• Question: Who do you look up to and why?

    Asked by EllaJ on 4 May 2020.
    • Photo: Linnea Drexhage

      Linnea Drexhage answered on 4 May 2020:


      Hi Ella, I think this is very different for everybody. I was never much of a fangirl myself because I thought idolising people can make you, under some circumstances, a bit blind. Nobody is perfect and this is true for oneself as well as for other people. So for me personally, I look up to parts of personalities and the journey that lead to achievements. I believe that there is something admirable in everyone but I’ve always been impressed by people who struggled and were still the most generous and kind person in the whole room. I am impressed by smart or hard-working people but also by people who show stamina, resilience or can find humour in a bad situation. The way I see it is, that if one can find something to appreciate and get inspired by everyone around, one will have a never ending source of inspiration!

    • Photo: Anabel Martinez Lyons

      Anabel Martinez Lyons answered on 4 May 2020: last edited 4 May 2020 8:43 am


      Hi Ella- thanks for your question. I look up to my mum & dad – they used to tell my siblings and I to say ‘yes’ to opportunities or try things out even if they frightened us. Like getting involved in new sports or hobbies, or applying to universities we thought we couldn’t get into, or later on in life, job positions we thought we wouldn’t get. I definitely now as an adult will work hard to try to better myself and do things I didn’t think I could, especially if I’m a bit nervous about whether I can do them. Like, this past week I ran 5km every day for the week just to prove to myself I could – my parents are the ones to thank for that mentality :-).

    • Photo: Ailith Ewing

      Ailith Ewing answered on 4 May 2020:


      Hi Ella, like Anabel I look up to the people that have believed in me and pushed me to reach to take opportunities. For me that includes my parents but also mentors at work that have really pushed me to develop my career. I think there’s a lot to be said for taking that leap of faith and doing things that are outwith your comfort zone and that are a bit scary. I also find inspiration in the memory of my Grandma who was a really clever lady and who never lost that desire to keep learning things and exposing herself to new things and experiences.

    • Photo: Kim Liu

      Kim Liu answered on 4 May 2020: last edited 4 May 2020 9:09 am


      I mostly admire and look up to my friends/family, colleagues at work and mentors over the years, as I know them and their qualities very well. I often find there is a lot I can learn and improve myself from them, and, of course, the strengths vary from friend to friend; they show me new interests, new ways of thinking and new ethics and values.
      Having said that, I enjoy being inspired by people I don’t really know, but Linnea is absolutely right about idolisation of individuals you don’t have a real connection to (sometimes called ‘parasocial relationships’) sometimes being problematic. Nonetheless, I can’t fail to be impressed and inspired by people who are the best in the world at things I enjoy doing or interested in, such as scientists (currently David Liu and Frances Arnold), YouTube content creators (Kurzgesagt & Philosophy Tube) and climbers.

    • Photo: Ana Cruz

      Ana Cruz answered on 4 May 2020:


      Hi Ella,

      As a scientist, I look up to women who have shattered the glass ceiling of scientific innovation and understanding and have had incredible careers that have got them to very prestigious academic posts. These are women that have had to work very very hard to get to where they are and are very inspiring to talk to/work with. We all think they must have had a very linear and easy path to get to where they are (or got lucky) but quite often they have taken decades away from science to raise children and come back like superheroes!!

      In my personal life, I look up to my mum and older sisters (who are all medical doctors and pharmacists) because they are the kindest, most rational humans I know and inspire me to keep working hard and achieving my dreams.

    • Photo: Soudabeh Imanikia

      Soudabeh Imanikia answered on 4 May 2020:


      Dear Ella, what a nice question. I do agree with others that it is different person to person.

      I do look up to my grandfather, who could not read or write, he could stamp his name only. But he was the one who taught me to dream big, aim for my target and work hard to achieve it.

      He inspired me, he opened my eyes to building my future when I was 5-6 years old. He told me that as a girl, I should learn to be independent and I should work hard to achieve whatever I want. I shouldn’t be scared to share my opinion or to disagree when needed. He has been my inspirational idol more than any scientist or public figure.
      So regardless of the fact that my grandfather has left us over 11 years ago, he is the reason why I am a scientist today! I still look up to him. A man who was so knwoledgeable yet due to life difficulties could not read. He would take me to the bookstore and let me roam around and pick for myself. He is my ultimate “look up to” person

    • Photo: Theresa Wacker

      Theresa Wacker answered on 4 May 2020:


      Hi Ella,
      thank you for your question, you really made me think. I agree with what Linnea and Kim wrote and I find for myself, there are many different people I met along the way which I look up to and appreciate for different reasons. There is this one mentor who always has an open door for everyone and approaches everyone with empathetic kindness – and is not afraid to say when he actually does not know what to say.There is one friend who has overcome incredible adversity and has managed to keep faith in humanity and the world and have a really hopeful attitude. There is a fellow PhD student with an enthusiasm for her topic that is downright impressive. She glows when she talks about it. There is the neighbours child I chatted with this morning that showed a curiosity in things I barely noticed and approached them with said curiosity in a way that made me admire them a bit. There is my dad who is incredibly hard working….. Quintessentially, when you go through life, you will meet people you are inspired by and appreciate along the way. Keep your eyes and mind open, they are everywhere. And, if you can, let them know about it. Everybody can use a bit of kindness and appreciation every now and then ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Photo: Emma Lloyd

      Emma Lloyd answered on 4 May 2020:


      Hi Ella, I look up to quite a few people! Mainly my parents, both of which have worked very hard throughout their lives, my dad especially who finished his PhD in the early 90s without the use of Google or the internet. I have become reliant on the internet for finding the many papers I have read for my PhD, so my admiration for him increased greatly.

      I also look up to any hard working, strong women in STEM and particularly those who successfully communicate science, whether it be their research or not, to the public. There are some amazing sci-comm accounts on twitter!

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 4 May 2020:


      Thanks for the question Ella J – this one is really tough; there are so many scientists in different fields that have inspired me (molecular and circadian biologists, physicists, neuroscientists, my biology teacher at school, my brother who is a structural biologist)โ€ฆ..however if I had to pick just oneโ€ฆI would have to say the Scottish vet Dr John B Glen who discovered and developed the drug propofol โ€“ one of the most widely used anaesthetics worldwide (it has been used in millions of humans and animals in more than 90 countries). In 2018 he won the prestigious Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (only the second veterinarian to win this prize in 73 years). Dr Glen is an exemplary clinician-scientist who has used his scientific and clinical training to teach others in anaesthesia and create a new drug that has had a major impact on human and animal health and welfare, and has revolutionised medicine. I use propofol almost every day in the clinic โ€“ it allows me to anaesthetise and recover patients quickly so that I can make diagnoses and perform life-changing surgeries in the minimum amount of time, with minimum pain and distress. If you have ever undergone a general anaesthetic, it is very likely that you received propofol โ€“ and thanks to this, you will have felt no pain and have no memory of what happened whilst you were under anaesthesia.

    • Photo: Roberta Migale

      Roberta Migale answered on 4 May 2020: last edited 4 May 2020 1:13 pm


      Hi Ella, what a great question! Having scanned in my head all the people I respect and admire in my life I can tell you they all have in common honesty, passion for what they do and they believe in, modesty and kindness. None of them necessarily has all these qualities :)) but I look up to them because from each I can learn something and improve myself ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Photo: Martin Law

      Martin Law answered on 4 May 2020:


      Hi Ella,

      Thanks for your question. In terms of science, I look up to people who can do complicated research and can also explain it in a way that anyone can understand. A great person for this is David Spiegelhalter, who has great videos on YouTube and who has written some really interesting books on statistics, aimed at people who don’t know anything about statistics.

      In general life, I look up to lots of people. I look up to anyone who deals with things that I couldn’t. For example, a person who spends all day driving a huge lorry, or a person who works two low-paying jobs to provide food for their family. There are a large number of people in the world who cope with difficult lives, and I admire anyone in that situation.

    • Photo: Patricia Brown

      Patricia Brown answered on 4 May 2020:


      I don’t look up to one person but many people I have interacted with. Many people can influence the way I think about things… for example, when I admire someone’s patience it may inspire me to think about whether I am patient with others and how I can better myself. When I admire someone’s perseverance, it will remind me to keep going even when things get difficult in the lab or in life. I get a bit of inspiration here and there along the way!

    • Photo: James Loan

      James Loan answered on 4 May 2020: last edited 4 May 2020 4:18 pm


      Hi Ella,

      Great question. I think its definitely worth thinking about who inspires you and how they might influence your choices in life. All the previous answers have important thoughts about who to let inspire you. I think the most important thing is to have a think about what sort of person you want to be and what sort of career/life journey you’d like (doesn’t have to be a final decision.. just vague ideas are fine). When you meet people who have achieved a portion of those goals, think about what they did to get there and what opportunities they had. Are there any ways in which you can emulate them?

      Not everyone has the same luck or chances, so don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t see yourself at the same starting point as whoever inspired you. Think about their attitudes and behaviours. Often you create your own luck by going about things in a positive, creative, intellectual or scientific manner ๐Ÿ™‚

      But I haven’t answered your question: I’m have been particularly inspired by David Nott (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Nott); he is a surgeon who trained and worked in the UK and has travelled all over the world to war zones and disasters to help provide emergency care. He has done a load of good and remains very humble and unassuming. Importantly he has championed recognition of the challenging emotional aspects of surgery, which is often neglected and tries to make sustainable improvements to the places he travels to through his work training local surgeons. Weirdly, medical problems that make people very sick very quickly (such as injuries) are often not widely studied by researchers – they are difficult to study because you need to be fast, and often work in difficult circumstances. So I’m inspired by David Nott to persevere and try to use science and research to help people affected by brain injuries in war, disasters and areas of the world that don’t have much access to doctors or healthcare.

    • Photo: Eleanor Raffan

      Eleanor Raffan answered on 4 May 2020:


      A good friend of mine – she’s smart, kind, funny and holding down a really impressive science based job in public health (kinda important right now) while being a great mum and spouse. There are heaps of great role models out there but I try to remember that there’s no point in copying other peoples’ route – we all have to play to our own strengths and find a path that works for us.

    • Photo: Petra Fischer

      Petra Fischer answered on 7 May 2020:


      Hi Ella, I have immense respect for anybody who is working towards making the world a more collaborative and considerate place, no matter at what scale.

    • Photo: Giulia Paci

      Giulia Paci answered on 7 May 2020:


      Hi Ella thank you for your question – I think there’s several people I’ve looked up to for very different reasons. Surely my parents who are not scientist but extremely curious, open-minded and inspirational – for example they have started learning Greek at the age of 50 (with a completely different alphabet from our language!) out of interest and passion into Greek culture and they now speak it fluently ๐Ÿ™‚ Scientifically, as a kid I was really impressed by the physicist Stephen Hawkin – I read an article about him on a magazine we had at home and I was inspired by the fact that he could be a scientist and make amazing contributions while battling a severe and debilitating disease.

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