February 16, 2023 International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Vanessa Stadlbauer-Köllner Meet Vanessa Stadlbauer-Köllner, MD, Associate Professor at the Medical University of Graz, Internal Medicine and Hepatology-Gastroenterology consultant at the University Hospital Graz, Austria, and member of our Inspiring and Writing Group.

In celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we want to raise awareness of the work of women in hepatology and inspire the next generation of budding scientists.

Vanessa is a physician scientist with a strong interest in understanding the interaction between drugs, diseases and the gut microbiome. She is area leader at CBmed, Austria, where she carries out research with a focus on the gut–liver axis. Her goal is to be able to translate her research findings into biomarkers and innovative health products that will improve the quality of life of current and future patients with chronic liver disease.

Ever since she was a child, Vanessa wanted to be a physician. Her passion for the liver was already in the focus of her interest when she was a preschooler. "I have a drawing I made when I was around 5, where I drew the liver and the gallbladder", she says. Vanessa knew at a very early age that she wanted to do research – "with a mother who was a pathologist and a father who was a Professor of Chemistry, this was not a big surprise", she adds. "My father even had a little "lab" for us children at home, where we could do some basic chemistry experiments and my mother taught us to use the microscope", Vanessa explains.

As a school-aged girl, Vanessa was inspired by Paul de Kruif's book Microbe Hunters to start asking questions about how diseases develop and how microbes interact with humans. "I was lucky to be born in an environment where it felt so natural for a girl to become a physician and a scientist", she says. Vanessa hopes she will be able to inspire girls to become confident, believe in themselves, and pursue a career in science.