Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
...because we care

In conversation with Cambridge Immunology student Aure Aflalo

A headshot of a young woman smiling.

For International Women’s Day, our Marketing and Comms Officer Kevin Satizabal, talks to 22-year-old Cambridge graduate student and LOOK mentor Aure Aflalo. Aure talks about her masters in Immunology and what it takes to prepare for a career in science as a visually impaired woman.

What first got you interested in science?

“I’ve always been a curious person, and as I grew up, I realised that understanding how humans work is what drives me. Being able to understand the immune system is really amazing but being able to apply that knowledge to help people is even better. For example, as part of my masters I’m working on how we can ‘hack’ the immune system in order to kill cancer cells, so this work can really make a difference.”

What’s it been like studying Immunology as a visually impaired student?

“As I’ve been going through university, I’ve had the occasional lecturer who forgets to send work to me in advance, but on the whole I’ve had a very positive experience as a student, and I have a group of very supportive friends. When applying for internships, I have faced labs making excuses for not asking me to work for them after they heard I was visually impaired. At first, I always tried to disclose my visual impairment during interview, but now I’ve decided that I’ll disclose on the first day. Before I wasn’t aware of what I could and couldn’t do. Now I’ve had more experience and I know there is a lot that I can achieve with minimal adaptions on the labs side.”

How do you get around some of the more visual aspects of working in a lab?

“I really struggle looking down microscopes, which is not very practical when you have to do that every day, when you’re handling cells. I use a microscope which has a screen attached to it and that means I can get closer without having the actual eye piece. I also have a pair of glasses, where one lens has been replaced by a monocular, so one eye looks through a magnifier and this is completely hands free. That really helps because instead of getting closer to see items, I can work at distance, which is important when you have to work in sterile conditions.”

What’s it been like mentoring at LOOK?

“It’s been really good. My mentee is really interested in science and he has been asking me questions about what it’s like to work in science as a visually impaired person. I would have loved to have been able to ask these questions of someone when I was doing my A levels. Knowing and understanding some of the challenges he may face and being able to do something about preparing my mentee or even preventing some of the challenges is great.”

What would you say to any visually impaired people who are thinking of a career in science?

“I would say try and talk to other visually impaired people who are working in science.
I would also say never give up without having tried.
In science, things sometimes don’t work, and it’s not because you’re VI. However, sometimes things don’t work, and it is because you’re VI. That doesn’t mean you can’t do that task again, it just means you have to find a way to adapt and ask for support from your colleagues.”

If you’re visually impaired and aged 11-29, visit our Mentoring Project page to find out more about our free peer to peer mentoring programme.

Below are the pages available to read on our website:
Welcome / LOOK People / Blog / Membership / What we do / LOOK Helpline / Events / LOOK Magazine / OutLOOK Youth Project / OutLOOK Audio Magazine / Friends / Fund Raising / Run for LOOK / Donations / Legacy Gifts / Holiday Flat / Contact / Feedback / OutLOOK Connect / Links / Parent Groups / Youth Groups / Education / Accessibility / Accessibility Options / Change Viewing Styles / Browser Help