Alexa Garin-Fernandez, PhD
Scientist and scientific cartoonist
Chilean woman living in Germany
What is your job?
I just finished my PhD in Marine Microbiology, which I focused
on phage ecology. I am fascinated by the microbial world,
these invisible inhabitants that are present in every
environment. In my thesis, I studied phages (viruses of bacteria)
present the North Sea, and also how certain phages could give
new features to infected bacteria.
Currently, I just started working as a freelance in science
communication. Through comics and cartoons, I highlight the
diversity of the microbial world and show the diversity of
people in science.
When did you first realize you wanted to
Since I can remember I was interested in science and art, and I
was always interested to understand our world (and beyond!).
My mom is a nurse, so I got amazed by the importance and
power of microorganisms while hearing her work-related
stories. I was ~10 years old when Dolly the sheep was cloned,
and then I wanted to be a genetic engineer, but that study was
not available in my region, so I enrolled in Biotechnology.
Who were your role models growing up?
From my family were my mom and my grandpa, who is a teacher
and also really active to keep our Aymara’s culture (indigenous
community). Both gave me the support to be proud of who I
am and taught me that no one should tell us that we are not
able to do something because of our heritage, gender, social
context, etc. We are valid and able to reach our dreams! They
inspired and supported me to be a scientist and study abroad.
Did you ever want to do anything else?
Artist. Therefore, I am really glad that I could follow my dream
to study science and now I can bring it together with arts in
Have you ever had any setbacks or been
told you are a girl so cannot do tech?
Many times, not only of my gender but also for my heritage.
Unfortunately, the sexist and misogynist comments are
common in our culture. Sometimes I felt angry about, but I took
that energy to probe them that they are wrong and a girl is
completely able to do STEM! Nowadays I simply do not hear
that prejudicial people and I hear more to inspiring women and
What’s one thing you’d like to change
about the STEM community?
The competition and elitism in academia, which give the feel
e.g. that you are better by the number of publications is
something I would like to change.
Is there a problem with sexism in the
Yes. The support and inclusion in STEM still need a lot of work
for gender equality. I feel lucky that I never have major
discrimination issues (except comments mentioned above).
But especially for mothers, it can be hard to stay in science, more
now in quarantine times. While men are publishing more
frequent, women scientist are reducing the number of
published papers. This is “surprising” for many editors, but this
is only a consequence of gender equality issues in the STEM
What’s your message for young girls
wanting to do STEM?
Just go for it! It is an awesome path.
Does not matter what you would do in your life as a woman,
someone will criticize you. So, please do not hear them and go
to find something that makes you happy, your dreams are valid
and more important ;)
What is your favourite science joke?
I do not know if this is a joke, but I love the quotes: “Bacteria,
It's the Only Culture Some People Have!” and “If you feel alone,
remember there are thousands of microorganisms living with
and for you”
What is the most embarrassing
moment in your life?
Uff…I have many embarrassing moments. But right now I
remember that after a sampling campaign, some samples got
lost and years afterwards they appeared… in my samples box!
We never knew if they were there since the beginning, but I felt
really embarrassed about. At least, they still could use those
What is your favourite food?
Not any specific dish, but I love all the street-food from my
What is your favourite shop?
I have three places I love to go when I want to shop: local Flea
markets, stationery shop, and Zine libraries.
Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us! It has been incredible to hear about your experiences within the STEM community! It is so inspiring to read about! we wish you all the best in the future and thank you again! Another thank you to our readers - stay tuned for future interviews!