Meet the Stemettes BAML Panel
Prof Christine Loscher from Dublin City University at the Meet the Stemettes event. Photo via Flickr/StemettesHQ

Meet the Stemettes event encourages young women in STEM

10 Nov 2015

The Stemettes ran their first multi-city event last weekend in Dublin and London, with plenty of wisdom on offer.

Think about what you would like to do rather than what you want to be, enter the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition to explore and learn about STEM and always listen out for wisdom from people who are further along in their career than you are.

Those were some of the nuggets of advice offered by panellists at the Meet the Stemettes event, where they spoke about their sometimes “scenic” routes into their current jobs in STEM, while one of the events youngest panellist’s revealed that the most inspiring event she attended this year was Inspirefest 2015.

The event, which was sponsored and hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was held both in Dublin and London on Saturday to encourage girls to build their confidence in STEM.

Falling in love with research

At the Dublin event, Prof Christine Loscher from Dublin City University (DCU) spoke about how her general interest in how the body works led her to study for a diploma and degree in science at Dublin Institute of Technology. But it wasn’t until she started researching the immune system in her PhD in NUI Maynooth (now Maynooth University) that she found her calling.  “I fell in love with it,” she recalled. “On the first day in the lab I found that the other people there thought the same way I did – I felt like I had come home.”

Today, Loscher directs the Health Technologies Research Hub at DCU and leads an active research lab in immunology. “Science gives you the ability to do loads of different things,” she said. “I get to drive the research agenda in health, I go out to schools to talk about science, I lead campaigns to raise funds for research that will change the way we care for older people, and in my lab we have made a new discovery that could lead to better treatment for babies with the skin condition eczema.”

Words of wisdom

And just as Loscher was generous with her wisdom at the weekend, she in turn continues to seek out advice from more senior people and mentors in STEM. “Just last week I had the honour of spending time with astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (who received an honorary doctorate from DCU) and Prof Louise Richardson (the incoming vice-chancellor at Oxford University) and they both blew me away, I learned a huge amount from them.”

Fellow panellists also had words of wisdom and tales of varied and interesting careers. Architect and researcher Dr Shannon Chance, a Marie Curie Fellow at DIT, advised the young women in the audience to challenge assumptions and not to get too hung up on names of careers today, as new types of jobs emerge rapidly.

Steve McAuley from Bank of America stressed that technology is about not just coding but also communication, team building and collaboration and analytical chemist Dr Shirley Gallagher spoke about how unpredictable life can be.

Andrea Fagan, whose curiosity led her to study natural sciences, said that studying science gave her the grounding to become a Python developer with Bank of America, while Andreea Popa from Romania started studying astrophysics and then switched to computer science, leading to her current role as a software engineer with Microsoft.

Inspiring young scientists

Meet the Stemettes

Prof Christine Loscher from DCU speaking at the Meet the Stemettes event. Photo via Flickr/StemettesHQ

Elle Loughran is already blazing a trail in STEM and spoke about how she discovered a love of science when she entered the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.

The sixth-year school student, who was recently appointed to the CREST Youth Panel of the British Science Association, developed a graphene-based diagnostic tool for BTYSTE, and her success opened doors to the BT Bootcamp and, last summer, the Outbox Incubator run by the Stemettes in London. “We had speakers come in and talk to us about how to create a STEM-related business, as well as lots of other fun stuff,” she recalled. “I met so many people who are really talented and skilled and we all learned a lot from each other.”

When asked by fellow Outbox Incubator participant and BTYSTE winner Ciara Judge to name one of her favourite events of the year, Loughran chose Inspirefest 2015. “We heard from lots of cool women, it was very inspiring,” she said.

Shedding light on engineering

One of the most entertaining talks came from Laura Tobin, who is completing her PhD in engineering at University College Dublin. Tobin charted her ‘scenic route’ through studying physics and computers before arriving at engineering and working on solar and LED technology, while also being involved in Dublin Maker. When asked what her ideal discovery might be, Tobin said she would like to discover a chemical element because she could name it.

Confidence builders

Stemettes co-founder Jacquelyn Guderley said the Dublin and London gigs, which saw around 100 girls attend, were “hugely important in allowing girls to feel a part of a global community of girls in STEM. Meeting female STEM role models, taking part in mini networking sessions and having the opportunity to ask panellists anything they liked – while in the impressive setting of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s offices – will be an experience that gives them confidence as they build their own STEM careers.”

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Open Eir (formerly Eircom Wholesale), Fidelity Investments, Accenture and CoderDojo.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Join us again from 30 June to 2 July 2016 for fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity. Get your Super Early Bird tickets now.

Main and body photo via Flickr/StemmetesHQ

Claire O’Connell
By Claire O’Connell

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology from University College Dublin and a master’s in science communication from Dublin City University. She has written for Silicon Republic and The Irish Times and was named Irish Science Writer of the Year in 2016.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading