Welcome to episode three of Inside the Petri Dish, the podcast that dissects science and takes a look down the microscope at controversial topics within research.
In this episode, Vicki Blight and Tay-Yibah Aziz have set Alice Gray another challenge to find out about animal testing in research through interviews with scientific experts, and this week we are joined by Sophia Frentz, who explores the moral dilemma of being a vegetarian and testing on animals in science.
Stay tuned for next time, where Alice takes her findings back to Tay and Vicky.
For four and a half years, I have worked to push the agenda of equality in STEM. This is a movement that I hold very close to my heart. It is something I live and breathe, and have lost sleep over.
As this is a cause that I channel a fair amount of fiery passion into, I can’t pretend that it doesn’t irk me when I see the conversation being highjacked. It may be contradictory for me to say, as I aim to get more people talking about the issues facing women in STEM, but I’m frequently noticing the movement being used as a force of self-promotion. Although I commend anyone, and any company, that shows a commitment towards supporting women in science, I often feel that the support for equality can be utilised for their own gain, rather than for the gain of equality and diversity.
For example, this is not related to STEM, but look at this advert for oven-baked chips:
Partially fried potato products have nothing to do with equality, so why is it being used as a marketing tool?
Shouting from the rooftops that you support equality and diversity is an empty gesture, if in reality your workplace frameworks don’t support working parents, you aren’t incorporating diversity objectives into your main aims of your organisation, or you aren’t investing time in outreach programmes that engage underrepresented groups. Because then, you aren’t attempting to raise the profile of the conversation around equality, but you are raising your own profile.
If people and organisations are passionate about equality and diversity, they should be part of ensuring that legalisation is implemented to support these movements. They shouldn’t simply be promoting superficial support for equality, but they should be actively pursuing it.
I am all for everyone publicly supporting equality and having excellent representation in media (such as advertising), but it needs to feel like a authentic investment in these attitudes and not a disingenuous plea to create ‘shareable content’. This is a position that I feel uncomfortable sitting in, because I want people and companies to be talking about these issues, but I want it to come from a place of genuine intent to better the landscape and not one that aims to gain brownie points and a subsequent increase in following.
This weekend, I turn the ripe age of 26. This year I have not only gained a few more wrinkles and grey hairs, but I have also learned a few things. As I approach the celebration of another year on this planet, I can’t shake feelings of sentimentality, and I am reflecting back on what I have learnt this year as well as the ones prior.
I am powerful. That may be a big way of starting this list, and it may seem to lack humility, but we might as well kick this list off with something substantial.Throughout school, I was teased and made to feel inadequate, and I have to admit that several of my romantic relationships left me feeling the same. My confidence has been trampled on over the course of 2.5 decades, and this led me to doubt my ability to achieve things. But looking back on the last four years it has taught me that I am responsible for my own aspirations.I refuse to let others affect my trajectory and remain committed to achieving my goals. For that, I am powerful.
Female friendships are incredibly important to me. I adore strong women, I want to surround myself with them and gain their strength via osmosis. Each of my friends teach me something different, about myself and about life.Society teaches us that women are bitchy competitors, jostling for male attention, poised to tear each other down wherever possible. My 26 years have taught me that this isn’t true. My female friends have been my shoulder to cry on, they have given me a slap around the face when I needed it and they have done nothing but celebrate in my achievements.
Life is short. Real short. Don’t waste it and don’t hesitate in doing the things you aspire to, because you will only wonder why you didn’t do them sooner.
Don’t waste time on people who don’t deserve it. Despite my 25th year of existence teaching me that life is very very short (please see thing 3), I spent a significant amount of my 26th year on this year giving time to those who aren’t worthy.This year has taught me to stop be amenable and accommodating towards people who don’t deserve it. Your time is precious, even if you wish to spent that time lying on the sofa. Please don’t spend it on people who wouldn’t give you a second thought.
Wear SPF every day (I would like all of the points on this list to be poignant, but they wont be).
Your beginnings do not define your endings. I was never really aware of my class growing up. I grew up in the middle of a rural farming community in west Wales, where everyone around me was the same. My school was adequate. From my knowledge it was a good school, but only in comparison to the other school within a 30 mile radius.When I got to university, I realised that I’m working class. I met people who had gone to private school and their school had a surplus of materials that they could offer them to enrich their learning. It was an alien world to me.It made me hyper-aware of my background and how people who went to my school were unlikely to go much further than that. Where I come from, moving to Cardiff is considered ‘moving to the big city’.
However, this hasn’t defined me. Much like point one – I will try my hardest to prevent outsider influences from affecting my trajectory.
Followers don’t equal success. It’s easy in this blogging business to get wrapped up in follower numbers. And although I have never been driven by the number of people in my followers list, I am not devoid from feeling the pressure.I never set up this blog to gain followers. I set up my blog to make a difference, even if that difference was to get people talking about the issues facing women in STEM. The growth of my followers didn’t matter to me, and it never has, but I do feel under pressure to build this audience.But after a lot of talking to myself, I have concluded that this doesn’t matter and ultimately the number of followers never matters. If you grow an audiences slowly, the chances are that that audience is loyal and is genuinely interested in your content. Whereas if you set yourself goals around followers and aim to get followers as quickly as possible, those people are going to be flippant and aren’t genuine.
I have run my blog for four years and have a fraction of the followers some others have, but I have to revel in my success. I have achieved a lot through this wee platform, and I need to celebrate that my success hasn’t been for me. By working to make the landscape better for women in science, helping to shape policies that surround this industry and influencing legislation around science education for girls – my aims aren’t self serving, and this means I can forget about getting more followers for myself.
I couldn’t care less about what other people think of my body anymore. I have been different shapes and at different levels of fitness and regardless of what I looked like, someone always had something nasty to say. So why worry about it? I have liberated myself of being conscious about my body because I’m safe in the knowledge that you can’t please everyone and it isn’t my job to.
Work life balance is very important. At the end of last year, I wrote a blogpost called ‘Burned out’. I had worked myself to the bone and not taken a break in over a year. Each day I was either working on my blog, editing podcasts, editing YouTube videos or working my 9-5 job (or a combination of all four). This is not sustainable.Take time for you, because you ain’t getting that time back.
26 is not old. I am a planner. I like to know where I am heading and set aims. From a young age, I had this idea that I was going to get engaged at 25, married at 27, have my first child before I was 30. As I find myself hurtling towards 30 years old, without a partner but a promising career in hand, the thought of settling down and jeopardising that is terrifying.I thought 26 was old, and that I would feel my eggs dying like I was a slowly emptying vessel. Turns out, I have a few more wrinkles and a few grey hairs, but I still have acne and will still laugh at almost any fart joke. So I am saying farewell to the milestone aims and am saying hello to embracing what the next decade has to offer.I’m in my prime, and there isn’t any slowing down.
It’s Galentine’s Day, the day in which we bathe in the light of female friendship, inspired by the terminally adorable Lesley Knope from Parks and Recreation. Female friendships are my lifeblood, and I have shamelessly leeched off of my gal pals to give me strength in moments where I have had none.
In a world where we brand women as hyper-competitive, bitchy and ready to tear each other down in an instant, celebrating women (and the power of women supporting each other) is the perfect counterattack on this misconception about female friendship. For that reason, I’m using Galentine’s Day to share some love for women in STEM on social media who I admire.
Her Instagram bio reads ‘Zoologist, Wildlife presenter, Science Communicator and Adventurer’ – if that doesn’t get you interested, I don’t know what will. She shares her adventures with stunning photography and videography, and I get great joy from observing her success in her field.
Her Instagram feed and YouTube videos make me feel like she breathes in the fresh air for me whilst I’m stuck in my office.
From meal prep, to home workouts, to science, the Fit Scientist has got your back. She is inspirational in sharing she day-to-day life in the lab as well as her fitness journey. Whether you need some motivation to get off the sofa and to get into the gym, or to get your work done, a scroll through her feed will sort you out!
London-based illustrator of trailblazing female scientists.
When not at my desk or in the gym, I can be found in art galleries, and as a amateur artist in my spare time, STEM is incredibly important to me. I adore her style and her 10 heroines in STEM project was amazing to witness, and I would love to see her work turned into a zine so that I could own tangible versions of her art.
A fellow podcaster and science blogger, Meriame gives me daily inspiration. Her Instagram feed is perfection in communicating laser physics and branding. If you want to learn about personal branding for social media, have a scroll through @meriameberbouche.
Cancer and molecular biology PhD researcher and writer, Nicola has been communicating science through blogging with incredible consistency.
I have followed Nicola for what feels like forever, and she is another example of branding perfection. She is incredibly uniform in her image, and I’m a huge fan of her colour scheme, as well as her general attitude to using social media as a platform to promote science (and herself).
Welcome to a special episode of Inside the Petri Dish, the podcast that dissects science and takes a look down the microscope at controversial topics within research.
In this episode, Vicki Blight and Alice Gray interview Tay-Yibah Aziz about her work looking into why girls are less likely to study STEM subjects at school, to celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
Current statistics show that women make up only 23% of those in core STEM occupations in the UK and 24% of those working in core STEM industries (Wise Campaign). Not only has the number of women in science been low for centuries, but they have been failed through a lack of recognition for their work. To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I wanted to celebrate some women from history who didn’t receive the recognition they deserved.
You will notice a common theme in these stories – women do groundbreaking work, and their male colleagues get the kudos (usually in the form of a Nobel Prize).
Nuclear physicist, Lise Meitner, was a vital research in the discovery of nuclear fission. For many decades, she collaborated with chemist Otto Hahn, but despite her signifiant contribution to this work, Hahn published their findings without acknowledging her work. Otto was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for spinning the atom, and Lise wasn’t recognised in her contribution.
Chien-Shiung Wu’s work turned the law of parity on it’s head and was a landmark moment in physics. This work was crucial in the development of the atom bomb and she is now valued as one of the most important physicists of the 20th Century. However, the 1957 Nobel Prize was awarded to Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, despite her groundbreaking work.
Microbiologist Esther Lederberg developed basic techniques in the field of genetics that have been instrumental in understanding how genes work. Esther’s work played a vital role in her husband being awarded a Nobel Prize, but sadly she was not mentioned.
Welcome to episode three of Inside the Petri Dish, the podcast that dissects science and takes a look down the microscope at controversial topics within research.
In this episode, Vicki Blight and Tay-Yibah Aziz have set Alice Gray another challenge to find out about animal testing in research through interviews with scientific experts, and this week we are joined by Nafisa Jadavji.
Stay tuned for next time, where we explore this topic further with another amazing guest.
Role models are vital in our development, they allow children to ground their interests in a tangible goal. However, if the representation of those around us is limited, what we can see ourselves becoming is restricted.
Broadening the representation of women in our media enables our young girls to see themselves in new roles, especially when they are looking up to women that they can directly identify with. This is vital in ensuring that girls aspire to STEM roles, as it allows them to consider that as a potential career path for them.
The impending 26th anniversary of my existence has made me quite sentimental, and I have been thinking about the people who inspired me. I think of my role models came from a broad sample, and I think that is partly because the lack of women in the media during my childhood meant that I had to get inspiration from where I could.
But there are certainly a few women in STEM who were instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in science.
I have vivid memories of staring up at the television, whilst sitting crossed-legged on a wine red carpet, watching Michaela Strachan on the Really Wild Show. I was adamant that I wanted to be just like her – I even wanted to wear a paw print necklace, parachute trousers and camouflage tops. I think she played a really big role in my aspirations to become a scientist, especially my interest in biology.
Dr Alice Roberts
As I matured, and my preferences for children’s TV programmes dwindled, but another woman in STEM on the BBC became a huge inspiration to me. Dr Alice Roberts’ programmes about anatomy fascinated me and, as someone who wanted to study at Cardiff University like she did, I latched onto her as a role model.
She still remains someone that I admire to this very day.
And finally, and probably the most influential woman in my life, my mother. My mum is sharp-minded, kind-hearted and empathic beyond belief. She nurtured me not only physically, but she’s also nurtured my personality. I was a stubborn little girl, sometimes shy, but ‘bossy’. I treasure that that wasn’t discouraged, because my defiance has become my greatest tool in life, and she propagated it.
She taught me how to be compassionate, she taught me to be fierce and she taught me to be thrifty; three attributes that have served me well in life.
Please leave a comment with the people who inspired you, I would love to know.