Remarkable scientist Aviaja L. Hauptmann shares her powerful story

Aviaja L. Hauptmann is a microbiologist and public debater. Born in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, to an Innuit mother and Danish father, Aviaja and her family moved back and forth between the Arctic island and Denmark throughout her childhood.

After completing her Ph.D. in microbial metagenomics at the Technical University of Denmark in 2017, she returned to Nuuk to lead the research on the Greenland Diet Revolution Project. Her research centers on the animal-sourced Indigenous diet of the Inuit.

About 56,000 people live in Greenland, the second largest ice body in the world. Aviaja said everyone there has a very privileged access to an enormous amount of Arctic nature and a close relationship with nature. Understandably, she developed a love for nature and the environment at a young age.

Aviaja recently moved to Davis, California, where she holds a position as visiting postdoc at the University of California, Davis. During her stay, she is collaborating across disciplines including microbiology, Indigeneity and feminist science to explore the microbial potential and the importance of the Inuit fermentation culture.

In September, Aviaja was featured by Zonta International in a Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories event, a leadership series hosted by Lynne Foley OAM, chairman of the Zonta International Leadership Development Committee.

Here are some of the top takeaways from their conversation:

The place of women in science

“I hope we will start moving toward not just seeing how we can get women into science, but also start discussing how science has to be more than it is today. Women are brilliant and with time I’m sure that lots of women will go into science. … I think it's not enough to have women in traditional masculine areas of work; we have to change those areas of work so they comprise the way of thinking, the way of understanding and the way of feeling that women often represent. … I think gender equality will not be fulfilled before each subject can have both men and women present, and also their perspectives.”

Work/life balance

“It’s difficult to point out one thing that makes it come together, other than collaborating and communication within your family. I don't have any magic that makes it happen and, some days, it doesn't come together. Some days it feels like it's impossible to have two children and a scientific theory and a family and friends. But one thing that has been important to me is to learn to say no to things—to prioritize and think very, very closely on what I want to do and what I don't want to do, that helps a lot.”


“I’ve had both wonderful male and female mentors and through Zonta that opened up a group of incredible women to me that are so supportive and so experienced, compared to me, and that has been a great privilege of mine to get to know Zonta and the women at the Copenhagen club, one that I was in in Denmark. … Overall, it’s so important that we are open to having mentorship and once we are further in our path, that we give back. That’s something that I certainly learned through Zonta.”


“I think relationships and intuition are two things that are very, very important for me. When I can sense that I am in a leadership role toward someone or in a mentorship role or as a role model, I think it is important to continuously convey the idea that it is about that other person, and it is not about them becoming like you; it is about you understanding who they are.”

Aviaja hopes to eventually develop a biology bachelor program at the University of Greenland. To be part of her journey, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Watch Aviaja’s Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories session:


14 DECEMBER 2021