WISE Student Colloquium 2014- WISE@QMUL meet with Patron of WISE- HRH Princess Royal

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On 8th April, 2014 the WISE campaign held their first inaugural student colloquium at the University of Huddersfield. This event was attended by students from around the country with physics, maths and engineering backgrounds. Two WISE@QMUL committee members, Chair Louise Anderson and Treasurer Asmi Barot attending the event and were both shortlisted in the poster competition. 

 

See the report below taken from the WISE Campaign website.

“HER Royal Highness The Princess Royal paid a special visit to the University of Huddersfield so that she could back a campaign to boost the numbers of women who study science and engineering subjects and make their careers in those fields.

The event attended by Her Royal Highness [Tuesday 8 April] was the WISE Student Colloquium 2014 staged at the University by the WISE campaign, which has a mission to improve gender balance in the UK’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM workforce.  The goal is to increase the proportion of female employees from 13%, as it stands now, to 30% by the year 2020.

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WISE – of which The Princess Royal is a patron – was founded 30 years ago, following a major report on the state of engineering in the UK. The University of Huddersfield was an ideal location for the organisation’s 2014 colloquium, because it has committed itself to increasing the numbers of women who take up science and engineering courses. The UK badly needs more qualified engineers, but approximately half of female engineering and technology graduates do not follow up their studies with careers in these highly varied professions. The WISE Student Colloquium was a key part of WISE’s campaign to reverse this trend and The Princess Royal showed her support when she met students and organisers who attended the event at the University of Huddersfield.

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The Colloquium – which was supported by ExxonMobil and attended by representatives of many leading companies – provided an opportunity for female STEM students from across the UK to meet employers, learn about graduate programmes and hear from women who have used their engineering qualifications to forge exciting careers.

 

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The line-up of role-model speakers also included Jo Carris.  With a Masters in Environmental Technology and Energy Policy from Imperial College and a Chartered Environmentalist, she is Senior Sustainability Consultant at Useful Simple Projects, which she joined from the Olympic Delivery Partner’s Sustainability Team.  More recently, she has developed of sustainability strategies for the 2014 Brazil World Cup and Rio 2016 Olympics.  Jo won the WISE Excellence Award in 2013.  Jo commented: “It has been fantastic to be part of the first WISE Student Colloquium, to help promote and raise awareness about the exciting and varied careers associated with science and engineering.  I hope lots of students leave today’s event feeling inspired to pursue careers in the sector.”

Students were invited to take part in a poster competition at the event. Entrants met with The Princess Royal to share exciting engineering projects of their interest, with the winner Francesca Letizia and runner up Erin Nolan eligible for a cash prize sponsored by Atkins, alongside a career mentor from Atkins and Air Products respectively.

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Students also heard from the 21-year-old entrepreneur Ruth Amos, who is the inventor of the StairSteady, an aid to enable people with limited mobility to use their stairs safely.  Her product was launched at the 2008 Naidex national healthcare show.  As the MD StairSteady Ltd, Ruth has seen the steady growth of her brand, which is now a household name.

Other speakers included April Feick, who is Director and Chairman of ExxonMobil Chemical Limited in the UK; Philippa Oldham, who is Head of Transport and Manufacturing at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers; and University of Huddersfield lecturers Dr Laura Waters, a scientist who is also a Principal Enterprise Fellow, and Dr Leigh Fleming, who is research engineer with a specialisation in surface measurement.

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The master of ceremonies for the Colloquium was WISE Board member, Dr Nina Skorupska, who is CEO of the Renewable Energy Association and was the first woman to run a UK power station for RWE npower.  The panel discussion was chaired by WISE Board member Gillian Arnold, who has extensive experience in the IT industry and is CEO of IT services and staffing company Tectre.

“What a wonderful day!” said Nina Skorupska. “I feel privileged to have met so many extraordinary role models and felt the enthusiasm of the audience when they have heard the stories and took part in the panel discussions.  I hope that they felt as inspired as I did and what an exciting career awaits any woman that chooses to work in STEM industries.  I am grateful to HRH The Princess Royal for joining us – having her attend really emphasised to all how important the WISE Campaign is.”

View all photos here

First female Cambridge Professor in Engineering set to become first female President of Royal Academy of Engineering

Prof Dame Ann Dowling FREng FRS, world-renowned expert in combustion and acoustics, became the first ever female professor in Engineering Department of the University of Cambridge back in 1998. A motivational figure for women in engineering, she was identified last year in the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List as one of the 100 most influential women in the country. 

Just last week, the Council of the Royal Academy of Engineering has nominated Dame Ann as its Presidential candidate for election by Fellows at their September 2014 AGM. Upon election by the Fellowship, she will become the Academy’s first female President and serve a term of five years.

“I am honoured to be nominated for election as President of the UK’s national academy of engineering at a crucial time when it is generally acknowledged that many more engineers will be required to help the country benefit from the knowledge economy of the future. The world faces some enormous challenges, including clean energy, resilient infrastructure, water and food supply, and engineers have a crucial role in addressing these issues.”
— Professor Dame Ann Dowling, January 2014

Dame Ann started her career as a pure mathematician, but went on to study her PhD in engineering acoustics to pursue her love of applied mathematics. Her research has helped to develop quieter aircraft and vehicles.

During her interview for The Life Scientific, Dame Ann revealed that she had yearned to fly as a child and that was what encouraged her to become an engineer. A simple dream can be enough to inspire any child to achieve extraordinary things in life; we must take steps towards a society where all children are given the opportunity to follow their dreams, regardless of their gender or background.

For those of you out there who are still hesitant about studying engineering, here’s a little gem from Dame Ann.

“Science has only happened because engineering is enabling it.”
— Professor Dame Ann Dowling, The Life Scientific, August 2012

Dame Ann is encouraging our scientific and engineering researchers to work together for our future generations. Girls and boys, this will be your generation next—what is your dream?

Read the official press release from the Royal Academy of Engineering

Listen to Prof Dame Ann Dowling’s interview with Prof Jim Al-Khalili for The Life Scientific

This article was written by Nishtha Chopra, our new Publicity Officer, and edited by Sybil Wong, Secretary.

23rd Jan 2014: What is the Athena SWAN Charter?

WISE@QMUL presents a lunchtime panel discussion: What is the Athena SWAN Charter?

Athena SWANOur first event of 2014 will focus on the Athena SWAN award scheme and its growing influence on academia. Do you know what level of award your department has achieved, or who the champions are within your department? Do you know how Athena SWAN affects your funding applications?

We begin with an introduction on Athena SWAN from QMUL’s Diversity Manager, Bertille Calinaud, followed by a talk from Professor Richard Pickersgill on the recent Athena SWAN Silver award for our School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. We then welcome our special guest speaker, Professor Tom Welton, Head of Chemistry at Imperial College London, whose department has recently become one of only four departments within the UK to achieve an Athena SWAN Gold award.

Come to find out more about how Athena SWAN can benefit you, and participate in the open-floor panel discussion following the talks.

Join us from 12:30 pm for lunch, with a prompt start at 1 pm for talks. We’ll wind up by 1:45 pm for more coffee and informal networking.

Staff, students or professionals from all organisations, male or female; all are welcome! But please register on Eventbrite first if you are not from QMUL. (QMUL students can register via the CAPD website to gain points using the code: RW211.) Free lunch and coffee provided.

When: Thu 23rd Jan 2014, 12:30–1:45 pm
Where: SEMS Seminar Room, 3/F, Engineering Building, QMUL, Mile End, E1 4NS
Map: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/docs/about/26065.pdf (Building 15)
Nearest tube stations: Stepney Green/Mile End
Bus routes: 25/205
CAPD course code for QMUL students: RW211

Eventbrite - Lunchtime panel discussion: What is the Athena SWAN Charter?

Detailed directions:
Enter the Engineering Building from the main entrance on Mile End Rd, east of Bancroft Rd. Look to the left (west) of the lobby. Take the inconspicuous lift next to the staircase to 3/F. You will see the SEMS Seminar Room as soon as the lift doors open!

Don’t forget to sign up for our free membership to receive the latest news on our upcoming events.

Speakers:

  • Bertille Calinaud is the Diversity Manager for QMUL, and also the project manager for Athena SWAN at QMUL, advising schools on how to advance gender equality for their staff and students. Bertille recently prepared the submission for QMUL to renew its institutional Athena SWAN Bronze award.
  • Professor Richard Pickersgill is Professor of Structural Biology, Head of Chemistry and Biochemistry Division in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS). SBCS are the only department within QMUL to have been awarded an Athena SWAN Silver award. Richard is part of the SBCS committee for Athena SWAN.
  • Professor Tom Welton joins us from Imperial College London where he is the Head of the Department of Chemistry and the world’s first Professor of Sustainable Chemistry. Tom’s department has become one of only four across the UK to achieve an Athena SWAN Gold award. This is the first Gold award for Imperial College London, which already has an institutional Silver award.

8 tips for staying in academia: A female perspective

If you’re still looking for inspiration for new year’s resolutions, I’m listing my favourite take-home messages from our November panel discussion about the female perspective on academic life.

1. Try new places whilst you still have the flexibility to

Thinking about your next position? It might not be such a bad idea to look outside of your current city or even abroad whilst you still have the flexibility to move your entire life to somewhere new. All of our panellists agreed that moving abroad is one of the best ways to mature yourself, both personally and professionally. If you’re already in a relationship, it’s natural to worry about the distance, but try to make the best decision for yourself.  Look out for pan-EU funding schemes such as Horizon 2020, and also keep in mind that specific fellowships exist for UK academics who have worked abroad and now wish to return to the UK.

2. Be aware of the international differences in academic systems and visa restrictions

Before you take the plunge, be wary of how different academic systems can be across the continents. As an example, one of our panellists who started her career in Canada, where publishing frequently in smaller journals is advocated, found it relatively difficult to find a position here in the UK because interviewers preferred academics who published less frequently but in journals with higher impact factors. Also find out exactly what teaching and other administrative duties may be implicit in your new position. If you are planning to or already have a family, be aware that visa restrictions may mean that you’re not eligible for schemes such as child benefits or tax rebates, even if your partner is a local citizen.

3. Travel to meet your future employers

If there is a particular academic you would love to work with, get in touch and make the effort to visit them if possible. One of our panellists landed her first postdoc position at the Max Planck Institute because she visited her target research group for a week, under the guise of helping them with experiments, presented her PhD work and impressed them so much that they asked her to stay! Don’t be afraid to create your own employment opportunities.

4. Distinguish between incompatibility and inadequacy

When experiments don’t go to plan, you start to question your ability in the lab. When your whole PhD feels like a losing battle, you start to question your adequacy for scientific research altogether. One of our panellists shared that she certainly considered that she might not be cut out to be an academic as she finished her PhD degree, but she stuck with it and found a postdoc position in a different field of biology. It was only then that she realised she hadn’t lacked ability—she had lacked interest for her PhD topic. When you’re feeling down about your scientific career, try to make the same distinction in your mind: are you truly inadequate, or just incompatible with your current research topic or research group?

5. Establish your independence as a researcher as soon as possible

A good supervisor for your first postdoc position will work with you from day 1 to establish your independence as a researcher. Unfortunately such supervisors are hard to come by, and most likely it will be down to you to start negotiating what you can take away as your own research after you leave the research group; this is something you should always keep in mind. Your postdoc career should be an exploratory period in which you define the research topic that you want to pursue for the rest of life, so don’t let the day-to-day pressures from your supervisor take away your focus on your long-term goals.

6. Know who to take what advice from

Senior academics are often generous with their advice for their younger counterparts, but don’t be pressured into thinking that they know your research better than you. As one of our panellists emphasised that when seeking advice for a grant application, you should certainly let them guide you on how best to present your proposal, but you don’t have to take their recommendations on what science you should do.

7. Don’t worry too much about when you will have children

Both of our panellists with children agreed: there will be a time when you will genuinely want to have a child, and when that time comes, you will try to have a child irrespective of circumstances. It still sounds pretty mystical to me, but I guess their underlying message is not to worry too much. Like any other key life decisions, there will always be doubt and fear, but once the decision is made, things will generally fall into place around it, so stop fretting excessively and let your instincts guide you once in a while. On a practical note, most academic departments have already amazing accommodations in place for new parents, so don’t be disparaged before you check exactly what you can have.

8. Love doing research

Research is at its core a compulsive act of unsatiated curiosity. If you’re driven by such a compulsion, you’ll pull through no matter what, regardless of gender biases, parenting demands and all the other obstacles between you and staying in academia. WISE@QMUL and many other organisations are trying our best to minimise these obstacles. The question is of course: do you want it enough?

Our panellists spoke to a full room of anxious PhD students and early career researchers

Our panellists spoke to a full room of anxious PhD students and early career researchers

To summarise:
  1. Try new things whilst you still have the flexibility to
  2. Be aware of the international differences in academic systems and visa restrictions
  3. Travel to meet your future employers
  4. Distinguish between incompatibility and inadequacy
  5. Establish your independence as a researcher as soon as possible
  6. Know who to take what advice from
  7. Don’t worry too much about when you will have children
  8. Love doing research :)

From everybody in the WISE@QMUL committee, we wish you all the best for 2014 and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events.  We will kickstart the new year with a discussion of the Athena SWAN Charter, a scheme launched in 2005 to recognise academic departments committed to advancing women’s careers.

Our four panellists

Our four panellists and our Chair, Joanne, on the far right

Our panellists on 20th November 2013 were (left to right):

8th Apr 2014: Inaugural WISE Colloquium

Save the date for the Inaugural WISE Colloquium (@WISEColloquium), a free student conference at the University of Huddersfield on 8th April 2014 that aims to bring together female students in engineering and technology for networking and discovering career opportunities. Travel bursaries will be available.

Email Dionne Coburn (d.coburn@hud.ac.uk) to register for a full invitation in the new year.

Update (11th Jan 2014): Register at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/inaugural-wise-colloquium-tickets-3582293737

130408 WISE colloquium

20th Nov 2013: I want to be an academic—a female perspective

WISE@QMUL presents a lunchtime panel discussion: “I want to be an academic—a female perspective”.

As a PhD student or postdoc, the pathway to a permanent job can often seem long and very difficult.  This is made more discouraging by the fact that only 26.1% of lecturers in STEM subjects are female.

WISE have organised a discussion with four female QMUL academics to talk about their career paths and hopefully pick up some advice and encouragement along the way.  We’ll also be talking about combining careers with families.  Free lunch & tea/coffee, of course!

When: Wed 20th Nov 2013, 12:30-1:30 pm
Where: Matt Spencer Boardroom, 1/F, Student Union HUB, Mile End Campus
Map: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/docs/about/26065.pdf (Building 34)

Hope to see you there!

WISE@QMUL panel discussion: What are the challenges facing female postdocs in science and engineering?

On 3rd May 2013, we had a very interesting event to discuss and explore the challenges facing female postdocs in STEM subjects. With demands including running experiments and applying for permanent academic positions, as well as juggling relationships and family life, the choice to work as a female postdoc in STEM is not an easy decision, and often leads to sacrifices for many.

This event aimed to assess these challenges and evaluate how female postdocs can make the most of their experiences and develop their career. We had a range of speakers and a subsequent panel discussion involving:

  • Dr Tracy Bussoli, who works with PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, advising them on career strategies. She completed her PhD in Genetics with the Medical Research Council and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research, then as a Senior Genetic Counsellor at Guy’s Clinical Genetics Department for 8 years
  • Ros Hannen, who is a current postdoctoral researcher at QMUL
  • Gioia Cherubini, who is a former postdoctoral researcher and is now a Business Development Manager for QMUL

This event proved very interesting for all the attendees, and we extend a big thank you to our guest speakers!

The challenges facing postdocs was of interest to many

Left to right: Ros (speaker), Gioia (speaker), and Joanne (WISE Chair)