University During Covid-19

Maisie here! I have now come to the end of my first semester of my final year of university and I thought I would don my best Christmas jumper for the occasion!

I study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Sheffield and had a year out to do my internship in 2019-2020. It has been a busy, stressful and weird semester but surprisingly I have enjoyed it.

I thought I would reflect back on these last few months to give people a insight into my experience at university during a global pandemic.

This academic year has been a peculiar one so far! As I have said in previous posts I was on a year long internship in academic year 2019-2020 so I had no experience of university education during the pandemic. I arrived in Sheffield in September and did not really know what to expect course and contact wise!

University has been very different due to Covid-19 and it did take a while to readjust to a new way of working. From September to December I only went into university a handful of times, this was for in person tutorials and I was not a fan of the experience to be honest. There were about 15 people in a lecture theatre that usually seats 300, it felt quite isolating in that sense but I did enjoy seeing my lecturer and working through exam questions – all from a distance. On campus and in university buildings there are a lot of one way systems and safety measures implemented, this is really great to see but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like university. I do feel sorry for students who have just joined university because they are definitely not getting the full experience I got in my first year, real lectures, contact hours with tutors and labs!

I am definitely a bit of an introverted person in general, so having to socially distance and stay inside has not affected me in a huge way. I do love a night out or a good old catch up in a pub but as I am in my final year I knew I couldn’t be going to Roar (University of Sheffield’s best night out!) every Wednesday night even if everywhere was open! I had already brought down my expectations for socialising even before everything went into lockdown so it wasn’t such a shock to the system. My flat mates are an absolute saving grace to my sanity, we look out for each other and make sure we get outside and have some fresh air (this is a must!!).

On a positive note I actually feel that during this semester I could structure my days better and make the most out of the time I had. For nearly all my modules lectures were pre-recorded and my lecturers would upload them at the beginning of the week, this meant I could choose when to focus on different modules and structure my week in a way that I knew I could complete all the work required. I love a good spreadsheet so I made a sheet with all the lectures and videos I had to watch and attend each week, the feeling of being able to tick off something when I have completed it is the best!

One of my modules was an aircraft design module and 50% of the mark was for a group design project. My team was made up of 5 people in the third year of my course, as I have been out of university for my year in industry I am now in the same year as people who were in the year below. Group projects can be difficult at the best of times and the fact I have never actually met any of the people I was in the team with is rather odd, but we worked to the best of our abilities and relied heavily on Google docs to get it all done! All our meetings were conducted over Google meet and worked okay, a few people missed a meeting or two but we also had a WhatsApp group to make sure everyone knew what they should be doing for the next meeting. We submitted the report just before Christmas so hopefully we have done well!

I returned home at the beginning of December in the ‘student mass exodus’ as lots of media sources called it! I have been finishing my semester here at home and it has been a bit of a readjustment again getting used to working at home. It has been lovely seeing Mum and Dad but can sometimes be distracting when I am trying to do a lecture! I do think I find it easier to structure my day when I’m in Sheffield. But I am so thankful and grateful I could be here over the Christmas period! Overall, this semester has been a tough one but I do think I have done my best in the circumstances!

I may have completed semester 1 but now it’s onto revision for my January exams – the work doesn’t stop!

I hope you all have a great holiday whatever you celebrate, have a good old rest and eat lots of food!

Maisie

2SistersInSTEM

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Inspirational Interviews – Natalie Cheung

For this instalment of our inspirational interview series we are talking to Natalie Cheung.

Natalie is an award-winning leader, volunteer and civil engineer who is passionate about promoting careers in STEM! She is currently working to deliver the STEM Ambassador programme in London, as STEM Ambassador Coordinator.

For her volunteer work and active citizenship, Natalie was awarded the YMCA England and Wales Young Leader of the Year 2018 and University of Manchester Medal of Social Responsibility in 2019. She is also a Council member for the Women’s Engineering Society and won their Amy Johnson award in 2019 for promoting diversity in engineering and applied sciences.

What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

At school I was interested in Artificial Intelligence and Technology which led to me studying Computing at A-Level. I wanted to program robots! I considered a wide variety of engineering disciplines to pursue at university and ended up picking Civil Engineering which was quite different to my original plan. This was influenced by a work experience placement in construction where I realised how many roles there were behind civil engineering projects like buildings! I am so grateful for the mentors who opened my eyes to career options in construction when I was 16, I had never even heard of civil engineering before that.

What does your typical day look like?

As a STEM Ambassador co-coordinator I help to deliver the STEM Ambassador programme which gets volunteers from different STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) fields inspiring young people to consider pursuing STEM. In my day-to-day, I work with volunteers, employers, schools, councils, museums, libraries, youth groups and more! I love organising events and supporting STEM Ambassadors to create resources that can reach young people.

Have you had to overcome challenges? If so what we’re they and how did you do it?

Those who know me now would be very surprised to hear I was a very very quiet teenager! Like many others, I have overcome challenges of confidence and impostor syndrome. Last year, I set a goal to improve my public speaking skills as I recognised this is a skill that can support me in my career and personal life. I sought out opportunities to deliver presentations and talks, especially those which were out of my comfort zone. The highlights of my public speaking work last year include coaching from TED, speaking at an international conference in front of the President of the UN General Assembly, being part of an engineering panel live-streamed to ten of thousands of young people and my first paid motivational speaking events.

What do you think can be done to get more girls into STEM?

Girls are already interested in STEM fields but it would help to have further support, mentorship and inspiration for groups which are currently under-represented. We also need to normalise seeing women in all levels of all STEM careers so they are visible to young people of all genders, plus parents and teachers. If you are interested in pursuing a career in civil engineering or STEM education, I would advise using online networks to learn from other people in the field. I have met lots of people from LinkedIn and Twitter who I can learn a lot from, including those in other fields. If you approach people in a polite way, they are often willing to provide advice from their experience or direct you to resources. As a mentor, I have really enjoyed working with engineering students and those seeking to find a STEM education role.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of my day job and voluntary work in STEM, I have started a podcast “Yellow Bee Pod” which highlights the experience of East and Southeast Asians in UK, like myself. This is an underrepresented group in media and I am grateful for the opportunity to provide a platform for voices we don’t hear from enough.

Thank you so much to Natalie for speaking to us about her journey and career, we hope these interviews inspire more women and girls to get into STEM!

2SistersInSTEM

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Pots, Pans and Panic – Heading Back to Uni!

Hi it’s Maisie here! We have had a bit of a break from the blog over the summer but we are now back and ready to go – I have even got a swanky fringe so it’s all new round here!

It is now nearing the time that I will be going back to university, so I thought I would have a little ramble about how I am feeling regarding heading back to uni after my internship year at Boeing Defence UK.

Excited but surrounded by pots, pans and panic I will venture back to Sheffield!

I had such an incredible year at Boeing Defence UK but now it’s onto my final year at the University of Sheffield. I’m heading back to university! I am ever so excited to get back to Sheffield, I adore the city and can’t wait to live there for another year. I do know that university will be different because of the current global situation but I hope that by being sensible and safe I will still enjoy my final year at Sheffield – time for me to get my degree!

How is university going to be different?

University life is going to be different in many ways, no late nights in the library, less societies and no dancing in clubs at 3am – the latter probably being for the best! But most importantly because of the current Covid climate I won’t be in any face to face lectures (most contact will be online apart from labs and some tutorials). This means I will be on my laptop for a large percentage of my day, I will need a good laptop stand and very comfy chair – and my glasses when my eyes are exhausted from reading about aerospace materials for hours!

What is my living situation going to be like?

I lived in a flat by myself in Southsea for a year so going back to Sheffield will be a readjustment in that sense. I will be living with two of my best friends so it definitely won’t be too difficult – we all get on super well, as long as everyone does their washing up! Also, as we have said before, Lily and I have been living together during lock down, in my opinion this has been good on a lot of levels – mostly me having to adjust to living with another human being again! I think Lily was more happy with the fact I love cooking which meant she got some tasty meals (if I do say so myself!).

So what have I learnt from my internship?

I learnt so much throughout my year at BDUK and I met some incredible people. It was not only aerospace industry knowledge I gained throughout my year, I have learnt so much about the world in general and about myself (cheesy I know but it’s true!!). I definitely think I am a lot more independent now after my year of work, not just in my actions but in my thoughts and opinions. University is the first taste of freedom for most people but you are still in that little educational bubble, I think taking a step away from that has really helped me to re-evaluate lots of aspects of my life. So using all this new found knowledge I really do hope to do my best and achieve as much as I can in my final year!

How will I manage my money?

With my year at BDUK I earned an income so I was pretty comfortable with my budget and spending. Now I need to snap back to student life, I will be keeping a strict budget and managing my spending. I have to say that my weakness is second hand book shopping, I just love a book bargain so I had better keep an eye on that! I keep tabs on my money by having a spreadsheet with all my outgoing payments, including rent, utility bills and also food shops – lily has told me about an app she uses called EMMA so I may have to have a look at that before I start my new year and new spreadsheet.

How will I be keeping to a routine?

Time management is a must and from my year of real-world work I had to have a structured work day. At BDUK I actually started work at 7am so it was a massive change from what I was used to, I would wake up at 5:40am to get into work on time. However I am concerned that I will fall back into my irregular sleep pattern that I definitely developed for my first and second year of university. No more 10am wake ups for me, I have got to keep to a proper morning routine and set a time when I will start working every day.

How am I feeling?

Because I have been away from university for a year I am slightly concerned that when I get back to I am going to feel old – I mean I know I’m only 21 but this years freshers were born in 2002?! I can’t quite get my head around that. Also a readjustment for me will be going back into an academic setting, I haven’t learnt in a structured way for over a year so I’m a little nervous about getting back into the swing of things. I am going to have to put a lot of time and effort into all my work and I know it will be different and strange in many ways but I am up for the challenge.

I had better get packing now, I’ll update you on how I’m getting on in the near future!

Maisie

2SistersInSTEM

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‘But you don’t look like a physicist!’

Hi, Lily here! For this week’s post I am going to be talking about the reactions I have faced when talking to people about the fact I did a physics degree. My thoughts on the conversations I have had, how the responses have and continue to affect me and ultimately why I think working to tackle stereotypes is so important!

A few years ago whilst I was studying at university a question I was often asked (and often felt uncomfortable answering) was – what do you study? Early on in my degree I would reply almost shyly, bashfully …’umm I study physics’ and it usually shocked people to some extent. But why? This is what I want to explore in today’s blog post!

Over the past few years being on the receiving end of this exchange many times I can pretty much group people’s reactions into the following:

  1. ‘Woahhh you must be really clever … I dropped physics as soon as I could!’
  2. ‘Cool that must be really interesting!’
  3. And third and finally – ‘No way! But you don’t look like you would study physics!’

As I worked through my physics degree I became more and more confident in my ownership of the word physicist. I hadn’t studied physics for 3 years, put ALOT of hard work into it to not feel worthy enough to be a ‘physicist’. And I think in some way this made me analyse the reactions I got to telling people I was ‘a physicist’ even more closely!

So let’s break down these reactions! Firstly number one, something along the lines of ‘that must be soooo hard’, or ‘I never got on with physics at all’. This is probably the most common response I get – which is really sad! People that have had such a rubbish experience with science and physics in particular at a young age that they ‘dropped it as soon as they could’ or ‘always remember it never clicking’ or that ‘they just never got it’.

I think there is something pretty important to think about here! Are people scared off from subjects when they are younger because they are told by friends, family sometimes even teachers that they are ‘really hard’ or maybe that ‘they haven’t quite got what it takes’? Now I am not saying that physics isn’t difficult, but I believe passionately that the majority of people who study physics or perceived ‘hard’ subjects are not naturally good at them! They don’t ‘just get it’ – they work really bloody hard and they slowly improve their knowledge over time. It is not magic! I think it is really dangerous to perpetuate this idea that certain subjects are only for people who show extraordinary intelligence or brilliance – this is not the case, what you need is a passion for the subject, lots of determination and the willingness to put a lot of hard work in!

The second reaction is great – it is always brilliant when at the mention of physics people respond positively! Usually they might have an interested in something science-y themselves or they may have seen or read a physics or science related documentary/film or book. This is why science communication and science in the media is so important! People’s whole perception and view of what I do is usually based around what they see through the media – for instance people often talk about Brian Cox and what they think of his documentaries.

The third and final response I frequently got (and initially really feared) is ‘No way! But you don’t look like a physicist!’. This response is usually preceded by a look of shock/confusion and is by far and away the most difficult to reply to. This response is the reason for years I was shy and often nervous to have this conversation. What am I expected to reply to that? When someone looks at you in disbelief when you tell them what you do/ what you study – it really does make you question yourself! It shouldn’t, but it does – does this person think I’m lying? Do I look incapable? Do I look too young? Is there something wrong with what I’m wearing? Is it because I’m a woman?

I know I do not look like society’s stereotypical physicist or scientist e.g. a caricature of Albert Einstein – mad scientist vibe! But the shock, disbelief and judgement from others can make you feel really self conscious! And this is something I really don’t want other young women in STEM to have to deal with.

This is why female representation in STEM is so, so important! Anyone no matter what they look like can be a physicist or work in STEM! Diverse role models working in STEM are so important and this is where social media really comes into it’s own. You can find such a wide variety of people working in all sorts of STEM careers, and this is only going to keep improving. We need as many people as possible sharing their stories to keep pushing for wider representation. This will hopefully lead to more people realising that physicists and people working in STEM come in all shapes and sizes, from wide ranging backgrounds, career paths and life experiences. That we are not all – a certain age, a certain sex, dress a certain way, talk a certain way – but that we are varied and unique and that this diversity and continuing to work to improve representation is what will push Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths forwards.

Working to tackle stereotypes is extremely important and this is one of the reasons why I started this blog! The more people there are talking about their experiences the more role models there are for young people aspiring to work in STEM. If young people can align themselves to people already working in the field this will hopefully give them the belief that they can do it too!

Let me know if you have had a similar experience ( ‘But you don’t look like a …’ )? And what more do you think we can do to continue to smash stereotypes of what a physicist or someone who works in STEM looks like?

Thanks so much for reading!

Lily

2SistersinSTEM

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3 STEM Podcasts I’m Loving in Lockdown

Hello, Maisie here! Due to lockdown Lily and I have been living together for a while now, it’s been fab but sometimes I just need to be in my own zone. You will often find me with my headphones on listening to some form of media – podcasts, audio books or music.

So here I am again with a few more STEM related podcast recommendations! Grab a cup of tea and have a listen to these educational and funny podcasts. Hope you enjoy!

The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford solving everyday mysteries with the power of science! I think I have a slight obsession with Dr Fry and Dr Rutherford, I love their humour and chemistry – it’s contagious!

Taking inspiration from Sherlock Holmes, they scientifically investigate queries and questions that are sent in by their listeners.

Episode Recommendation: ‘The Scarlet Mark

‘The scarlet mark’ is an episode from rather a long time ago…2016! The questions this episode revolves around are ‘does red hair skipping generations?’ and ‘is the ginger gene is dying out?’ – in essence this episode was all about gingers! When Adam Rutherford called ginger hair “an astonishing beacon of awesomeness” I myself (possessing the ginger beacon) knew I would love the episode!!

Historian Professor Kate Williams tells us a little of the historical background of redheads – for instance Shakespeare calling it the dissembling colour. Also Judas was never described as ginger in the bible but has been portrayed as being a redhead for many years – hence red hair was a sign of distrust.

Listen to The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry here


Encyclopedia Womannica

I love this quick, snappy and easily digestible podcast. Encyclopedia Womannica features short (often 5 – 10 minutes) episodes containing key information about incredible women. The series talks about the women we should have learnt about in school – from warriors to explorers and obviously women in STEM! This being a STEM blog I am obviously going to recommend the ‘STEMinist’ section of the series but there are loads of other interesting and inspirational women featured throughout this podcast!

Episode Recommendation: ‘STEMinists: Emmy Noether

The episode that first caught my eye was about Mathematician Emmy Noether, I have to admit I had not heard of Emmy prior to listening to this podcast.

She was one of only two women sitting in on her university classes at the time. In 1907 she received her PhD in mathematics, after she graduated Emmy worked at the Mathematical Institute of Erlangen for 7 years (unpaid!). She joined the Mathematical Institute in Göttingen and worked on theoretical algebra and general relativity, Emmy proved two theorems that are key in general relativity and particle physics.

Emmy was not allowed to be an official lecturer because she was a woman, however in 1919 Albert Einstein himself stepped in to advocate for Emmy and eventually she was allowed to lecture.

Listen to Encyclopedia Womannica here


Science Vs

Wendy Zukerman hosts the ‘Science Vs’ podcast, this podcast investigates and discusses fads, myths and the big opinions behind them. Throughout the episodes Wendy discusses the topics with experts and tries to separate the fiction from hard science – Wendy is so enthusiastic and her podcast presence is excellent! I love the music that backs up each episode, it makes the half hour episodes fly by and you’ll be wanting to listen to another straight away! The most recent podcasts are relating to COVID-19 so give those a listen if you want to find out more.

Episode Recommendation: ‘Bigfoot

The Bigfoot episode talks about sightings of the human like beast that is Bigfoot – the question is could Bigfoot really be out there? Some people take Bigfoot sightings very seriously, there was even a scientific paper published investigating over 500 Bigfoot reports since 1944! One of the possible explanations they explore in this episode is the extinct Gigantopithecus, a giant ape dated to around 300,000 years ago. Some people believe that there may be one of these large apes roaming forests in America – not so extinct after all. By the end of the episode, after the scientific investigation, you may be able to guess what conclusion was drawn about the big man Bigfoot himself!

Listen to Science Vs here

What are your favourite podcasts at the moment – science related or not? Share your recommendations in the comments – we would love to hear them!

Maisie

2 Sisters In STEM

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Inspirational Interviews – Vibhusha Raval

Hi! This week it is time for another installment of our ‘Inspirational Interviews’ series!

Today we are sharing Vibhusha Raval’s story, she works for BT as a Graduate Automation Delivery Manager.

She joined BT last September and has already got involved with, learnt and delivered so much!

Read on to find out more about Vibhusha and her journey so far!

Tell us about your current job
I’m Vibhusha Raval, and I’m a Graduate Automation Delivery Manager at BT working in the IT division. I work with teams across BT such as Wholesale, Finance and Networks to identify, design and deliver automation solutions. The role involves liaising with a broad range of stakeholders to understand the processes that are mundane and repetitive. These processes are best suited for automation and can deliver benefits to the business and free up the time for employees to do creative and complex decision-making work that requires emotional intelligence. I enjoy interacting with various stakeholders and learning about different parts of BT to broaden my horizons.

What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I studied a BSc (hons) in Computer Science and a MSc in Information Systems at Kingston University. I didn’t really have any family or friends who had done Computing, so it was solely my intrigue and enthusiasm to try something different and to see how I’d find it. I am one of those people who start liking what they do. I learnt about many aspects of Computing, such as databases, networks, security, design and programming. I also learnt about the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) and really enjoyed managing projects at Uni.

How did you get to where you are today?
I truly believe that if you want to achieve something you will find ways to make it work. Just like when you’re not committed to something then you’ll find excuses to not make it work! I studied up until my A Levels in India and came to UK when I was 18. I worked part time (3 days a week at a minimum and through the holidays) throughout my bachelor’s to fund my degree, which was very difficult but a necessity. I have full support from my family and that was a great plus point. Many challenges were thrown my way which not many 18-year-olds would usually have to deal with, but I kept a positive outlook and dealt with challenges one by one. The journey was anything but easy, but when you aim higher, the obstacles become opportunities. Prior to joining BT, I worked at a restaurant for nearly 5 years, so I didn’t really have any industry experience. What I had was even more valuable, the experience of approaching people with ease and a smile, which definitely helps me in my current role when I face any challenges.

What does your typical day look like?
Every day is unique and brings different opportunities which is what I enjoy the most about my role. I am a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and have done a course on Agile Project Management. These two courses have been very useful to me as Technology products and service deliveries are swiftly moving towards the Agile framework. In the pre-pandemic world, I would meet the SME (Subject Matter Expert) in person to identify the requirements and update them on the deliveries that I was working on. However it has been a bit different since I started working from home, the face-to-face meetings are replaced by video conference calls and coffee with colleagues has been replaced by virtual catch ups. I try and keep a few minutes gap between long meetings so I can get up and stretch as I like to work for longer hours sitting in one place to concentrate, but that isn’t too good for the body. I have become accustomed to working from home and have tried to make the necessary changes to keep it healthy. My day ends with writing a to-do list for the next day.

What are your career highlights so far?
I achieved a competitive scholarship to pursue my MSc degree based on my excellent academic results and my passion for Technology. I joined BT and I have been recognised for my volunteering work, which is dear to my heart. I got rewarded for delivering great results for my team, which was fantastic because I take pride in quick and successful delivery of services to our customers. I was also invited to BBC Radio Suffolk to speak about my experiences and it was very well received by the audience. These are some of the highlights from the past 10 months, in my current role. I definitely encourage young people to dream big and go beyond limits to achieve your goals!

What do you like to do outside of work?
I love playing badminton, going for long walks, reading books and learning new skills which can help me excel in my life. I am passionate about helping others, so in my free time every weekend, I mentor young people virtually and help them rise above their challenges and choose STEM as a career because it’s truly worth it!

Thank you very much to Vibhusha for taking the time to tell us her story!

2SistersInSTEM

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My Engineering Internship Experience

Hi, Maisie here! A couple of weeks ago I finished my year long internship at Boeing Defence UK as an ILS (Integrated Logistical Support) Engineer. I thought now would be a great opportunity for me to reflect back on it. A chance for me to share my experience, talk about my motivation and look back on what I have learnt over the past year. Hopefully this will be interesting and useful if you are thinking of doing something similar in the future!

I knew that I wanted to take a year out during my degree to do an engineering internship. I have always wanted to get hands on industrial experience in the aerospace sector before I committed to a full-on job. The process began in the September of my 2nd year at university. I started the application process and submitted applications for many different internships.

I applied to a lot of different companies as I had heard that industrial internships are really competitive and that I would probably get a fair amount of rejections. I also knew it was going to be long process, it can sometimes take months to get a reply from companies let alone an invite to an interview or assessment centre. To help me keep track of my applications I made a huge spreadsheet to track the progress of each application.

I used Gradcracker to find placements to apply for. You can set filters and preferences so you are notified by email when you can apply for a placement in your area of interest (for me it was aerospace engineering). I would definitely recommend not making your search too narrow, I also looked at more mechanical engineering and general engineering placements too.

The application process for most companies is lengthy and I had to put in a lot of time and effort. Whenever I wasn’t in a lecture I was applying, updating my CV, altering cover letters for different companies and answering application questions. Some companies also have long online tests such as situational judgments and personality tests you need to complete.

A few weeks after submitting my Boeing application, I got a call from the head of early careers and was invited to an assessment centre in Bristol, this included a team task and interview. Only a couple of weeks after the assessment centre I got another call and was told I had got the placement! They also gave me some constructive criticism from the assessment day about what I could have improved which was fantastic to receive. I found out I would be working for Boeing Defence UK as an ILS (Integrated Logistical Support) engineer. I was over the moon that I would have the chance to work for an aerospace company as I always had my heart set on that.

My placement was in Gosport, Hampshire so that was a massive change for me. I come from Lincolnshire and go to university in Sheffield so it was in a completely different part of the country than I’m used to! I decided to live in Southsea, close to Portsmouth, the previous intern gave me her recommendations and said there was lots going on there. I ended up finding a flat literally a 1 minute walk from the seafront. I can drive so I commuted to work every day, I got very used to motorway driving by the end of the year!

I was very lucky to be able to live by myself, I knew that working a full time job would be tiring and when I came home I would want to be able to relax and have my own space. I had never lived alone before and I ended up really loving it! I found I am very happy and comfortable in my own company. However it was a big change from university because, unlike Uni there are not lots of people is in the same boat as you, moving to a new place where they don’t know anyone.

When I started my job I was pretty nervous as it was all so new to me. Both my stand in manager and team lead were on holiday so there was a little bit of uncertainty, but I cracked on with the online training for the first few days. I felt really welcome in the team and everyone was friendly, I was the only young person in the office on my floor for the first 3 months so that was an adjustment from what i was used to at university!

My working day was 0700-1600 and I did reduced hours on Friday. Most people in the engineering office did these hours and I enjoyed it, it was nice to have a proper routine. I had never done a full time job like this before so it definitely took me some time to get used to it. And it was a contrast to university as I never had a strict structure to my week. It worked well for me as I felt I could do more with my day getting home at 1630 and the short day on a Friday also gave me more freedom to visit people or go out to the shops or cinema when it was less busy!

I absolutely loved my time at BDUK. I learnt so much from the people in my team. A lot of the people I worked with were ex-military, this meant they had incredible first hand knowledge of the aircraft and had numerous stories about their time in the RAF or Navy! The best part was that only a few months in I felt like a true part of the team, not just the intern. I proved myself and my team believed in me which is a great feeling.

Work Highlights

  • Getting the chance to go on a Chinook and have a hanger tour
  • Having my corrosion investigation presented to the MoD
  • My engine data analysis being discussed in Phoenix, USA
  • Flew up to Almondbank in Scotland for site tour and meetings
  • Presenting at the ‘Girls in Engineering’ day at the Boeing Gatwick learning centre
  • Meeting so many new incredible people, including people from the USA and Australia
  • Personal development, I definitely feel a lot more confident in myself and my ability as an engineer
  • Going to the Young Women in Engineering Awards hosted by the IET

Southsea Highlights

  • I got to fly a plane!
  • Living so close to the seaside
  • Amazing theatres close by such as Chichester Festival Theatre, Kings Theatre, Mayflower Theatre – Southampton
  • Gunwharf Quays was very close by (very good for bottomless brunches)
  • Lovely independent shops and restaurants in Southsea

I learnt so much about working in the aerospace industry and about the career I think I want to pursue in the future. Over this past year I have had lots of great experiences which have helped me improve my skills and develop as a person!

I would definitely recommend doing an internship!

Maisie

2SistersinSTEM

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7 STEM Careers You Might Not Have Heard Of

Hi, Lily here! Today I am going to be talking about STEM careers you might not have heard of before.

It can be really difficult to know what career you might be interested in or what kind of job you think you would like to do. Once I had decided on studying Physics at university I thought that would make it easier to decide what career I might want to pursue, but in a way I think it made it even more tricky! As I worked through my degree and took the opportunities to gain experience in different areas I realised there were so many more careers out there than I ever thought possible!

As I discovered when I was researching possible career paths, there are so many resources all over the internet to help you find out about careers and about how you can pursue them! One of the most useful and clear is bbc bitesize careers. You can search for a job and find out from someone who does it how they started their career. You can also search for a subject you like and then see related careers you might be interested in – very useful if you’re an indecisive person like me!

Another really useful website for researching jobs is prospects where you can find extensive lists of jobs you could pursue depending on your favourite subject at school or what you are studying at University! To find out what apprenticeship might suit you best based on your interests, the apprenticeships.gov.uk website is a really good resource too!

So let’s crack on, these are 7 really interesting STEM careers that you might not have even know existed!

  1. Prosthetist

Prosthetists and orthotists care for people who need an artificial limb or a device to support or control part of their body.

Working as a prothestist might include:

  • designing and fitting surgical appliances (orthotics) like braces, callipers and splints
  • assessing a patient’s needs before they have an artificial limb or appliance fitted
  • taking measurements and using computer modelling to produce a design of the prosthetics or orthotics
  • carrying out follow-up checks with patients to see how they are coping with their device
  • making sure the appliance or limb is functioning properly, and is comfortable
  • carrying out adjustments or repairs

This is Becky, she’s a prosthetist and you can find out more about job and her story here

2. Patent Attorney

Patent attorneys advise clients on how to apply for patents on new inventions, designs or processes. To do this you need an understanding of scientific and technological principles and processes in order to understand the invention yourself and be able to explain it to others.

Working as patent attorney may include:

  • meeting inventors or manufacturers 
  • searching existing patents to check the invention or design is original
  • writing a detailed legal description of the invention or design – known as a patent draft
  • applying for patents to the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office
  • advising clients whose patent rights may have been broken
  • representing clients if a case comes to court
  • advising on other issues like design rights and copyright

This is George, he is a Trainee Patent Attorney. To find out more about what the job is like and his story check out the video below

3. Games Designer

As a games designer, you use creative and technical skills to design video games. You bring ideas, build prototypes, create interactive narration and develop the game’s mechanics.

Working as a games designer may include:

  • using your creativity to design games for a range of devices and platforms that engage and capture the imagination of the user
  • consider, plan and detail every element of a new game including the setting, rules, story flow, props, vehicles, character interface and modes of play
  • creating a concept document and using this to convince the development team that the game is worth proceeding with
  • conducting market research to understand what your target audience wants
  • leading on the user experience (UX) design of the game, ensuring players have the best experience

This is Rhianne, she’s a games designer and you can find out more about her story here

4. Solar Farm Manager

A solar farm manager, manages a number of solar farm sites across the UK, these are fields of solar panels storing and converting energy from the sun.

Working as a solar farm manager might include:

  • Dividing your time between office-based work and visiting sites to check they are running correctly
  • In the office you could be checking power and energy readings to make sure the solar panels are working correctly
  • When visiting sites you might be inspecting the cables and electrical equipment. Including measuring the output of electrical current from solar panels, and using thermal cameras to check the temperature of the cables is within a safe range

This is Manish, he is a solar farm manager and you can find out more about his story here

5. Cyber Security Analyst

Cyber security analysts help to protect an organisation by employing a range of technologies and processes to prevent, detect and manage cyber threats. This can include protection of computers, data, networks and programmes.

Working in cyber security might include:

  • researching/evaluating emerging cyber security threats and ways to manage them
  • planning for disaster recovery in the event of any security breaches
  • monitoring for attacks, intrusions and unusual, unauthorised or illegal activity
  • designing new security systems or upgrade existing ones
  • engaging in ‘ethical hacking’, for example, simulating security breaches
  • identify potential weaknesses and implement measures, such as firewalls and encryption

Funmi works in cyber security you can find out more about her job and her journey below

6. Ecologist

As an ecologist, you’ll be concerned with ecosystems – the abundance and distribution of organisms (people, plants, animals), and the relationships between organisms and their environment. You usually specialise in a particular area, such as freshwater, marine, terrestrial, fauna or flora, and carry out a range of tasks relating to that area.

Working as an ecologist might include:

  • conducting field surveys to collect biological information about the numbers and distribution of organisms
  • carrying out taxonomy – the classification of organisms
  • using a range of sampling and surveying techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), aerial photography, records and maps
  • carrying out environmental impact assessments
  • analysing and interpret data, using specialist software programs
  • working on habitat management and creation
  • keeping up to date with new environmental policies and legislation

Gabrielle is an ecologist, you can find out more about her job and her story here

Gabrielle at work, smiling to camera.

7. Science Journalist

As a science journalist you’ll research, write and edit scientific news, articles and features, for business, trade and professional publications, specialist scientific and technical journals, and the general media. Science writers need to understand complex scientific information, theories and practices and be able to write in clear, concise and accurate language that can be understood by the general public.

Working as a science journalist might include :

  • producing articles for publication in print and online
  • conducting interviews with scientists, doctors and academics and establishing a network of industry experts
  • attending academic and press conferences
  • visiting research establishments
  • reading and researching specialist media and literature, e.g. scientific papers, company reports, newspapers, magazines and journals, press releases and internet resources including social media
  • attending meetings or taking part in conference calls with clients, scientists or other writers
  • reviewing and amending work in response to editor feedback

Rosie is a science journalist you can find out more about her job and her story here

A young woman stands smiling at the camera in front of her busy desk, with her arms folded

There are so many exciting STEM careers out there! It really is incredible the variety that are available and the number of different pathways you can take to end up working in STEM!

Lily

2 Sisters in STEM

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Inspirational Interviews – Anne McIlveen

Hi everyone, hope you are all doing okay! This week we are back again with another inspirational interview!

Today we are sharing Anne McIlveen’s story, she works in the aerospace engineering sector as a Field Services Engineer at Boeing. Anne started at Boeing as a summer intern and has basically never left!

Keep on reading to find out more about Anne and her journey so far.

Tell us about your current job.
Anne McIlveen – I am a Boeing Field Services Engineer, working to provide around the clock support for all of Boeing’s customers who operate the C-17 Globemaster III military cargo transport aircraft.

Who/What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
When I was little I didn’t know what I wanted to do, in fact I don’t think I even knew what a professional engineer was until I was 17. However, I was lucky enough to receive some very good advice; “pick a thing/subject you love, if you love something it’s much easier to spend time getting good at it.” As a result I just kept pursuing the subjects in school that I enjoyed.

How did you get to where you are today?
Whilst studying for my A-levels (Maths, Physics, and History) I was fortunate enough to be able to do a week of work experience in Bombardier Aerospace Belfast. After climbing over a Tucano fatigue specimen aircraft and learning about Non-destructive Testing techniques and composite materials I knew aerospace engineering was for me. During the summer of my second year at university I managed to secure a summer internship with the Boeing engineering team at Royal Air Force Brize Norton supporting the C-17. Almost 5 years later and I’m still there today. Recently I’ve just been awarded C-17 Delegated Engineering Authority, which means I’m now able to release new structural repair procedures for any aircraft in the worldwide C-17 fleet.

What does your typical day look like?
As a Field Engineer I’m based on a military establishment. My day often starts by discussing the flying programme and which aircraft the Customer needs engineering assistance with. After that my days can vary a lot. Sometimes I spend most of the day at the desk designing a new repair, and answering a variety of technical queries, whilst others can be spent on the aircraft investigating and helping solve problems.  As the C-17 plays such a vital role in national defence, it’s important that our customers can get around-the-clock technical assistance. This means that every few weeks I also provide 24/7 on-call engineering support.

What are your career highlights so far?
Last year I was lucky enough to spend 3 months in California working with our head office stress analysis department. Whilst there I got to attend the annual Women in Aviation Conference, which was a fantastic experience. Although it’s pretty hard to top that, anytime I’ve been able to help our customers fix an aircraft and fly an important mission has been pretty cool. For example, at the moment we’ve been doing lots of flights to supply PPE for COVID-19 relief efforts.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work I enjoy doing lots of sport – swimming, cycling, running and stand-up paddle boarding. The more time I can spend outdoors the better!

Thank you very much Anne for sharing your story with us!

Lily & Maisie

2SistersInSTEM

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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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