Rachel Lord

Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology, Cardiff Metropolitan University

How I came to STEM

From a young age, I had an inquisitive mind and drove my parents and teachers mad by asking “Yes but why?” to virtually every statement I was told. One of the first people to really make an impression on me was my Year 3 primary school teacher. She knew exactly how to help me channel this into a way to excel and progress, although I think I only realise this now – back then I was always frustrated by her response of a question in answer to my question! She told me once that I needed to find a way to channel the investigator in me and find a good use for it. I’d like to think that I have managed to do that in my current career and think STEM offers inquisitive minds the perfect setting to thrive and fuel this passion.

I have followed a relatively normal path into STEM. I enjoyed school and the challenge it gave me, especially in STEM subjects and I decided relatively early in my secondary school education that this was probably the career area for me. I used to want to study medicine until I decided that the idea of not being able to fix a problem wasn’t for me. Sport Science was the topic I settled on and I studied at Liverpool John Moores University and completed my PhD in Cardiovascular Physiology. Gender inequality is inherent within sport and exercises science degrees, but I didn’t let this impact my success; if anything this drove me to succeed, probably due to my sporting background and natural competitive nature. In 2016, I obtained a lecturing post at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I am the only female member of staff in my department, but I am extremely lucky to work with a great department of male colleagues who treat me as their equal.

Why I love what I do

I think to myself every day that I am extremely lucky that I have a job that I love. As a lecturer, I have the perfect balance between teaching the new wave of STEM pupils through our Sport and Exercise Science degree and generating new knowledge through my research that I can disseminate to both scientific and non-scientific audiences, as well as using this to inform my teaching. My research involves obtaining ultrasound images of the heart both at rest and during exercise or experiments. I will never grow tired of the expression on a participants’ face when they see their own heart beating in real time on the screen. The fascination they have is the same that I felt the first time I was exposed to this and something that stimulated the drive to be involved in this field. I also collaborate with colleagues in the clinical and industry setting which allows me to network with a fantastic range of people to work on something that I am passionate about.

What I’m proud of, & what I’m hoping to achieve through the WYPB

I am passionate about making STEM more accessible for female students. Inspired by my Athena Swan committee role at Cardiff Metropolitan University, I have redesigned the Physiology curriculum within the Sport and Exercise Science degree to include better representation of sex differences. I have created a new diversity award for undergraduate dissertations to highlight the importance of research in diverse groups and am leading a cross-school strategy in the University to ensure that programmes are inclusive.

Although I am proud of the impact I have had on our students, I know I can do more for a wider community, and the WISE Young Professionals Board provides the perfect vehicle for change towards equality in STEM on a much wider scale. I believe that working in the education sector, I am in a fundamentally important position to help to deliver the WISE mission of gender equality from classroom to boardroom and am thrilled to be joining the Young Professionals Board. Having the opportunity to work with like-minded young colleagues to deliver this mission is a humbling and inspiring opportunity and I will put my all into making a real change for the next generation of women coming into STEM.


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