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By Kate Campbell-Payne on

British Science Week: Journeys into STEM

This year's British Science Week theme is all about journeys, so we spoke to some of our amazing female STEM Ambassadors about their journey to their careers, and asked for some sage advice for anyone who wants to follow in their footsteps.

Anna Preston B.Eng (Hons) CEng MICE

Development team leader at Mabey, a leading international bridge and engineering services specialist

A woman in a grey polo shirt

At school, I loved maths. I enjoyed problem solving and was fascinated by how numbers play a part in everyday life. I also liked the certainty, as there’s only one answer to each problem.

After school, I wanted a career doing something maths-based. I did a careers test, and the results suggested jobs with engineer in the title. I chose civil engineering, because I liked the idea of working outdoors; it also offered creativity and problem-solving opportunities.

I studied civil engineering at university and have worked as a civil engineer for over 20 years now, and I still enjoy it!

Cheryl Williams

Advanced biomedical scientist at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

A woman in a lab coat

I’ve always been interested in how microorganisms cause disease. I wanted to work in healthcare, but without dealing directly with patients. To me, my job as a microbiology biomedical scientist is perfect. I get immense job satisfaction from knowing that the work I do helps doctors to diagnose and treat infectious diseases.

I studied biological sciences at university for three years and gained a trainee biomedical scientist post at my local hospital shortly after graduating. 16 years later, I am now at supervisor level and I manage a small section within a microbiology lab in the NHS.

Louisa Watson

Broadcast engineering trainee at the BBC

A woman taking a selfie in front of a statue next to a stage set-up

I am a broadcast engineering trainee for the BBC. This role has allowed me to be part of a range of projects, from building an edit suite to software development to setting up a live event for broadcast!

I come from a mechanical engineering background, and although I was always fascinated by energy and renewable power, I realised that I wanted to have a more direct relationship with people. I attended a BBC Women in STEM event and, although I hadn’t considered such a drastic change in career, this job seemed to suit me perfectly.

It is so important to remember that the skills you learn can be applied to countless engineering or technical roles, so don’t think you are stuck with one particular role forever—it is important to find one you enjoy!

Jessica Wong

Software engineer at Thales

A black and white selfie of a woman

I never even knew what engineering was; I stumbled onto it when I dropped art at A Level. My tutor said if I liked mathematics then I would be sure to like computing, so I changed my course after the first week at college. I fell in love with coding as it joined together the logic of mathematics and syntax analysis of English, which was the other subject I was studying. I continued the pursuit of computer science in industry to make my own mark on the world, beginning with software engineering.

Jade Gilley

Textile science and technology student

A woman wearing a Metallica shirt

I am currently in my final year of textile science and technology at the University of Manchester and have fallen in love with the module that focuses on colour physics and colouration. I had no idea this area of textiles existed when I began the course, but it has inspired me to become a colourist.

This is a chemistry-based role that ensures colour is communicated successfully across the supply chain to make sure clothes are consistently the correct colour. This includes using many forms of colouration measurement instruments such as spectrophotometers and colour assessment cabinets. It is a very interesting aspect of textile science and I would recommend it to everyone!

Maria Violaris

Physics student

A woman wearing a beanie hat stood on a London street

I’m Maria, a third-year physics student at Oxford, which gets more exciting every year. The amazing things I used to read in physics magazines have become my homework problems. I spend my days doing quantum physics experiments; solving Einstein’s General Relativity equations; and learning what really happens to electrons in those  circuits we learned back in high school (hint—describe them as waves!)

Crazy concepts from thought experiments like Maxwell’s Demon and Boltzmann’s Brain got me into physics, but unanswered questions mean more excitement to come. Turbulence, gravity, life itself—just some of the great mysteries waiting for physicists to provide the answer.

Verity Longley

Researcher and PhD student at University of Manchester

A woman with red hair wearing glasses

I research ways to improve treatment for people who have had a stroke. I discovered healthcare as a career path after a period of illness as a young adult. I studied occupational therapy at university and enjoyed looking at ways to improve what we do and provide the best healthcare services possible. I started working in stroke research because it’s very varied, is focused on the human brain which I find fascinating, and we do research that can immediately improve people’s lives.

Rachael Yeung

Executive assistant at Made with Glove

A professional headshot of a woman with long hair

My journey started with my passion—I have always loved fashion and technology. When I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a textiles degree, I decided to combine the two and that’s where I found wearable tech. Wearable tech is a reasonably new industry, so there is no clear career pathway into it and I struggled a bit at first. I had to use my own intuition, be proactive and find loads of people, and that’s when I found Michelle Hua and Made with Glove.

Made with Glove is a fashionable wearable technology company that makes heated gloves, and whilst they were being developed I’ve was also working on my own projects. I’ve made a self-lighting bag—it’s got conductive Velcro in it so when you open the bag the lights light up. I’ve also made LED light-up shoes, a bit like the ones from your childhood—they have pressure sensors in them and rechargeable batteries.

Memoona Ansar

Science lecturer at Blackburn College

A Muslim woman wearing a head scarf stood next to a wall

I was born and bred in a village in Kashmir. There was not any big concept of STEM around me, but my dad wanted me to become a doctor. I put all my efforts into getting better grades, but like any other Asian female, as soon as I turned 17 I received a marriage proposal and it was accepted.

Tradition expects a married woman to look after the kitchen but I became inspired by graduation days at the local university and people walking on streets wearing gowns. I applied to study at university, which is where I came in contact with the STEM team. Afterwards my enthusiasm in science increased day by day. I love my career and am proud that I have always worked since graduating.

British Science Week 2019, a 10-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths, runs from 8–17 March. To find out more visit British Science Week’s website.

All images submitted by contributors.

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