Inspiring women in STEM
The theme for International Women's Day 2019 was #BalanceforBetter so we spoke to some of our female Science and Engineering researchers to see who inspired them in an industry still dominated by male colleagues.
Professor Alice Larkin, Professor of Climate Science and Energy Policy
Professor Alice Larkin is Professor of Climate Science and Energy Policy at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Her inspiration and support for what she wanted to achieve in her life came from teachers, supervisors and family.
“On a family note, I’ve got two brothers and nobody suggested that they should be doing things that I can’t do and my grandad was always saying “Don’t look to the boys for all the good stuff, she’ll do good stuff too” and that helped me when I was young.
“I never felt unusual for liking Physics as a female student, I was never made to feel like that. When I did my PhD I was really lucky in my supervisor, she was a woman and really great at building a team and just incredibly supportive and has helped me to think about my team and the people that I work with and how to galvanise that enthusiasm.
Dr Louise Natrajan, Reader in Inorganic Chemistry, School of Chemistry
Dr Louise Natrajan found inspiration in her best friend from her PhD, reminding us that inspiration not only exists out in the world, but also much closer to home.
“The person who really inspired me was my best friend from when I was doing my PhD. We both worked for different people who were starting their academic careers so we were their first PhD students and it was quite difficult not having a group support around that but we supported each other and she was so motivated and into her research which really inspired me to want to work really hard and get the most out of my research that I could.
“That’s something I take with me still today. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Dr Caroline Jay, Senior Lecturer in Empirically Sound Software Engineering, School of Computer Science
Dr Caroline Jay's inspiration came from her younger self who pushed aside people’s preconceptions and thought about what she really wanted.
“Since I’ve been at Manchester there have been lots of people who inspire me, too many to mention, but when I was at school that wasn’t the case at all.
"I didn’t really expect to be studying science later on in my life and it was only really when I put other people’s preconceptions aside, and thought about what I really wanted to do, that I ended up moving in this direction and ultimately having a career that I found really rewarding.”
Philippa Browning, Professor of Astrophysics, School of Physics
Professor Philippa Browning found that there was a lack of female role models in her field and so took inspiration from the men travelling to space.
“My inspiration came from Yuri Gagarin, who was the first man in space and when I was a child I really wanted to be an astronaut, and I was also influenced by the men going to the moon.
“I realised being an astronaut wasn’t for me but I could explore space in other ways and stay on the earth.”