in 2018 because several generations of women fought to obtain equality between men and women. I think my generation benefits from their past fights. Many of my friends are also women scientists, engineers or in artificial intelligence, and we never think about our gender when making career choices. However, the fact that several women asked me this same question made me realize that discrimination and something even worse “stereotypes” still persists. I believe that education about equality should happen at home, within our families, by teaching our kids that they can become anyone they would like to be.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I loved to fly planes when I was 20-25 years old. I hope to be able to get my licence in Canada in the coming years to discover this country in more detail, from the sky.
I stay inspired by… Curious people, because they are naturally creative. I am also fascinated and inspired by developments in technology. I believe that we are currently living in the high-tech revolution, and I hope it will help us to innovate quickly to discover new personalized drugs for neurodegenerative disorders.
The future excites me because… Scientists will find a way to cure neurodegenerative diseases!]
My next step is… Find a cure for neurodegenerative disorders! Now I had better get back to my mini-brains to make it happen!