Another Saturday spent filling Imperial with teenage girls!

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‘Meet the Stemettes’ panel event @ Imperial College – Visit Flickr for official photos!

180 cupcakes, 24 gluten free cookies, 3 kg of grapes, 15 apples, 10 bananas, 12 tangerines, 48 cokes, 48 diet cokes, 72 bottles of water, 48 flapjacks and 60 doughnuts- it’s just your average Saturday for Jess! Okay- I’m glossing over the minor moments of AV-related panic, couple of grumpy receptionists, trips ferrying banners across campus- but really, this was pretty stress free.

Imperial College Women in Physics and the STEMettes invited 360 people (14-18 year old girls and their parents) to the Clore Lecture Theatre. Just as we kicked off, the year ten STEM potential cohort were finishing lunch in the Reach Out Lab. Is Imperial College the best place on earth to be a young scientist? 

Our panel were out of this world- the Imperial College Union president, a kickstarting CEO who writes adventure stories for a fairer world, a Barclays apprentice, a software developer, a postdoc, a Microsoft employee, a design engineering LEGEND and a CEO of a solar energy company. Why are they all here? To talk about the exciting Routes they took to their STEM careers- the A-levels they took, challenges they faced and their best pieces of advice. It wasn’t all future changing stuff: we were also interested in what they would change about christmas, what they were most looking forward to over the holiday season and their estimates at the temperature snow best sticks to the ground.

The panel deserve way more time than the two minutes they are allocated to introduce themselves but more than make up for that during the epic sugar-fuelled networking session. We heard about brilliant teachers who encouraged Olivia into Architectural Engineering, helped Floriane find work experience and pointed a curious young Androula to a particle accelerator. But these panelists haven’t all had it handed to them- despite a love of of Star Wars, teachers turned Lucinda off taking physics A-level and put Jamie off school all together. We were also joined by other members of Imperial’s Women in Physics society: Dominika Mulak, DR. Felicity McGrath (fresh faced from an evening spent ceilidh-ing in heels) and our undergrad hero/ physicist extraordinaire Meriame Berboucha.

Sophie Deen is just too cool. She didn’t study science at A-level but she still measured the speed of the internet at global tech company  SamKnows, championed after school coding clubs for children and has just launched a Kickstarter campaign providing children’s education aimed at changing the world. Sophie’s brainchild, Detective Dot, is a coder with a special power. Sophie is so on the money it is ridiculous- “In kids cartoons, 0% of princesses are engineers, 2.9% of characters are black, and Batman doesn’t recycle”.

Androula has studied at Imperial College but is now at the University of Oxford where she chairs the women in physics society. Androula’s working on the DIAMOND (DIpole And Multipole Output for the Nation) Light Source, a super bright light beam we keep in a synchrotron in Oxford. The light source can tell you the structure of a crystal, help understand HIV and develop anti-allergy drugs. Androula is as charged as one of her high energy particles: as a child she never stopped asking why and as an adult her networking got her into CERN.

Sarah is a Cambridge educated mathematician who is listed by Management Today as one of the top 35 women under 35. Sarah’s makes networks for solar energy projects in Latin America, linking them with local entrepreneurs and global investors.

Floriane is an Outbox alumnae, she’s studying one of the best combinations of A-Levels possible (art, maths, further maths, chemistry and physics) and she’s writing her own book. Floriane is involved in more outreach projects than we thought their could be acronyms for, had great advice on finding work experience and has never let anyone make her think she couldn’t achieve anything.

Jamie left school aged fifteen and made his own luck: alongside pro-gaming he became a leading coder and iOS developer, getting an apprenticeship at Barclays aged 15.

Lucinda, the ICU president, wants to be the only scientist in politics. Lucinda is a passionate conservationist, who not only represents the 15,000 + student body of Imperial but also the elephants in her home country of Kenya. Lucinda didn’t only choose STEM, STEM chose her: as an IVF baby she was born in a lab!

Olivia loved maths and physics at school, wasn’t confident in her drawing capability (although we’re all sure she was great) and went to study Architectural Engineering in Cardiff. She won an award from the RAEng which gave her £5,000 to fund her studies and now chairs a professional network for the LGBT UK technology sector. 8 hours in to Olivia’s job at Yammer, a social network to make businesses more efficient, it was taken over by Microsoft. Olivia is now a ‘customer success manager’ at Microsoft 365- so we know who to turn to when PowerPoint force quits!

Emma-Ashley is industry liaison for a group that looks to improve inclusivity in computing. She’s also a software developer at a digital music platform, 7digital, where E-A makes sure the songs you want start as soon as you click play.

The somewhat too secret Daniel Garrett completes our panel. He’s a graduate of the Design School of Engineering, my new favourite topic of conversation, and one of the most intelligent people I know (his only competition are other members of his family). Dan’s a first-class (Masters of) Engineering Graduate from the University of Oxford, he’s completed the Global Innovation in Design Masters and he runs start-ups from an incubator in Battersea. In between placements in Japan and New York, Dan’s designed a pressure-sensitive ‘bruise-suit’ for injured athletes.

The panel took questions from an inquisitive audience from the “what does a postdoc do?”, to the classics “what’s it like working in such a male-dominated industry” and “how many languages do you speak?”. A one hour sugar-filled networking session saw some pretty swamped panelists with clusters of teenagers queueing up to ask for advice. I’m not sure if it was his phenomenal success at Barclays or the proximity of their ages but Jamie was totally surrounded by young girls every time I saw him ;)! It was electric: a buzz of excited young women, Imperial College volunteers and student Stemettes. Every single cupcake was consumed, every doughnut demolished and every drop drunk. High on our career advice (and coke!) the students returned to the lecture theatre for a wrap-up and prize giving to the winners of the in-app quiz.

A great group of girls, amazing team of volunteers and cracking panel- this is going to go down in the history books.

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