Chemical engineer Rossitza Gueorguieva Alargova’s letter to her teen self March 12, 2012Posted by Science Club for Girls in Letter to Young Self.
Tags: women in science
To: Rossitza Gueorguieva
October 6th, 1978
From: Rossitza Gueorguieva Alargova, PhD
October 6th, 2011
You are sitting at your desk after another long day in your first month of high school and you are wondering how many more days like this one you could possibly take. It is a beautiful late afternoon outside and the magic of autumn colors is everywhere. Fall is your favorite season and usually on a day like this you would be walking outside and enjoying the last warmth of the year. However, today you are so tired and a bit desperate because your dream of becoming a scientist is fading. Tears fill your eyes magnifying the blossoms of the beautiful autumn flowers in front of your window. Was your dad right when he was told you that you should follow your dreams and that you could do anything you want if you worked hard? It all seems so uncertain and even impossible now and just talking to dad again does not seem to help at all.
You have no idea how much I want to be there with you and how much I want to tell you – Please don’t worry, go after your dreams and everything will be alright. You have no idea what a remarkable life is ahead of you, and that small obstacles like your physics teacher will not spoil the magic of learning and discovering new worlds. They will just make you stronger and more determined to reach your goals. Please wipe your tears and go for a nice long walk outside while I keep whispering to you about the future.
Well, let me start with the bad news: you will have to deal with your horrible physics teacher for the next three years. However, your love for physics will remain strong and will even grow. Memorizing Newton’s laws by heart will not wipe away the beauty of learning and understanding the fundamentals of mechanics, dynamics and electricity.
Your life will keep going up and down like a roller coaster
The good news is that the fear from your chemistry teacher will go away very soon. You will not only start to love chemistry more, but your teacher will become one of your best mentors and will most definitely make you choose chemistry as a major in college. Your math teacher will continue being great, inspirational, and funny and you will enjoy many sessions of learning various tricks for solving math problem while laughing your heart out because of the jokes he tells so very seriously. Yes, math isn’t and never will be boring for you.
In a month or so you will find one of your best friends and you will spend tons of great time with her studying, listening to your favorite bands, dreaming together. She will remain a great friend throughout your life and you will share the same passion for science.
A few years later, in your first college year (again in October), you will meet a wonderful man who will become your soul mate and your greatest mentor. He will keep encouraging you for years to come and because of him you will be able to reach for the sky and turn your dreams into reality. You will get married to him and have a wonderful baby boy just a year before you earn your master’s degree in chemical engineering. But don’t be scared and don’t look at this as a drawback. On the contrary the smile of your son will make you work much harder and you will graduate successfully with high scores.
Then your life will keep going up and down like a roller coaster, but you will have a great time at the “ups” and you will gain most of your life experience at the “downs”. You will keep dreaming and your dreams will bring you all around the world. Your first job will be in a pharmaceutical company in the heart of a beautiful mountain where in addition to learning how to manage 10-15 technicians that are just a few years younger than you, you will also have your first skiing experience. In about three years later you will find a job as a research scientific associate at the Department of Chemistry, Sofia University, Sofia, Bulgaria which will bring you one step closer to your dream. While working there you will earn a master’s degree in environmental science and a PhD degree in physical chemistry.
Your passion for science will bring you to France, Japan, United States… What? You don’t believe this is ever going to happen? Trust me, it will. The future will bring changes not just to your life but to the world around you. Bulgaria will become a democratic country in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin wall and you will be able to travel the world as much as you want. You will work for four years as a research scientist in Japan Marine Science and Technology Center studying the physicochemical environment of deep-sea extremophiles (microorganisms living at extreme conditions such as high pressure and temperature). And yes, you will come to the United States and this will become your second home country (it’s so hard to believe it because it seems so impossible in 1978, I know, but trust me it will happen). After a year working in the area of nanotechnology at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, you will fall back in love with pharmaceutical science and will find a job in Cambridge, MA working on discovering and developing novel medicines for hard-to-treat diseases.
And one last thing: you will remain the same dreamer and you will keep exploring the surrounding world with the same great curiosity. So shape up, go back to your desk, prepare to work hard and embrace all of the possibilities that life will present to you.
Bye now, my dear Rossitza, see you in 33 years in Boston Commons for another long walk on a beautiful fall afternoon.
With all my love,
Rossitza G. Alargova is a Senior Scientist in the Formulation Development Department of Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cambridge, MA. Prior to joining Vertex she was a research chemist at Sofia University, visiting fellow in CNRS, France, research scientist at Japan Marine Science and Technology Center, Yokosuka, Japan, and a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering, NCSU, Raleigh, NC. She holds a master’s degrees in chemical engineering from the High Institute of Chemical Technology, Burgas, Bulgaria, a master’s degree in environmental science and a PhD in physical chemistry from University of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria. Her research interests include pharmaceutical formulation and preformulation, drug delivery, nano-technology, material science, colloid and interface science. She is a coauthor of 29 technical papers published in international journals, 3 patents, and over 50 conference presentations.