Women of STEM

The rising star: Elina Aino Johanna Pörsti

The daughter of a physics teacher and a medical doctor, Elina Aino Johanna Pörsti grew up in Finland in a family where scientific dialogue was second nature. When there was thunder, her father would explain the physics behind it, while her mother would explain the human body.

As a child she showed her entrepreneurial spirit, when she set up her own pharmacy on the beach.

Image copyright BBC/Helen Briggs Image caption Elina Aino Johanna Pörsti

“Stones were the different medicines – and then people had to come to me and then tell what is wrong and then I would give them the right medicine,” she says.

At school she did a biology course in gene editing, which set the course for her future career.

“It’s amazing that you could extract DNA and work in a lab and I thought it sounded super cool and something I’d be able to do,” she says.

“For me personally I’m fascinated by science because I like to understand and there’s always more to understand and there is always more to read and learn.”

She studied molecular science at the University of Helsinki and gained an MBA from Copenhagen. She is now a scientist at the Novo Nordisk Research Centre Oxford working on the discovery of new diagnostic tools.

She says at school in Finland, everyone was treated the same, which is critical for enhancing women’s position in science.

“In thinking how we can enhance women’s position in science generally I think the work should start early on,” she says.

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