Working from home – 1 year on

Hi! It’s Lily here and I’m back again with a few thoughts on how I have found the past year working from home.

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I picked my monitor up off my desk and left the office for the last time! In some ways it feels like a long time ago, so much has changed workwise, I’ve changed job role twice completely remotely. But in another way it feels like it’s been 5 minutes with the repetitive nature of ground hog day very much in full swing especially at the moment with the current lockdown in the UK stretching on!

I am so lucky to have been able to continue working from home throughout lockdown – but there have been challenges and it’s been a bit of a journey at times, let’s get into it!

So how have I found the last year?

Looking back really gives me the space to see how much I have learnt over the past year. I recently moved into my third and final rotation of my technology graduate scheme, so this is now the third team I have worked with whilst working from home.

It has been really challenging moving into new teams completely virtually. Last July I moved into my second rotation, and I moved out of that team at the beginning of March this year so I never actually got to meet any of them face to face.

One thing I find very overwhelming is initial meetings and trying to make good first impressions. Having cameras on in calls definitely helps but it is still not the same as meeting someone for the first time in person! I can get so anxious about calls and meetings when working from home that just wouldn’t bother me face to face.

In general working virtually hasn’t been too different to working in the office for me. I have a good desk set up and am able to access all the systems, devices and software I need as I would do in the office.

However, I definitely tend to overthink things and I feel working from home can be dangerous for this. On anxious days I can overthink messages and emails I send to the point of insanity, again something that doesn’t happen in the office. And I definitely get into my own head more – spending long stretches of time on my own with just my computer for company!

The lines between working and not working can definitely get blurred too! One of the reasons I haven’t been writing a lot on the blog lately is that I have really been trying to only work and look at my laptop during work hours and try, as much as possible, to have laptop free evenings!

As I’m doing the graduate scheme I am doing a lot of learning and personal development at the moment too. I love learning but it can be difficult to know when to stop as it doesn’t feel like I’m ‘working’ in the traditional sense. This means I tend to get carried away into the evening. I am trying to set these boundaries and be a bit stricter with myself otherwise I know I will burn myself out!

Another big change during the last year is that I bought and moved into a new house! This has been a bit of a life saver in terms of keeping me away from screens as I’ve been doing lots of DIY bits. I love having small painting and DIY projects around the house, it is definitely coming together now – and is feeling more and more like home. However it was incredibly stressful for a while and difficult to balance the house admin with my job and my learning! Thankfully I’m pretty much out the other side of all that now and I have my new working from home desk set up all sorted and have been really enjoying it!

How have I stayed motivated?

With working from home not looking like it’s going anywhere anytime soon here are few things I have been doing to stay motivated through this monotonous and tricky time:

  • lots of cups of tea (over lockdown I have collected an embarrassingly large selection to choose from).
  • mixing up where I work from – desk, dining table, comfy chair, spare room (sometimes I need a change of scene so all the days don’t blur together quite so much).
  • taking breaks away from the screen and getting outside – I now have my very own little garden and have been loving stepping away from the computer taking a drink out there and just having a few minutes in the sunshine.
  • using notion to make lists and keep myself accountable – I have been loving using the website notion to keep track of my training and learning, creating to-do lists and writing up my notes (it is great for making coding related notes especially!).

If you are currently working or studying from home, how do you stay motivated? What are your working from home hacks?

Thanks so much for reading!

Lily

2 Sisters in STEM

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STEM Scribbles – Why does Venus spin the ‘wrong’ way round?

Hi Lily again, and I am back with a STEM scribble!

Today we are looking out to the Solar System for some astrophysics facts!

Of the 8 planets that orbit the sun Venus is a bit of an anomaly, and today we will find out why! Keep reading to find out more…

Did you know that Venus spins the wrong way round?

Now firstly here are a few things to know about the planets:

Satellites in Orbit - worksheet from - Times Tutorials
times.tutorials.co.uk
  • There are 8 planets in our solar system
  • From the Sun going outward they are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
  • All the planets orbits around the Sun in the same direction and in a similar shaped path, a squashed circle called an ellipse
  • All the planets (apart from Venus and Uranus – we’ll come back to them later) spin in the same direction as the sun spins on their own axis
  • And we think at the beginning of the Solar System all the planets were spinning in this same direction, as they formed from a collapsing and spinning cloud of gas – and they kept spinning in that same direction

So why does Venus spin the other way and what are the consequences?

  • on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east
  • one theory is that Venus used to spin in the same direction as the other planets, but at some point it flipped it’s axis 180 degrees
  • so it actually still spins in the direction it always has just upside down!
  • it may have flipped due to very strong atmospheric tides caused by the planet’s very dense atmosphere
  • another theory is that in fact it didn’t flip and that at some point it stopped spinning and then when it started again in the other direction
  • this might explain why Venus has such a slow rotation speed, it spins once every 243 days compared to every 24 hours here on Earth!
  • unfortunately we don’t know for sure what happened there isn’t a solid answer! This is a mystery still waiting for astronomers to solve!
Why Does Venus Spin In The Wrong Direction? | Videos
http://www.labroots.com

As I mentioned earlier actually Uranus also spins differently to the other planets too! It is tilted just over 90 degrees so it kind of spins on it’s side. The theory behind this is that it was hit a number of times by large objects which knocked it over!

Cosmic Crash That Knocked Uranus Sideways Also Made Its ...
http://www.space.com

Stay tuned for more STEM Scribbles coming soon! And head over to Instagram to see the post and the reel in action!

Lily

2 Sisters in STEM

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Why Is Science Communication Important?

Hi! It’s Lily again – and today I am going to be talking all about Science Communication or Sci Comm for short.

What is Science Communication? Who are Science Communicators? And crucially why is Science Communication important?

Keep reading to find out more …

What is Science Communication?

Science Communication is the practice of communicating science-related topics to non-experts. This often encompasses the communication of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) topics which we have discussed before.

The communication of science can take many forms, from written articles in newspapers, magazines and blogs to standing in front of a non-expert audience to give a lecture or leading an interactive science workshop for children. 

Sometimes science communication is known by other terms such as:

Public Engagement – this usually aims to engage the general public in two-way scientific conversations, about shared issues and problems, to hopefully benefit society as a whole.

Outreach – these activities are usually seen as public lectures, activities and workshops to encourage the public understanding of science and scientific research and are also often used to encourage school children to take up STEM study in higher education.

Science communication is so varied and vast in what it encapsulates …

Reference: https://www.big.uk.com/scicomm

What is the history of Science Communication in the UK?

In the UK Science Communication came to prominence in the 1980s. The scientific community was concerned that Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government had adopted a policy for scientific research that prioritised projects with quick-rewards over those of a more fundamental, ‘pure science’ nature.

It was felt this short-term approach was due to a failure of politicians and the wider public to understand STEM. More ‘public understanding of science’ was needed. So in 1985 the Royal Society published a report on ‘The Public Understanding of Science’, referred to as the Bodmer Report.

This report was pivotal, firstly it stated that scientists should consider it their duty to communicate to others about their work and its importance. Bodmer led to the creation of the Committee on Public Understanding of Science (COPUS), which organised funding schemes for Science Communication activities. Handing out prizes for new initiatives including ‘popular science’ books—of which there followed quite a boom, led by Stephen Hawking’s 1988 Brief History of Time.

In 1989, John Durant (the first UK Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Imperial College), Geoffrey Evans and Geoffrey Thomas published the first major survey of public understanding of science in the UK. They found high levels of interest, but that only 14% of British citizens could be called ‘scientifically literate’ according to tests of knowledge of scientific terms and processes.

Secondly Bodmer called for more science in the media, enthusiastically taken up by the BBC, which already had several TV and radio programs. Other broadcasters also increased their science offerings. Newspapers responded by appointing science journalists, correspondents and editors, and some introduced special science sections into their regular pages.

So who are Science Communicators?

There are many ways that you can be a Science Communicator:

  • Write as a science journalist at a national newspaper or magazine.
  • Work in a university press office to help promote the breakthrough stories from scientific research carried out by the academics.
  • Deliver science shows or organise events at science festivals, schools or science centres.
  • Design and make interactive exhibits for science centres.
  • Volunteer as a STEM Ambassador sharing your knowledge in schools and in the community.

I have been lucky enough to do lots of Science Communication from tours and workshops at science centres to volunteering at schools, to running coding clubs in youth centres and being a part of an incredible science festival! I love it, I find it so rewarding and could not recommend it enough!

I am particular passionate about inspiring more young women to pursue careers in STEM and getting young people excited and interested in STEM is a brilliant way to start!

So why is Science Communication important?

Some Science Communication can have a really powerful effect – take the success story that is Blue Planet II!

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet revolutionised the mindset of an entire nation. Millions of people in the UK were inspired and encouraged to change their habits. It managed to create real change in the way a nation thinks about single use plastics. It was reported that 88% of people who watched Blue Planet II changed their lifestyle in some way. Attitudes towards single-use bags, disposable plastic straws, and packaging will never be the same. According to research (by Waitrose), more than 60% of people use reusable water bottles more now than they did in 2017.

The Houses of Parliament announced a ban on single-use plastics and 60% of us also now more regularly use a refillable cup for takeaway coffeeWith 66% of 18 to 24-year-olds saying they were more likely to choose a reusable cup when out. In supermarkets customers are also increasingly buying unpacked fruit and vegetables. Sales of loose pears, for example, are growing at 30 times the rate of bagged pears. 

There is so much more to do but Science Communication can have real sweeping positive consequences across governmental policy and across society as a whole. Bringing important scientific issues to the forefront of people’s minds and leading to larger changes in habits and the way we live.

I believe excellent Science Communication like this, is important now more than ever in an age where we have an incredible amount of information at our fingertips all of the time. Unfortunately not all of it is factually accurate. The spread of misleading (and in some cases completely false) information is extremely prevalent.

The oversimplifying of scientific information is a very popular practice, otherwise known as “infotainment”, it focuses on describing new scientific discoveries in an entertaining fashion. This means important science is often sensationalised to get more views or findings are skewed or generalised to the extreme to make a good headline. The same goes for misleading graphs, stats and infographics and unfortunately, it is these that lend themselves beautifully to being widely circulated in the media. For example a study in Science found that fake news was 70% more likely to be retweeted than true news.

So we must continue to fight the barrage of misinformation and confusion with excellent, factually accurate and engaging Science Communication.

You can find out more about Science Communication and how to become a STEM Ambassador here.

Lily

2SistersInSTEM

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STEM Scribbles – The Eiffel Tower Grows?

Hi there it’s Lily here! And today very excitingly we are starting a new series called STEM Scribbles!

We will be sharing incredible and intriguing STEM related facts and info accompanied by one of my little scribbles!

Both myself and Maisie are really passion about science, tech and engineering communication so we hope you enjoy this more SciCom related content!

So what interesting STEM related fact do we have for you today? – read on to find out!

Did you know that the Eiffel Tower grows a little in the summer – approximately 15cm?

  • When a substance is heated it expands due to a process called thermal expansion.
  • So in the hot sun materials can increase in size and then as the sun sets they can decrease in size.
  • When a material is heated, molecular activity increases and the energy stored in the bonds between atoms increases too. With the increase in stored energy, the length of molecular bonds also increases.
  • The ratio of expansion and change in temperature is known as the coefficient of thermal expansion of the material. More on exactly how to calculate it this can be found here and here.
  • Common engineering materials generally have a constant coefficient of thermal expansion so this expansion doesn’t need to be considered too much during construction.
  • However large structures are sometimes built with expansion joints to accommodate the expansion and reduction in size of materials due to change in temperature.

You can find out more information about the iconic and incredible feat of engineering that is the Eiffel Tower here.

Reference: http://www.webuildvalue.com/en/reportage/eiffel-tower-story-secrets.html

Stay tuned for more STEM Scribbles coming soon! And head over to Instagram to see the post and reel in action!

Lily

2 Sisters in STEM

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STEM Books – ‘Brief Answers to the Big Questions’

Hi, it’s Maisie! Today I am going to be talking books! In particular a recent STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related book I have read, which I just had to recommend.

Over the past year, whilst I have been working in industry I have really got back into reading. I am using Goodreads which is an app where I can track my reading progress. My aim for 2020 is to read 35 books and I think I might actually achieve it! I have already read 20 books this year so I’m well on my way. Now that we have been in lock down for a fair few weeks, I have been reading even more, especially in the evenings. I thought I would have a chat about my favourite STEM book of the year so far!

I have recently finished reading ‘Brief Answers to the Big Questions’ by Stephen Hawking. This was his final book and had not actually been completed when Stephen Hawking passed away. It was finished in collaboration with “his academic colleagues, his family and the Stephen Hawking Estate”. This book is a collation and reflection on everything he studied and thought about throughout his lifetime.

Professor Stephen Hawking was a Theoretical Physicist, one of the most internationally recognised scientists of our time. Some of his research includes the big bang and black holes. A lot of his research was pioneering, he even proposed a theory for black hole radiation that was named after him – Hawking radiation.

Within the book there are 10 wide-ranging chapters, in each Hawking aims to answer some of the universe’s largest and most complex questions.

  • Is there a God?
  • How did it all begin?
  • Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
  • Can we predict the future?
  • What is inside a black hole?
  • Is time travel possible?
  • Will we survive on Earth?
  • Should we colonise space?
  • Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
  • How do we shape the future?

I love how, throughout the chapters, you get to see Stephen’s sense of humour within his writing, it is a very enjoyable and entertaining read. Hawking’s excellence and true genius shines throughout his writing. I really appreciated the way Stephen approached the topics in question and answered them in an understanding and inclusive way. These are some potentially contentious topics, but he discusses them brilliantly.

The book does contain some scientific explanations but they all have a purpose and Stephen does a great job at making the topics understandable for all. This book can be easily enjoyed and understood by anyone, irrespective of age or scientific understanding which is a pretty mean feat! Hawking uses his words carefully and sparingly so everything said within the book holds real meaning.

My favourite chapters were those that tackle the questions of our future. If humans should colonise space and how that would affect us all. Also how AI (artificial intelligence) will contribute to the future of technology and if we will be able to control its rapid development. All the answers are very thought provoking and I reread them just to digest all aspects of the response.

The heartfelt afterword by Lucy Hawking (Stephen Hawking’s daughter) is a lovely ending to an ever so intriguing book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore the big questions of our world. I was always a little nervous to read a book by such a iconic scientist, I thought I would be way out my depth but actually the way Stephen Hawking writes is so accessible. Definitely go give this book a read!

Maisie

2SistersinSTEM

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How We Became 2 Sisters Working In STEM

So how did we become 2 Sisters In STEM?

What paths did we take to get where we are today?

We thought a good way to kick off our blog would be to do a proper introduction and tell you a bit about ourselves. The journeys we have followed from school, through A Levels, to further study, working in industry and ultimately starting this blog! Hope you enjoy!

Lily

Hi! I’m Lily the slightly older and less ginger sister, I am 23 and live in the East of England. I am currently working in STEM as a Technology Graduate at BT, I joined BT in September 2019 and am absolutely loving it so far.

I have always been curious and liked solving problems, my poor mum bore the brunt of this when I was little and gave me puzzle books to keep me busy! And I’m so glad she did, as my love for puzzles helped me through years of school maths and science. All leading to me deciding to study Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Further Maths at A Level.

As I worked through my A Levels, spending more time studying fewer subjects I came to realise the majority of my interest and passion was for physics. I was really intrigued by all the questions that physicists still don’t have the answers for and the vastness of what I could learn about, from black holes to sub atomic particles.

I decided to apply to do a degree in Physics at University and I secured a place at the University of Bristol. I had a brilliant 3 years, there were times when I loved it and there were times when it was extremely difficult. But I learnt so much and loved living in Bristol a new, big, exciting city and it offered me lots of opportunities to see what I might like to do after I graduated.

After uni I did a lot of job hunting and a fair bit of soul searching and secured a job as a Science and Maths Facilitator at an EdTech (education technology) company. It allowed me to explore two of my biggest passions STEM communication and problem solving. I helped create innovative educational resources and worked on all stages of the product development process. From thinking up new ideas to testing them out in schools with young people and then fine tuning till we had a brilliant product. It was really rewarding and I learnt a lot!

I loved working on innovative solutions to problems and I decided I wanted to work in industry to explore and expand my skill set. So I set about applying for jobs in the technology sector and was lucky enough to be offered one at BT on the Technology Graduate scheme. I am currently on my first of 3 rotations and am really enjoying it so far! I have already learnt so much about the telecommunications industry and developed lots of technical skills and knowledge and I cannot wait for whatever opportunities lie ahead!

Maisie

Hi I’m Maisie, the younger and more ginger sister! I am 21 and currently doing an internship at Boeing Defence UK and working as a Logistical Support Engineer with Chinooks – so lots of helicopter data!

When I was younger I always enjoyed problem solving and building things – the classic Lego cliche applies here! My dad always tells me of the time when I was very little and I beat him in a game of dominoes. I must have always liked numbers… or maybe I’ve just been super competitive since birth.

I think I knew I wanted to go into engineering from about the age of 14, a few people I knew had done the Arkwright Scholarship (an award that encourages young leaders into engineering) and my mum encouraged me to apply for it. Amazingly I got offered it and was sponsored by Rolls Royce! This meant I was able to do work experience at Rolls Royce and I found out all about the different engineering disciplines.

I always loved making things and getting hands on experience when learning. This led me to study Product Design at GCSE and onto A Level. I always looked forward to those lessons, being able to come up with an idea and make it with your own hands is an amazing feeling.

I chose to do Maths, Physics and Product Design for my A levels, as with these I knew I could go on to apply for many different engineering or technology degrees. However I decided on Aerospace Engineering as it was the type of engineering I was most interested in and aircraft have always intrigued me.

After my A Levels I got a place at The University of Sheffield to study a degree in Aerospace Engineering. I absolutely love Sheffield, it’s the perfect city for me and I get to work in the amazing engineering building called the Diamond!

I knew I wanted to gain hands on, industry experience and to see what life working as an engineer is really like. So I decided to apply for an industrial placement and after lots and lots of applications I was offered one! I was over the moon when I got the call from Boeing as I was really keen to experience working in the aerospace sector.

Now I am 10 months into my year long internship at Boeing Defence UK and I am absolutely loving it.

We are both really excited to start sharing more of our stories and the tips & tricks we’ve learnt along the way!

Lily & Maisie

2 Sisters In STEM

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