International Women's Day - An interview with Barbara Marebwa

Barbara Marebwa
Student, College of Graduate Studies
Tell me about yourself and your role here at MUSC. 
Growing up, my first dream was medicine but then that slowly changed when I was introduced to computer science. I studied bioinformatics and computational biology during my undergraduate in Germany. During my second year, I had completed all of my subject electives and I had to pick a new field of study from another school. I chose to study neuroscience and I loved it. I wanted to find a way where I could merge neuroscience and computer science into some sort of career. During my masters, I began researching and came across Dr. Troy Herter’s work at USC Columbia with stroke patients and robotics. I actually emailed him and told him I would like to write my thesis and he kindly accepted. I am currently a biomedical imaging PhD student in the College of Graduate Studies.
Who is one woman who has impacted your life? 
My mom was actually a teacher but then she was trained as an educator and also an administrator. She also worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Kenya. In terms of just the way she is as a person – she’s extremely hard working. She motivates me and encourages me to do my best. She is compassionate and would give up a lot of her dreams for me. She is my number one fan. 
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself? 
Dream more. Worry less. Slow down and enjoy the here and now. 
What main changes would you like to see for young women in science in the next generation?
I hope women in this generation and the next have the opportunity to be mentored from an early age. I hope they have bountiful opportunities to explore and develop a passion for science.  
Where do you see yourself in the future? 
When I graduate, I would like to continue with the line of research that I am in. I have even thought about possibly doing research for a non-profit organization in the future. It sounds really cliché but I hope to make a positive impact with the kind of work I do. 
This year’s IWD campaign theme focuses on building a more “gender-balanced world”. What does gender balance mean to you?
A gender balanced world is one where we have equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal pay for everyone regardless of gender. 
Who are your female icons? 
I like women who are encouraging or who I can look up to. Women like Malala Yousafzai who spoke up and fought for education to her own personal detriment. Women like Rosalind Franklin who have made substantial contributions even when they were not recognized.  And then there are women like Michelle Obama who have this amazing platform, and they use that platform to exhibit positivity, promote kindness and encourage other women. 
Do you have a favorite hobby?
I love traveling, seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, and meeting new people. I also enjoy taking Zumba classes. It’s a fun way to unwind and release some stress.  I love it!