Women in STEM: “For a team to thrive you need to understand and embrace the differences” with Dr. Amira Val Baker and Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Aug 23 · 9 min read

For a team to thrive you need to understand and embrace the differences. We all have unique abilities and strengths, and these should be utilized to achieve the best results for the team objective. I love that meme of the people of various height standing in behind a fence, which presents this brilliantly.

As a part of my series featuring accomplished women in STEM, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Amira Val Baker,a research scientist at Torus Tech laboratories and the Institute for Unified Science. Her work focuses on black holes from a unified physics perspective which sees black holes as the connecting factor between subatomic matter and cosmology. Amira graduated with an Msci in Astrophysics from UCL (University College London) where her Master thesis was on the modelling of UV irradiance levels and ozone layer depletion trends. She holds a PhD in Astrophysics from the Open University under the supervision of Dr Andrew Norton and on the topic of high-mass x-ray binary stars, neutron stars and black holes. As a scientist Amira has a deep passion for education developed through her work as a science tutor, teacher and coordinator in science education and publication with experience working at the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme and the Royal Society Publishing.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

From a young age I was always good at mathematics and used to ponder on the meaning of life and where we came from. A defining moment for me was when I was 4 years old and my grandfather died. Trying to comprehend what that meant I visualized him not existing, and then his house not existing, the town, the country, the world, the solar system and up and up until I couldn’t fathom any higher perspective. This sent chills down my spine and made me want to understand our existence. My dad helped nurture this by introducing me into the theories of Rupert Sheldrake, Roger Penrose and David Bohm. However, being a bit of a rebel, it was not at all obvious that I would go to university. This happened by a few fortuitous events which led me to taking physics class and then applying to study astrophysics at university.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

The most interesting story is the work that we get to do every day and the myriad of scientists, engineers and research collaborators that we work with. Science is the exploration of knowledge, and the emphasis should be exploration. At Torus Tech Laboratories and the Unified Science Institute, formerly the Hawaii Institute for Unified Physics, we follow a unified science approach which is centered on a common unifying element across all of the sciences. This interdisciplinary approach makes for never dull moment with continuous learning and exploration.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes are a part of life and an essential part of learning and developing as a human being. A lot of the mistakes I made at the beginning were mostly cultural and in hindsight quite funny. The lesson I learned and am still learning is not to take things personally.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What stands out about the company I work for is the fact that they think outside the box and they aren’t afraid to tackle the seemingly impossible challenges.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My work focuses on black holes from a unified perspective which sees black holes as the connecting factor between subatomic matter and cosmology. We have just published two papers, one on the vacuum catastrophe which addresses the 122 orders of magnitude discrepancy between the vacuum density at the quantum scale and that at the cosmological scale — and one on the nature of the electron. Both papers utilize the generalized holographic approach of Nassim Haramein, the director of research at Torus Tech Laboratories. This approach expands on the work of physicists David Bohm, Jacob Bekenstein and Stephen Hawking and starts by defining a fundamental bit of the Universe. When the energy of any spherical system is described in terms of these fundamental bits of information i.e. its entropy, we find a relationship between the surface entropy and the volume entropy. This holographic relationship between the interior and the exterior defines the mass expressed by the system at any given moment while the inverse defines mass-energy density of the system — or as described by David Bohm, the unfolded and the enfolded. This model is proving to have huge implications and our research efforts are continuing in this direction with a focus on proof of concept prototypes in the field of vacuum energy and related resonance energy technologies.

Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

Being brought up in England with a very encouraging father and no perceivable equality issues at the schools, colleges and universities I attended, I have never had a strong opinion on this. However, since moving to the United States I can see it is a big issue here. I am not necessarily sure if it is a male female thing or a cultural thing, whatever it is though it toughens you up. To advance science we need the efforts of both the male and female mind, this is paramount and needs to be incorporated into our culture. Although I was fortunate to not experience this kind of negative prejudice, I am very aware that many women experience this and often times it results in them not pursuing their passion for science.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

For a team to thrive you need to understand and embrace the differences. We all have unique abilities and strengths, and these should be utilized to achieve the best results for the team objective. I love that meme of the people of various height standing in behind a fence, which presents this brilliantly.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Communication is key. There needs to be a clear and transparent line of communication.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Every point in time is the accumulation of life’s ups and downs and the people who have helped us along the way. I have been very fortunate to receive guidance, inspiration and support from many people along the way. From my science teacher Mrs. Winter who took a chance with me when I had a 25% school attendance rate, to my physics teacher Mr. Witheridge who encouraged me and my math’s teacher Mrs. Dangerfield who supported me with my University application. Then of course my husband Ariffin who has continuously supported and encouraged me since we met in the final year of my master’s degree. As well the director of research Nassim Haramein, who gave me my current position in the first place. For the most part I have been the only female in the research team, so I am particularly grateful to now have the support of two amazing fellow female scientists, Dr. Ines Urdaneta and Dr Johanna Deinert, who have both recently joined us in our research efforts.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

If I achieve any success, then I would hope it brings goodness to the world. My objective is the search for truth — through the exploration of knowledge. Science is now proving what we have all known intuitively, that we are all connected through a universal field or as we call it in our research publication, that I co-authored with Nassim Haramein and William Brown, a unified space memory network. With this knowledge we can hope to move away from a world of separation and non-responsibility to a world of connection, accountability and goodness. There is a quote I love by Shams of Tabriz that I think presents this beautifully

“The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back — not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.” — Shams of Tabriz

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

As a woman in STEM — which so far is my only adult experience — I think the most important leadership qualities are:

Lead by example.

Doing a PhD is very similar to the traditional method of apprenticeship. You have a mentor who guides and teaches you. Eventually you have your own ideas and make your own decisions, but always learning from them by example. My PhD supervisor was dedicated to science, passionate about the subject and always optimistic yet realistic about what could be achieved, so he was a great example to learn from and I hope I carried some of his positivity and dedication into my work as a scientist.

Integrity.

Being dishonest leads to chaos and stagnation. To progress in the best way, we have to do so in integrity, which means being honest with others and also yourself. This is something we as human beings know inherently, although sometimes fear can lead us to do stupid things. Fortunately for me my Aunty Jane taught me this lesson as a six-year-old. I can still remember her telling me off and since then I have endeavored to be honest with people, although being ‘honest with yourself’ is still a work in progress.

Dedication.

To achieve anything, we have to be dedicated and its much easier to be dedicated to something you are passionate about. It took me a while to be interested in academia, however when I made the decision to pursue science seriously it was easy to dedicate my self to it as it had been a passion of mine since childhood.

Communication skills.

The simplest of tasks can escalate into an avalanche of confusion if effective communication isn’t practiced. I have observed and experienced this in many work situations and it usually boils down to too many cooks in the kitchen.

Balance.

Life work balance is crucial. We reach a saturation point where we can’t be more effective, so to avoid things such as burnout good leaders need to remember this for themselves and also their team members. In academia I have mostly experienced a good work life balance. The team members have proved their dedication and the team leaders understand the life of an academic and have a relationship with their team members built on trust.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Connectivity. This can be in the form of a simple smile. Smiling makes you happy and if you smile at someone, they feel good and smile at someone else and so on and so on …

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” — Jalaluddin Rumi

I have always loved this quote and is something I try to live by.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Russell Brand — I think he is brilliant, intelligent and funny. Queen Rania of Jordan and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai who are both authentic, strong and compassionate women

Thank you fro all of these great insights!

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Fotis Georgiadis

Written by

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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