Ute Kothe

Associate Professor in Biochemistry, University of Lethbridge, Canada

In order to pursue her curiosity to understand the molecular basis of life, Ute Kothe decided to study biochemistry at the University of Regensburg and the Ruhr University Bochum where she received her pre-Diploma. Subsequently, she transferred to the private University of Witten/Herdecke leading to her Diploma in Biochemistry in 2002. During her undergraduate studies, Ute Kothe seized several opportunities for research internships both in the pharmaceutical industry (3M Medica and Bayer) as well as at research institutes (MPI Dortmund and IGBMC Strasbourg). Next, Ute Kothe pursued her Ph.D. studies in Physical Biochemistry in the research group of Dr. Marina Rodnina at the University of Witten/Herdecke. For her Ph.D. research, Ute Kothe was awarded the Altana Ph.D. Award 2007 of the Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM). In her last year of Ph.D. studies, Ute Kothe successfully applied for a tenure-track position hemistry at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, where she became Assistant Professor in Biochemistry in 2006. Since then, Ute Kothe has established her independent research group investigating formation of the cellular protein factories called ribosomes. She has been granted tenure, was promoted to Associate Professor and has recently become a research chair. In addition to her research activities, Ute Kothe has founded a science outreach program and is actively involved in the Teaching Center at the University of Lethbridge where she facilitates teaching workshops for other faculty members. In recognition of these activities, Ute Kothe has been the youngest recipient of the University of Lethbridge Distinguished Teaching Award. Ute Kothe is married to an Associate Professor in Biochemistry and has three children aged three to seventeen.

Pursuing a career in academia: making conscious choices

A career in academia promises the freedom to pursue independent research questions and to fulfill one's passion for the curiosity-driven generation of new knowledge. Often viewed as less important, an academic career also allows training the next generation of scientist and possibly accumulating recognition among world-leading researchers. On the other hand, it requires significant perseverance and tolerance towards frustrations to handle the slow progress in research and to accept the uncertain career perspectives in particular in the early stages of an academic career. Given the very competitive job market for obtaining permanent research positions, there is obviously a significant risk associated with pursuing an academic career.
Reflecting on my own experiences in becoming a tenured Associated Professor, I will discuss the importance of making conscious decisions at every stage of the career to balance internal motivations and external constraints. Moreover, I will address the often unconscious biases that women still encounter in who are pursuing an academic career. Taken together, I hope to stimulate a conversation on how we can approach personal choices while also shaping a future for women in science with less external constraints affecting career decisions.

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