International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020

To mark today being International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we meet two current students and hear about their vacation work experiences in STEM

Rosie Lester – NatSci from Selwyn College

Why I chose my vacation experience and what I got out of it:

I am currently in my third year and lots of conversations are going on about what we’re all going to do when we graduate (at the end of fourth year for lots of us), so I really wanted to experience the careers I was considering. I worked with a postdoc research group at the University of Exeter for eight weeks and got lots of insight into how things are run, daily life, and how people ended up there.

What I enjoy most about my subject:

I study Materials Science, and it’s definitely what I wanted to do but didn’t have a name for when I applied to the Natural Sciences course. It blends Chemistry, Physics, Maths, and various other bits and pieces of science to solve real problems, which I find both really interesting and satisfying. For example, one of my favourite lectures explained why chocolate goes off (look up its crystallised forms). It’s also a friendly and inclusive department with an excellent tea room, and recently the literature review we’ve been writing has allowed me to thoroughly explore one of my own interests – sustainability of fibres- whilst getting guidance and credit.

you can’t get something if you don’t ask

A piece of advice for young women interested in studying or a future career in science:

I think the main thing that’s helped me so far is the idea that you can’t get something if you don’t ask. Applying to Cambridge is one example, but also contacting institutions for unofficial work experience can be very productive, even if you’re likely to get rejected. I’ve done work experience every summer and have it lined up for this one, all from speculative applications. As long as you can contextualise a rejection (for example, lots of companies will delete an application on principle if it isn’t for their usual programme), you can get experience that matches what you want to know, not what they want to teach you.

Alicia Murphy – Chemical Engineer from St Catharine’s College

Why I chose my vacation experience and what I got out of it:

I wanted to do something directly using my degree – Chemical Engineering – to see whether I enjoyed the practical application of the subject as much as I liked the theory we learn. This 9-week internship in Petroleum Technology at Equinor was advertised by the Careers Service and I decided to apply since it was a great chance to work abroad in Norway. Being a very large company with a wealth of engineering experience and disciplines that use engineers (e.g. Production Engineering, Reservoir Engineering, Subsea Engineering, Drilling and Well), I thought it could be an interesting place to learn – and I wasn’t wrong!

The subject is very outward-looking

What I enjoy most about my subject:

Engineering is all about problem-solving, which can be very fun! We learn the fundamental theories and then must be able to apply them to a wide range of problems. Chemical engineers work in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to food and drink and consumer goods. The subject is very outward-looking, and the department is always trying to improve the course, tailoring it to the skills needed by today’s chemical engineers. I really like this real-world focus.

One piece of advice for young women interested in studying or a future career in science:

I would say have confidence in your abilities. It may be a generalisation, but I find that myself and many of my female course mates can be less confident than our male counterparts in voicing our ideas in supervisions or making decisions when solving problems. But there’s no reason for this since we are equally competent. So, believe in yourself!

Learn more about careers in STEM via the Career Sectors A-Z; and scope out vacation work opportunities via our Vacation Work Feedback archive

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