Follow your passion. Never shy away from anything because it “looks hard.” In reality everything is hard until you take the time to work at it, then it becomes easy.
Who is Anna?
My name is Anna Ampaw and I am a woman of colour in STEM. I am currently completing my doctorate degree at the University of Ottawa in the field of bioorganic chemistry. I love learning, teaching, and everything science. I believe that science is all around us and therefore it should be accessible knowledge for everyone. This is why I strive to share my knowledge and to eliminate the idea of science being difficult. Growing up in different areas of Canada, I was usually one of the only few “dark-skinned” females in my classes, and then when I got into a science program in university, I realized that it didn’t change. As the years progress, I would like this to change and I would like to see the multiculturalism that is represented in the world, also be represented in the STEM field.
University of Ottawa
Canadian Blood Services Graduate Fellowship (2017-present)
Anna Wilson Scholarship (2015)
How did you choose to pursue this field?
I chose to pursue this field because of my interest and curiosity for science and specifically chemistry. Chemistry was also an easy subject for me growing up so I also just went for what I was good at.
Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?
One of my role models who influenced me to pursue science at the graduate level was a graduate student named Chantelle. She worked in the lab that I did my co-op term in during my undergraduate degree. I really looked up to her because she was beautiful, smart, kind, hard-working, and a great teacher; which was everything that I wanted to be.
Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?
I have always loved science but I did not intend to pursue it at a graduate level. Rather, ever since high school, I wanted to become a dentist. I even took the admissions test, collected all my references and applied to several schools in Canada, however, I got rejected from each and every one of them. After applying for the 3rd time and getting rejected from several schools, I felt like God was directing me toward a different path which was my other passion, chemistry.
What do you love most about your job or career?
I love how every day is a new adventure. The one thing I hate is routine work, so being in a profession where I can manage my own schedule, try new reactions, solve problems, make new compounds; I just love it!
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?
The most rewarding aspect I would say is getting to a level that I can pour into people and inspire many, either through teaching, mentoring, or just being one of the few black females in my position.
What things would you change about your job?
How tedious organic chemistry can be!
What are the most difficult things or disappointing aspect of your job?
When you’ve planned out a reaction scheme on paper thinking that it would work and you spend weeks, maybe even months trying to do it and you realize that it’s just not possible.
How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?
Throughout my years in this field, I have noticed that there are very few of us women of colour. Being a minority all my life, I just own it. It’s who I am and I cannot change my skin colour. Yes I may get looks, I may get overlooked, I may get doubted, but I belong in this field just as much as everyone else does.
What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?
Don’t let anyone intimidate you. You are just as smart, just as educated, just as able to do well and even better than anyone else in your field. There is a reason why you have a passion for science, don’t shy away because you feel like you don’t fit in. Don’t be afraid to be different.
What tips would you offer for anyone thinking about entering into your profession?
For anyone that wants to study at the PhD level in any STEM field I would first say that make sure you love what you are doing. PhD is a long, tiring, and stressful journey, but it can also bring a lot of joy and satisfaction IF you like the work you’re doing. The person you choose to be your supervisor can also have a HUGE effect on your experience. Make sure you choose a supervisor that can also be a mentor to you, someone who can support you, provide you with opportunities and someone who has paved the way for you so you don’t have to struggle as much. Lastly, don’t loose your life during grad school. Balance is everything. Try to do a lot extracurricular activities and have fun outside of school so you can keep your sanity.
Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?
Follow your passion. Never shy away from anything because it “looks hard.” In reality, everything is hard until you take the time to work at it, then it becomes easy.
What is your favorite quote?
Do your best and allow God to do the rest.”
To me, this quote means that once I work hard and do all that I can do, I can then rely on God to work everything out for me.
How has your family been a great influence or support system?
My family has been great during this journey. They were actually the ones who encouraged me to do my Ph.D. I am really thankful for them supporting me in everything that I do.
What are your future goals related to your career?
I would love to get a tenured professorship position at a university (for my day job). I would also love to travel the world and encourage more young girls to go into STEM, as well as provide the necessary equipment and teaching supplies for students in third world countries.
What are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share?
Contact Anna for any further questions: