Women in Science: Lene Juul Pedersen


On 11 February, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. To celebrate this Day, from ClearFarm we would like to share the experiences of women involved in the project.

Our last protagonist is Lene Juul Pedersen, Professor in welfare and precision livestock farming at the Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University in Denmark. Her main research area are the study of animal behaviour and welfare focusing on development of housing and management methods and technologies to improved pig welfare.

We asked her about women and animal science.

Why did you want a career as an animal scientist?

I was fascinated by animal behaviour and stress biology and got the opportunity to get a PhD scholarship within this research area.

What is your favourite aspect of your work?

Research is about getting new knowledge and insight and I find that very stimulating. Every day is different. I meet and collaborate with many different kinds of people to carry out tasks and solve challenges together.

What is your research in the ClearFarm project about?

My research in ClearFarm is about investigating play behaviour as a positive welfare indicator. We expect animals to perform more play behaviour when in a positive affective state. Thus, pigs exposed to stress full conditions or pigs in poor growth are expected to show less play behaviour than less challenged pigs. To test this hypothesis we observe play behaviour in pigs before and after weaning and compare play behaviour during more or less stress full weaning procedures. If we confirm the hypothesis, play behaviour can be used as a positive welfare indicator. By the use of video and image analysis, play behaviour can be assessed automatically and thus used for welfare monitoring in the future.

Which challenges do you face with in your career due to being a woman?

In the beginning of my career short term contracts were the norm for young scientists. During the years of childbirth, I was out of research and without salary due to short term contract ending during pregnancy. Such working conditions possess a large risk for young women getting out of science or lacking behind. Luckily, I received a post doc grant after childbirth and came back into science.  

Have you noticed a glass ceiling and what can you do to break through it?

I find that being stubborn and never giving up are important personal traits for all researchers. So if a glass ceiling is noticed either ignore it and continue ahead or find another way around it. Sometimes the glass ceiling may be inside ourselves. Then we need to challenge it and force ourselves to break through it.