Published Feb 9, 2024
This International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’re putting the spotlight on Eilish Marra. Eilish is a Research Assistant at Victoria University of Wellington's Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation. She’s been working with Wellington UniVentures to bring her smart footwear for diabetic foot ulcers, SoftSense, to market. We asked her a few questions about her experience as a young female research entrepreneur.
Why did you decide to become a researcher and, later, turn your research into a business venture?
I started this project, designing 3D printable force sensors, when I was completing my undergraduate design degree and then that followed onto a master's degree. Through that process I realized that I really enjoyed the continuous ideation and iteration process that comes with developing something new and the excitement of succeeding after many failures. As the research progressed, I began to see that we had a really novel idea that could potentially solve a lot of problems. That then led me to start talking to people in various industries where I eventually found a promising market in diabetic ulcer prevention and management.
Women are underrepresented in both science and entrepreneurship. What has been your experience as a young woman working at the intersection of these two fields?
When I was envisioning my career, I always thought that I would be working in design aesthetics, because that's what I thought I was naturally good at. But I have been very lucky to encounter a lot of great people that have encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and do things that challenged me. Now that I am working in science and entrepreneurship, I really appreciate the self-determination this field allows.
How can women be better supported in research entrepreneurship?
From the outside, science and entrepreneurship can seem like unattainable career paths because we don’t have much exposure to these fields as young people. I believe the best support comes from people in the education system encouraging their students, regardless of gender, to do things beyond their comfort zones.
What are you currently working on, and what’s next for you?
I am currently developing a 3D printed footwear technology for diabetic ulcer patients to help them better manage their foot health. We are still in the tech development and trail phase but would love to speak with anyone in the diabetic ulcer or med tech field.