Erin Leitao is a Lecturer in the School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Auckland.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
I studied science in high school in a small town on Vancouver Island in Canada. At the University of Victoria (Canada) I found my passion for chemistry which became more specifically inorganic chemistry during my PhD at the University of Calgary under the tutelage of Prof. Warren Piers. After my PhD, I moved to the UK where I did research in the group of Prof. Ian Manners at the University of Bristol.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Yes - my love for science started as a young child and over the years became more and more specific as I discovered that I was mostly interested in chemistry. I am now researching ways to make new inorganic polymers and have the privilege to teach future science leaders at the University of Auckland.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
Go after what you are passionate about (not necessarily the courses you are getting your best marks in). Your career is going to determine why you get up in the morning so you better love it! Also, don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way, there are many pathways you can take to get the career you like – an open mind and perseverance will go a long way.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
My main career highlights so far have been (i) exploring the world by living in different locations for my education and research training (ii) meeting Nobel prize winning chemists (iii) moving my family across the world to NZ after securing a job at the University of Auckland.
Why do you believe engaging in STEM – whether it’s working in the field, studying it or just educating one’s self around the issues – is important to New Zealand?
STEM helps us to explain how things in the world interact, breakdown and function. Understanding our surroundings and discovering new things enriches our lives. It is important to engage in STEM everywhere in the world to maximize innovation.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
Diversity in STEM is important as tackling the worlds’ most complex issues requires diversity in thinking which arises from the collaboration of men and women across many different fields.
Erin Leitao is a Lecturer in the School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Auckland. Read the Leitao Lab blog.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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