WISE Technician Award Sponsored by The RAF

Susan Harris

Senior Science Technician, Benenden School

From a very early age, I wanted to know how everything worked and why, so Science was my career choice. After several years in industrial laboratories, from organic chemistry to microbiology, I joined Benenden school in 2006, allowing me to share my passion for STEM with a new generation of enquiring minds. However, school textbooks mostly contained images of women helping rather than leading, this was reflected by girls feeling that STEM subjects were only for the brightest students, or they would say “I don’t want to be a doctor, so why should I study science” Physics, Chemistry, Technology and engineering, were thought to be uncool, or only for boys. It became my mission to change these perceptions.

Over the last 5 years, I have initiated and run a plethora of research programmes for students at Benenden, working with universities and the broader industry, students are now involved in STEM based projects from as early as year 9 (aged 13). The events I have organised engage female students from both Benenden and schools across Kent, providing them with the opportunity to meet successful female role models from a diverse range of STEM field in addition to providing a monthly woman in science lecture programme and several STEM-based clubs.

Since 2006, Benenden has seen an increase from 8% of students applying to study STEM subjects at university to now being over 30% with many past students securing fantastic roles in the STEM workplace, who are in-turn being approached to be mentors and role models within our programme.

I wanted to be a scientist from a very early age. I needed to know how everything worked and why.

After several years in industrial laboratories, from organic chemistry to microbiology, I joined Benenden school in 2006, as chemistry technician. Benenden gave me the opportunity to pass my passion for all things STEM o

when I joined Benenden, I was astounded at the number of images of male scientists there were in school textbooks and how often, if there were pictures of women they would be represented helping the males. I wanted to show the girls I worked with that they could achieve great thing in any field they wanted and women could be the leaders too.

As my role at school developed, I was given more flexibility to work with students. I found that the younger girls felt that STEM subjects were only for the brightest students, or they would say “I don’t want to be a doctor, so why should I study science”

Physics, Chemistry, Technology and engineering, were thought to be uncool, or only for boys. It became my mission to change these perceptions.

Over the last 5 years, I have initiated and run a plethora of research programmes for students at Benenden, working with universities and industry getting students involved in STEM based projects from as early as year 9. I have organised several events providing female students from both Benenden and schools across Kent, the opportunity to meet successful female role models from a diverse range of STEM field.

I run a monthly woman in science lecture programme and several STEM-based clubs.

Over time, Benenden has seen an increase of approximately 30% in students applying to study STEM subjects at university and have many past students in fantastic roles in the STEM workplace.

« Back to 2019 WISE Awards Winners Page