Women in Science: #wearestemsquad

Women in Science: #wearestemsquad

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One fact about the science world is that women are not represented equally in occupations related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Although the number on women in STEM has increased over the past few years, most recent statistics from the WISE campaign (a campaign for gender balance within STEM) revealed that women only make up 14.4% of the UK STEM workforce.

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  • Only 33% of girls who take maths and science GCSEs progress into a STEM A-level (or equivalent qualification).
  • Only 7% of girls who take maths and science GCSEs study a STEM qualification in Higher Education (or equivalent).
  • 50% of STEM undergraduates are female.
  • But only 17% of senior academics in the EU are female.

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The gender gap in the STEM workforce could be due to many different reasons. Many women in academia have to consider when a good time to start a family is. Time out of academia immediately puts that career path of post-doc to professor on hold. There are now numerous organisations campaigning for a gender balance in the world of STEM.

Since I’ve started this blog I’ve come across some really supportive communities for female researchers, particularly through social media. There is a wealth of Instagram accounts specifically showcasing the research and lives of women in STEM all across the globe which have been fascinating to look at.

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The STEM Squad

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Throughout the month of March The STEM Squad launched a photo-a-day challenge for all women and girls in STEM on Instagram. This involved posting a photo related to a different topic each day and adding the hashtag #wearestemsquad. The STEM Squad is a supportive community for all women and girls working (or just enthusiasts!) in STEM. This challenge gave loads of women across the world an opportunity to share various aspects of their lives with others.

In case you don’t have Instagram, or haven’t seen already, here are my #wearestemsquad photo-a-day posts! Take a look to see what I get up to in and out of the PhD world…

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Day 1: “Me”

1. Me

This is me, Lisa, a final year PhD student at The University of Southampton UK. Over three years of lab work done and now time to write up all of those results into a beautifully large thesis! I’ve recently started science blogging so check out the link in my bio! Follow me to keep up to date with my journey through PhD and science, and for future blog posts.

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Day 2: “History”

2. History

Here’s a throwback to my masters graduation and a little bit about how I got to where I am now.

My first memory of being interested in science was when my parents took me to @Bristol Science Centre. One of the exhibitions was having a go at being a weather girl and from that moment it was all I wanted to be! But it wasn’t until my A levels that I decided Biology was my thing. My science journey started off by doing a Physiology degree and then a Masters of Research in Maternal and Fetal Health at The University of Manchester. I loved the pregnancy and developmental research, and had this amazing group of people with me all the way through.

The advert for my PhD popped up and I immediately knew that was what I wanted to research, so here I am at The University of Southampton studying developmental physiology and in my final year. My PhD journey has been a tough one and I’ve decided that academia is not for me. I enjoy the writing side of the PhD so hello new science blog and although it’s early days, I absolutely love working on it! I’m now looking into jobs in scientific/medical writing and I am so happy to have found an area which allows me to combine by love for science, writing and creativity.

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Day 3: “Field”

3. Field
My PhD is all centred around the question “Are you what your mother ate?“. I’m investigating how various diets (high-fat and vitamins D deficient) during pregnancy affect the development, structure and function of the baby’s skeletal muscle function in later life.

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Day 4: “Inspiration”

4. Inspiration

My PhD has not been the easiest journey. There was a time when I wanted to quit so badly but my friends encouraged me to stick with it through the tough times. They are the ones that gave me hope, told me not to give up and that good things will come from completing this PhD. I am so thankful they did. I will get this PhD and I already have exciting opportunities coming my way.
I learn a lot from my friends, both in work and life situations. It’s those friends who inspire me.

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Day 5: “Reading”

5. Reading

I am currently reading “The 4-hour work week” which has already taught me some good tips on how to be productive, and how to see work/life balance in a different light.
Next on my list “The Telomere Effect”, the science behind telomere length (part of our chromosomes that determine how fast our cells age) and how we can look after them to slow down the ageing process. Excited to read this one!

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Day 6: “Workspace”

6. Workspace

Having the luxury of working from home this morning. Now I’m out of the lab it’s good to mix my workspace up from time to time. Little bit of the office, little bit of home comforts and the occasional coffee shop visit!

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Day 7: “Equipment”

7. Equipment

Throughout my PhD I’ve used a lot of different equipment from my electrophysiology muscle contraction setup to open field activity monitors to assess behaviour. But now it’s lab gloves off and time to blast through this image analysis and write my thesis! All I need is my laptop, earphones to listen to science and fitness podcasts (helps me with endless analysis!), and glasses so I can actually see what I’m doing!

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Day 8: “Routine”

8. Routine

My normal week day involves eat, work, eat, little more work, bit of scicomm, exercise and socialise, eat, sleep!
I love CrossFit and Wednesdays are always for gymnastics class. Today’s session was progressions to get that strict muscle up. Muscle up, I will get you in 2017.

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Day 9: “Home”

I grew up and spent my whole childhood in a town just outside Bristol. I love going back for the odd weekend to get away from the PhD bubble and spend quality time with my friends and family.
Things are now changing, my parents have just moved to Brussels for the next three years but Bristol will always be my home. I am so lucky to have a lot of close friends living back there after we all went separate ways for university. My home girls, I love you!

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Day 10: “Details”

10. Details

As a physiologist I love to learn about the finer details on how our amazing bodies work. I’m also mindful about my nutrition. Getting the right foods in my body sets me up for a productive day, I need that all important brain power at work (this thesis won’t write itself!) and I need the energy to be strong when I workout in the evenings. I do my best to stick to the right proportion of macros (carbs, protein, fat) each day. A typical breakfast for me looks like this:
– 40g porridge oats
– 1 scoop whey protein powder
– 160ml coconut milk
– cod liver oil
– multivitamin
– big glass of water
Having awareness of the nutritional details is one factor that keeps me fit and healthy.

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Day 11: “Unwind”

11. Unwind

Yoga is a new thing for me and I couldn’t recommend it enough for relaxing and unwinding after a day of work. Absolutely love my one-to-one sessions with my lovely friend Fran.

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Day 12: “Creativity”

12. Creativity

My main creative outlet is for my science blog. I love doodling on a piece of paper and turning my drawings into illustrations to make my blog more personal and unique.

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Day 13: “Goals”

13. Goals

I can’t recommend setting yourself goals for the year enough! The feeling of ticking each one off throughout the year is just great. They give you focus and makes you realise how much you can accomplish. Read my blog post on how to go about setting yourself goals.

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Day 14: “Materials”

14. Materials

What would I have done without my trusty pipettes?! They were there throughout the long animal studies, many PCRs and those months of immunohistochemistry work. Time for a new owner now because lab work, I am done with you!

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Day 15: “Methods”

15. Methods

A little bit of training with a side order of caffeine. These are two ways which help me stay focussed during my PhD.
Exercise: it’s a great stress reliever, it gives those hard working brain cells a break and keeps you healthy. Don’t let PhD become your life. Go for some runs, join a team sport, throw heavy weights around. I love picking up those weights and practising my handstand holds at CrossFit Solent most evenings after a day of work!
Caffeine: a saviour during those sleepy moments at my desk. I’m pretty sure most PhD students have discovered the wonders of caffeine!

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Day 16: “Memory”

16 Memory

It’s good to reflect on things from time to time. I have so many amazing memories with all my amazing friends and family. Lots of exciting plans this year, and many more memories to be made.

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Day 17: “Food”

17. Food

I’m all about the meal prep. It means I stay healthy (most of the time!), eat the right foods for me and spend as little time as possible cooking in the week when I’m PhDing. Less time cooking also means more time to do those extra things in life I love. As I’m posting this I’m having all the cookie cravings!

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Day 18: “Colour”

18. Colour

It’s all about having a colourful fitness wardrobe!

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Day 19: “Break”

19. Break

Everyone needs a break from work, especially from all the stresses and pressures of doing a PhD. I’m not one to work on my thesis every weekend, and today was a day of friends, food and the coast.

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Day 20: “Now”

20. Now

I’m in work and planning what I want to achieve this week as we speak. Setting yourself daily and weekly goals helps to keep you focused. Stay tuned for my blog post on keeping focussed and motivated during a PhD.

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Day 21: “Writing”

21. Writing

This week I’m planning and writing a new blog post for my “PhDLife” feature. This one is all about keeping that focus and motivation we all struggle with from time to time. It’s going to be published this Thursday and will be packed full of advice so keep your eyes peeled!

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Day 22: “Organisation”

22. Organisation

Being organised is all about having a good filing system, neat lab books and planning out your days and weeks in a diary. My cute fluffy fat cell is always there watching over me and keeping everything in check!

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Day 23: “Fact”

23. Fact

It’s been 3 years since I graduated from my Masters of Research in Maternal and Fetal Health at The University of Manchester, and today I found out our paper has been accepted for publication! So happy right now!

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Day 24: “Fiction”

24. Fiction

Definition: “describes imaginary events”. It’s great to have aspirations and dreams in life, but we have to put in the hard work to take them from our imagination to our reality. Imagine it, then create it.

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Day 25: “Fun”

25. Fun

Had all the fun soaking up the sunshine rays today… summer is slowly on its way.

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Day 26: “Numbers”

26. Numbers

So Friday marked the end of the CrossFit Open 2017, and here are some numbers to throw at you!
3 = third time I’ve done the Open
1 = first time doing all workouts Rx
17.1 = 219 reps
17.2 = 78 reps
17.3 = 38 reps
17.4 = 151 reps
17.5 = 19 mins 23 sec
This weekend has been all about active recovery, enjoying the sunshine and drinking tea.

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Day 27: “Communication”

27. Communication

One important aspect of science is being able to communicate research findings effectively. Travelling and presenting my PhD work at various conferences has been so rewarding. They have without a doubt developed me as a science communicator. Now my attention turns to scientific writing, so let’s see where this journey takes me.

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Day 28: “Diversity”

28. Diversity

One of the things my transfer thesis examiners were happy about was the wide range of techniques I had used in the lab. I’ve done a lot in my PhD life… from animal dissection, to radioactive experiments, to molecular biology, to electrophysiology, to immunohistochemistry, to behavioural studies, to microscopy.

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Day 29: “Love”

29. Love

What do I love?…. CHOCOLATE. Chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate cookies, all the chocolate. Oh and of course my friends, family, CrossFit, cycling and working on my scicomm projects!

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Day 30: “Reflect”

30. Reflect

I think it’s great to self reflect. Life is full of fun but everyone has stresses at some point. Reflect on the things that have been tough, don’t shy away from them. Process what’s happened and think about how you can change that situation for the better. Understand you, and learn from you.
If you’re going through a tough time with your PhD then look back and reflect on all the amazing work you’ve achieved so far. You’ll surprise yourself. Check out my blog post for tips on focus and motivation. Get your sparkle back.

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Day 31: “March on”

31. March on

It was all black for me last night as I marched my way towards birthday cocktails. I had the best day and I’m now a wonderfully young 26 year old!

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So there’s a little insight into my personal/scientific life for you! I had a lot of fun with the #wearestemsquad Instagram challenge! It definitely got my creative brain switched on in order to reflect the 31 different topics through photography. Such a great science communication project. Even better is that it provided me with an opportunity to read about other scientist’s lives and experiences in STEM!

Are you interested in the lives of other women in STEM? Check out The STEM Squad’s Instagram page or scroll through the Instagram hashtag #wearestemsquad.

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Get involved with science – British Science Week

Get involved with science – British Science Week

Friday marked the start of British Science Week! The one week in the year which is dedicated to all things science. I know what you’re all thinking, how awesome! Well, me too.

Science is not just for us scientists and researchers, it’s for everyone. One of the reasons I’ve made this blog is to break down complicated science and explain it in a clear way for everyone to learn from and enjoy. So many researchers can get bogged down into the hardcore science, writing paper after paper, but when asked to explain their science to a non-scientist they actually really struggle. Public engagement and outreach is becoming more highly recognised as an important area to target. I believe it is so vital that all the hard work scientists put in to advance the field is relayed back to the public. Plus, it’s always good to develop yourself and learn new things!

So what is British Science Week?

British science week

It’s a festival dedicated to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), but weirdly it’s across ten days, not seven. There will be a huge range of science activities for all ages to engage with across the UK.

“British Science Week 2015 saw over 5,000 events engage more than 1.6 million participants, with activities taking place across the UK.”

It’s such a great opportunity for everyone. It encourages the scientists to develop their ability to explain the research to a lay audience, and to think outside the box to create some really fun activities. Most importantly, it shows that science is fun and interesting, and provides a platform for anyone to get involved with the science community.


 

How can I get involved?

 

There are going to be hundreds of events across the UK. Interested in Biology? Chemistry? Physics? Maths? Engineering? The whole combo?… well there is something for everyone. The best place to check out these events is by clicking on British Science Week’s website. From there you can get more details on how to get involved in your local area and what exciting activities you can get stuck in with over the ten days.

For those that don’t know, I’m a PhD student at The University of Southampton, so I’m going to talk about a few ways you can immerse yourself in science across the UK but also specifically in the city of Southampton.

Southampton Science and Engineering Day

 

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Photo from University of Southampton

Living in or around the Southampton area? Or visiting next weekend? Saturday 18th March is the Southampton Science and Engineering Day, and it’s a great day out for the whole family. Check out the programme to find out what you can discover on the day. There are plenty of interactive games and activities to have a go at!

I’m going to be there jumping between two stands. The first one being Pint of Science (which I’m ecstatic to be publicist for!) and my department’s stand which is all about how maternal nutrition can affect the baby’s health throughout their life course. So come over and say hello!

What about outside of British Science Week?

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Are there events outside of British Science Week to get involved with? Of course there are. We’re not going to make you wait for another 51 weeks! Check out British Science Association website  to find out what events are happening after this science festival across the UK. Here are a few good ones to bare in mind…

Pint of Science

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Scientist or non-scientist – stop what you are doing and add Pint of Science to 15th, 16th, 17th May 2017 in your diary/calendar/planner! This is one science festival you don’t want to miss. Pint of Science is happening in lots of different cities across the UK, and I have the privilege of being the publicist for Southampton!

So what is it?

The festival has grown immensely over the past few years. There are six different themes (Atoms to Galaxies, Beautiful Mind, Planet Earth, Our Society, Tech Me Out and Our Body) and each theme hosts their three nights in a pub somewhere in the city, cool right? There are typically two or three speakers at each pub talking about their research. It’s a relaxed way for anyone to come and learn about the research going on. Event nights sold out last year, so go to our event page, keep an eye out for when tickets go on sale, come along, grab a pint and engage with science!

 

Bright Club

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Photo from Bright Club Southampton

Do you consider scientists to be comedians too? Well Bright Club is when researchers become comedians for the evening. This originally started at University College London but has since grown across the country. Here in Southampton we’re lucky enough to of had a dedicated team of postgraduate researchers to start their own Bright Club Southampton. The event nights are open to researchers in any field to give the science/stand-up comedy mix a go, but of course anyone can come along to learn about the science going on behind the scenes and have a laugh!

Interested in a specific speaker who performed at a show? Well they’ve just started doing podcasts so you’ll be able to listen to the interviews and learn more about that researcher and all of their hard work. Next event is in May, so stay tuned!

Soapbox Science

Soapbox science

This one is for the female scientists out there! Soapbox Science gives passionate women in STEM the opportunity to tell the public about their research.

“It won’t surprise you that science suffers as much from the gender-biased leaky career pipe as any other demanding career… up to 60% of science undergraduates are women; yet only 15% of UK science professors are women. Soapbox Science is born from the hearts of active female scientists who are deeply concerned about the loss of excellence from the women of the UK’s science community”.

Events are happening in multiple locations within the UK (including Belfast, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, London and Manchester) as well as in Germany, Canada, and Australia. Ladies, get stuck in, stand up on that soapbox and share your exciting new research findings!

BioBlitz

bioblitz

Are you interested in conservation and ecology? If yes, have a look into BioBlitz. This is a fantastic opportunity for nature experts and the community to unite. It’s all about exploring the local wildlife and biodiversity – finding and identifying as many different species of birds, bugs and plants as you can.

 

University of Southampton Roadshow

UoS roadshow
Photo from University of Southampton

 

This is all about “bringing research to life”. The team get on the road and attend various public events across the south of England, sharing all the different types of research that goes on here at the university with you. Click here to find out where they plan to go this year. Watch out for them at Southampton Science and Engineering Festival, Cheltenham Science Festival, Glastonbury Festival, New Forest Show and many more!

The Science room @ The Art House

The science room

The Science Room is a unique organisation that hold events on alternate Saturdays. It’s all about science led by the community, which is super cool. Events are based on your questions, and then relevant researchers are invited to discuss the answers. It’s great, it allows those questions which many people wonder about to be discussed, like “why is the sky blue?”. It’s a great chance to meet new people and engage in a whole new community, creating a dialogue between the scientists and the public.

Researchers’ Café

Researchers cafe

Want to know more about the research that goes on behind the University of Southampton’s doors? Attend a Researchers’ Café event! Sit back, listen to researchers explain their research, sip some hot tea or coffee and be part of the discussions.

Café Scientifique

Cafe scientifique

“Science for the price of a coffee”

Café Scientific is run multiple locations worldwide. It’s all about wondering into a café or bar and enjoying a coffee or glass of wine whilst enhancing your scientific knowledge. Discuss current research and debate scientific issues. Get those sciencey brain cells working!

 

 

Scientists – get involved too!!

Are you a scientist? Don’t just hide out in the lab, get out there and share your exciting new findings! Educate those that do not work in STEM, and enhance the amount of science others can learn. Wherever you are in the world, check out what opportunities are in your area and ask to be involved!

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So whether you are a non-scientist or a scientist… get stuck in!

 

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