Research Engineer with CDT Applied Photonics, 2019
Heriot-Watt University and Renishaw
I’ve wanted to be a scientist for as long as I can remember – and for a while before that too; I recently found a worksheet from preschool in which I said I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up! I’m not sure I really understood what a scientist was at 3 years old, but I followed through and went on to get a Physics degree from St Andrews University.
Most people are surprised to hear that I wasn’t very good at physics in high school. However, it was my favourite class so I decided to apply to study it at university, despite it being my weakest subject at the time.
I struggled in the first year of university. The classes were harder than they’d been in school and I worried that I perhaps wasn’t smart enough to be there. In my first year we had weekly tests about what we’d learned in lectures that week. They were only a few questions but our marks would go towards our final grade. At first, I failed every week. I was so worried I was going to end up failing the whole class, so I had to work hard to catch up, but I got there in the end – and I even got a masters degree!
I know from my own experience that STEM subjects can seem hard and that can be off-putting. But studying and working in STEM also has great rewards, from intellectual stimulation to allowing me to do work I love, and to meet lots of amazing people!
Working as a Research Engineer is very interesting. I am conducting cutting-edge research so I get to do a lot of things that not many people have ever done before. If I get stuck on a problem it can be difficult to find the answer – often my problem hasn’t been written about in textbooks yet!
This means that I must use problem-solving skills, exchange knowledge with the other members of my research group, and keep up to date with papers published by other researchers.
It’s great because every day is different, and I always have new challenges to face, and brilliant new problems to work on.
Children learn about careers from the adults in their lives and from what they see in the media they consume. Most think scientists are wacky, and engineers are the men who repair washing machines! If we want to encourage young girls to explore STEM then we must show them women in STEM.
I volunteer myself as an example of what an engineer looks like by having a science blog and public social media accounts discussing STEM. Now I want to expand my reach and be a positive role model for more girls considering STEM careers.
I am so excited to join the WYPB as this will give me the opportunity to expand my reach and make the biggest impact possible.