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It takes curiosity and cooperation

Women of IMC Krems - Focus month “Women in science”

On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and International Women’s Day, IMC Krems presents female scientists and their motives. This time: biomedical scientist Prof.(FH) Jessica Janssen, PhD, MSc, BH.

Prof.(FH) Jessica Janssen, PhD, MSc, BH - It takes curiosity and cooperation: the focus of the "Women in Science" month at IMC Krems.

Born in the Netherlands, Prof.(FH) Jessica Janssen, PhD, MSc, BH completed her master degree in Biomedical Health Sciences in Nijmegen, Netherlands. She then earned a bachelor in Physiotherapy at Utrecht University and a PhD at the University of Otago, New Zealand. She has been a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Therapeutic and Midwifery Sciences at IMC Krems since 2022.

Red flags and scientific collaborations

“I’m interested in all aspects related to physiotherapy and evidence-based practice,” says Janssen, explaining what fascinates her about her scientific work. “There are so many things we don’t know yet. What is working, what isn’t, and how do we make sure that the research results are also used in practice?”

Among other things, the scientist is currently working on so-called red flags. Red flags are signs that a patient may not be suitable for physiotherapy treatment and should be examined by a doctor because his or her pain may be caused by a serious illness. “Last year, we developed examples of clinical cases where red flags occurred. The aim is to use these examples to improve the physiotherapists’ skills to recognise red flags. This year we will test the clinical cases with physiotherapists working in private practices and hospitals. We are working together with the Karl Landsteiner Private University, the university hospitals in Tulln and Krems, and Manchester Metropolitan University, which has given this project an additional impulse,” explains Janssen.

At the intersection of practice and theory

Janssen studied Biomedical Health Sciences in the Netherlands and thus enjoyed a thorough education in research methods. However, she missed the practical connection to patients in science. She therefore decided to study physiotherapy. “It was after I had worked as a physiotherapist that I discovered I wanted to be right in the middle between physiotherapy and academic research in order to build a bridge between the two professions.” Janssen gained her PhD in physiotherapy at the University of Otago, New Zealand. There, she felt part of the physiotherapy research community, which gave her the energy to pursue a career in research.

She also learnt that women in science are sometimes treated differently than their male colleagues. “Women are not always treated equally – for example, I see too often that the women in a research group are asked to write the meeting notes,” she criticises. Nevertheless, she would definitely recommend interested women to take the plunge into an academic career. “There is not one right path, but many different ones. Take the time to learn from different people, also outside Austria if possible, and see what works for you,” she advises young women. Research is very diverse and wide-ranging and opens up options for both quantitative and qualitative work. “Look for researchers you respect and try to work with them to learn from them,” the scientist recommends.

Three questions – three answers

What does scientific work mean to you?

For me, research is constant learning, working together, seeing things from a different perspective, working in a team and, of course, finding out new things.

What do women in science need to be successful?

Women need more funding and opportunities to start and continue their careers. 

Do you have any advice for young women and aspiring scientists?

You don’t have to be a math star to become a researcher. But you do need to be curious, develop a solid plan, communicate it and just keep going.