The International Day of Women and Girls in Science: questions to our Scientific Research Officer, Noémi Müller
Noémi Müller is the Fitch Laboratory’s Scientific Research Officer, responsible for the chemical analysis unit at the Fitch Laboratory. Noémi is a key member of our laboratory and the research we complete here; ensuring the implementation of elemental analyses in the projects we each run and the successful integration of analytical data with the results of other forms of study and analysis. This important addition to our work, and Noémi’s contribution, helps reconstruct patterns of early ceramic production and circulation.
Chemistry was Noémi’s first passion, receiving an MSc from ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), Switzerland where she focused her work on inorganic solid-state chemistry. Later she applied her experience in chemistry to archaeological ceramics, completing an important body of work for her PhD, and subsequent publications (you can find a range on Noémi’s BSA profile) from the University of Sheffield, UK, and in close collaboration with NCSR Demokritos here in Athens.
Noémi has had a positive influence on my own career to date and has shaped my interests in certain aspects of ceramic analysis. I thought that ‘The International Day of Women and Girls in Science’ would be the perfect opportunity to ask her a little more about her early career and about her own experiences and figures that influenced her career up till now.
What first sparked your interest in chemistry and how old were you?
As a young child, of 6 or 7 years old, I remember having bacteria cultures in petri dishes in the fridge at home (my mum was working in a microbiology lab at the time). So, I guess I was exposed to the world of science from an early age! I also grew up in a family and environment where my various interests were supported and I never felt there was a restriction on what I could or could not do for work.
I first remember being specifically interested and engaged in chemistry at high school when I had an excellent teacher who made it exciting and accessible for me.
How/why did you enter the world of archaeological science?
I had been deliberating whether to study archaeology or chemistry after graduating from high school as I was interested in both. However, at that time in Switzerland there were no degrees that combined archaeology and science so I ended up studying Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich, I also thought it would be better for finding jobs after university. I entered a male dominated field and was happy to find the environment to be incredibly supportive in many different ways!
After I had finished my degree, I was working in the pharmaceutical industry and looking into PhDs in chemistry but, when chatting over drinks with my good friend Elisabeth, I was reminded about my previous interest in archaeology. After a quick google of possible options I discovered NCSR Demokritos! The next day I contacted Anno Hein and the rest is history….
What has been the highlight of your work to date?
Getting my own office?!
I think my real highlight has been working on such a variety of projects. I have been lucky to work on material from across the world, from all over the Mediterranean and beyond, and of course here in Greece. I also have no restriction on archaeological period either and have worked on material that covers the inception of ceramics all the way to modern industrial ceramics. This has led to constantly learning and developing an understanding of different time periods and cultures – its great!
What advice would you give to other female researchers out there who would like to pursue a career in archaeological science?
When it comes to employment this is a challenging field these days, for everyone. I would recommend keeping your experience broad and taking every opportunity to learn transferable skills.
Interview by, Carlotta Gardner, Fitch 2024 Research and Outreach Officer