Salome Chilachava, 19, Tbilisi

„I am studying the Engineering Physics program with a focus on medicine in the Technical University of Georgia. I have been into technical subjects since childhood and math and physics have been my strong suit. Having said that, if I don’t like a discipline, I don’t bother to learn it. In the eighth grade, when we started learning physics, we had a very bad teacher and I had the lowest marks in this discipline. After I changed schools, I was very lucky with my new teacher of physics who made me fall in love with it and taught me practically everything about it. After years, I met my former teacher and told her/him that I had enrolled in a Physics Department. She/he couldn’t believe it because she/he remembered me as a hopeless pupil.

My choice of profession was most influenced by my mother’s words. She told me to choose a profession that I would never be sick of, and what I imagined still doing ten years from then. I had myself thought of picking the profession where I would have a chance to develop and experience new things all the time. That is why, as I had passion for physics and math, I decided to study Physical Engineering.

The program I am studying right now is just opened and it is not even an independent faculty, it is included in the Faculty of Informatics. In the previous year, there were only eight students attending the course, however, we are better off now. We have around 90 students in the course, with only 4-6 female students per group. Attitude towards girls is normal; sometimes the girls are better than boys. Yet, there was one lecturer who repeated over and over again “I’ve never met a smart woman, physics is not for you” and he especially liked to quote a saying “a goat mistook woman’s brain for grass and ate it”. He did not favor the girls who were good at physics and math. When boys could not provide an answer but girls could, he put boys to shame saying “how can you allow girls to be better than you, use your brain!”

Our male students were quite relaxed around girls, but in the beginning they still asked “how did you end up here, was it by chance?” I usually answered that it was my top choice on the application list and I ended up exactly where I wanted to study. They thought I enrolled there because there was no tuition fee. But I had in fact taken exams in both physics and math.

Studying here is quite demanding, I have a lot of homework to do, plus I am curious about other stuff and research a lot. In addition to the University, I am taking online courses, such as EdX, Harvard and MIT. While searching these courses, I came across one interesting course nanobiosensors, which means introduction of nano technologies in medicine. Since then, I got interested in medical physics. To put it simply, you can enter a nanobody in blood with an injection, i.e. insert it in DNA after which it will be possible to create a medicine tailored to each individual that will be useful for this specific person. I want to develop professionally in that field. There is not much prospects in Georgia but I am thinking of continuing my studies in Germany.

In addition, I have trained in Goju Ryu Karate since I was 13. I entered the training class on a whim – my friend was going there and I was interested too. Here too I have remained for so long because of a very good trainer. I have always been keen on sport; I have gone to tennis and swimming classes. I went to one karate training class, but I liked it so much, that I stayed. I have taken some time out because of my studies, but I have been training for six years in total. I have a brown belt, I also participated in the World Championship and ranked third, and in the Georgian championship I earned second place. I don’t use the tricks for self-defense, of course. I am not an aggressive person and I don’t resort to karate unless I am driven to it. People find it curious that I do karate, they say they’d never tell judging by my face; “you are a composed, calm kid, why would you take up karate?” they ask.

I always have support from my family, whatever I do, they are there for me. Since childhood, my sister and I were made independent. Our parents never interfered with our studies. My mom even forbade everyone to wake us up in the morning to go to school. She said if we woke up ourselves, we would go, if not, we were to be left alone!” So we went when we felt like it. If we got in trouble because of this, we had to deal with them independently. I think I am very lucky to have such parents.

Others may judge my parents for letting me choose this field of study and work but this decision is for me to make. People should occupy themselves with whatever interests them. Women tend to restrict themselves with stereotypes, while it takes only a little effort to break through those self-imposed restrictions. You must want and believe in what you are doing. Every time I hear someone say “I’m not doing it because it is not fit for a woman”, I think they are just justifying themselves. If I want to do something, why should I hold back, why does it matter whether I am a woman or a man?!

At the moment, my biggest wish and purpose is to study brain activity because health problems mostly come from brain which is the least researched human organ. It is difficult to examine human brain but by doing so, we could open doors to new opportunities.”