11-year-old girl is America’s top young scientist

An 11-year-old girl has been given the accolade of ‘America’s top young scientist’ and awarded a £25,000 prize. Gitanjali Rao invented a cheap device to test drinking water, inspired to make the gadget after hearing about the plight of people involved in the Flint water crisis.

Flint, Michigan, faced tainted drinking water after companies cut costs, so Gitanjali designed the compact device to be cheaper and faster than current methods to test for lead contamination in drinking water.

After two years of research, Gitanjali noticed that the widely-used test strips would need a couple attempts before an accurate reading was gathered. Rao was inspired by research by MIT that used carbon nanotubes to detect hazardous gases in the air, and found that the carbon nanotube technique detected lead in water faster than the current tests.

She called her invention ‘Tethys’ after the Greek goddess of fresh water.

Gitanjali was awarded her award and £25,000 prize for her amazing invention that will have real life applications, in Flint and across the world.

A few years ago, I started sketching inspirational women in STEM to celebrate them, and because of her amazing work, I feel that Gitanjali deserves to be celebrated in this way as well.

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Burned out

Forgive me for the lack of STEM related content, but it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to (cry if I want to).

They say there are ten signs that you are burning out, but I feel like I have experienced twenty. And I have exhausted myself on every realm – mental, emotional and physical. Because having stubborn ambition and unadulterated dedication can come at a price.

I’ve been chasing my career goals and aspirations with the tenacity only a redhead could muster; working a full-time job, managing a blog with a workload the equivalent of a part-time job, training in the gym five days a week, starting new projects whilst maintaining old ones, and trying to push myself into filmmaking and presenting (all whilst maintaining a social life and trying to spend time with family). I use my annual leave to catch up with my blog work or do blog events, or even help me to achieve the next stage in my goals, meaning there are no holidays and there is no time off.

The last two years have been filled with great news and fantastic experiences, sadly this has happened on a backdrop of bad news and hard times. None the less, I haven’t stopped and I have soldiered on to keep up with my upward trajectory. But this has meant that I have had to push ‘dealing with the bad news’ to the bottom of a To Do list that I never get round to.

Despite these bits of bad news and hard times, I haven’t stopped and I’ve still been plodding along. But it’s time to admit that plodding along isn’t sustainable, and this ‘plodding along’ is slowly but surely become a grind to a halt.

Burning out has forced me to stop, its twisted my arm until I admitted that enough is enough. And although it pains me to say it and I say it with gritted teeth, my resolution for the New Year is to slow down.

So if you want to find me, I will be up a mountain somewhere breathing in some fresh air.

Peace out.

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STEM Christmas Gift Guide 2017

It is that time of year again, where some parents are pulling out their hair trying to find gender-neutral toys for stocking fillers.

In honour of this festive period and to help make life a little easier, I have put together another STEM Christmas Gift Guide, with special features of books that would make amazing presents for young boys and girls to help increase the representation of women in STEM on their bookshelf.

Detective Dot – “It’s not magic,” said Dot “Just code.”

Nine-year-old tech whizz Detective Dot has a dangerous new mission from the Children’s Intelligence Agency – investigate teenage trillionaire Shelly Belly. Why are all her products so cheap, and where does she make them? Dot’s going to have to use all her coding skills, cunning and gadgets to crack the case.

An awesome book (and activity pack) that introduces the concepts of coding to kids and reinforcing what they are learning in school, whilst encouraging children to think about how products are made and ethical practices in industry. It does a lot in one book, and is beautifully illustrated.

SUPRBIRD Dinosaur Play 2 Sets, Assemble and Disassemble Dinosaurs DIY – It is never to early for STEM learning. These gender-neutral dinosaur toys are suitable for children age three and up.

Tech Will Save Us DIY Thirsty Plant Kit – Biology and engineering, the perfect gift for an eager mind. The kit allows kids to make a moisture sensor, power it with solar energy, and to your plants happy. It is suitable for children aged 8 and over.

My First Microscope – A fully functioning microscope for little hands.

National Geographic Play Sand – This is mainly included in the list in case my friends see it, because I think its cool and would like some. And a kid would probably think it was so too.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – This book showcases some of the amazing women from history and today. This children’s book is so good that I have it.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World – The perfect gift for the Fantastically Great Women in your life. From Coco Chanel to Rosa Parks, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is bursting full of astounding facts and incredible artwork on some of the most brilliant women who helped shape the world we live in.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World – A gloriously illustrated celebration of trailblazing women. Simple as.

A Galaxy of Her Own: Amazing Stories of Women in Space – “Will suitably inspire trailblazers of all ages”

A must-have book for ambitious girls – it tells fifty stories of inspirational women who have been fundamental to the story of humans in space.

Amelia Earhart (Little People, Big Dreams) – Any book from this series would be a great edition to any bookshelf. 

In the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the lives of outstanding people from designers and artists to scientists. All of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream.

Ada Twist, Scientist – Determined Ada Twist, with her boundless curiosity for science and love of the question Why?

Does It Fart?: The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence – Dogs do it. Millipedes do it. Dinosaurs did it. You do it.

Put this in a stocking this Christmas, I can guarantee that you will glance through it first and learn something new!

Molymods – just ‘cuz. I always wanted to play with these in chemistry class, and why not use them to decorate the tree this year and make a chemistree.

Wow Stuff Science Museum Famous Drinking Bird – Learn about perpetual motion and re-create the ‘Any Key’ scene from the Simpsons.

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Ada Lovelace Day 2017

Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

It aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM.

What are you doing to celebrate #AdaLovelaceDay?

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Women in Science by Tay-Yibah Aziz

Recently, I was featured as part of Tay-Yibah Aziz’s film about women in science.

As part of her project, Tay spoke to women scientists from Bristol and the surrounding area about their journeys through science and work in their fields.

This video forms part of her MSc thesis project studying role models in science and how to encourage more young girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and careers.

In partnership with: The University of the West of England Bristol Robotics Laboratory The University of Bristol.

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Lacking Diversity – House of Commons Science and Technology Committee 2017

Source: Twitter

What’s that you can hear? That is the sound of scientists across the UK slamming their heads against a desk repeatedly, because today the House of Commons announced the members of the Science and Technology Committee, and it doesn’t look good.

The Science and Technology Committee is in place to inform governmental policy and decision-making, and to ensure that these processes are founded on good science and evidence. You can imagine that for such a committee, devised to lend their expertise to critique and hold government to account surrounding matters concerning science in the UK, the House of Commons would be expected to gather MPs with scientific experience from diverse backgrounds. This would be the logical answer, to ensure that the issues facing science in its lack of diversity, climate change and Brexit, are properly addressed with careful consideration and experience. However, the Science and Technology Committee that was revealed today was as a sea of men, with only two committee members having any experience of science.

The committee made up of Norman Lamb MP, Bill Grant MP, Darren Jones MP, Clive Lewis MP, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Neil O’Brien MP, Graham Stringer MP and Martin Whitfield MP, lacks the diversity and background that is required to properly fulfil its role. With one of the main problems facing STEM industries being the lack of women, how can we expect this committee to consider this issue and value this concern when there isn’t any women sitting on the committee to provide this voice?

Another great issue facing science (and the world) is climate change. Therefore we should all feel safe in the knowledge that one of the newly announced members of the Science and Technology Committee is a climate change denier. Despite Graham Stringer, Labour MP, constituting 50% of the scientifically trained members on this committee, with a degree in Chemistry, Graham also is a trustee of the Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, a group that deny the dangers of climate change.

The reveal of the new committee isn’t reassuring, in the face of the threat of Brexit on STEM industries and the issues within science (such as the lack of women), the presence of a diverse and experienced committee would help to reassure STEM workers that the industry’s best interests would be looked after. However, this is not the case.

With a committee lacking the knowledge needed to fully understand science in the UK or the barriers that lead to inequality in STEM, how can we be sure that the Science and Technology Committee can do its job effectively? I am certainly not convinced.

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What is it like to be a young professional in Wales?

I’m going to take a break from the normal ‘women in STEM’ blog content to talk about something that has been on my mind for a really long time.  I want to talk about what it’s like to be a young professional in Wales, because as someone who is trying to shape a career, I face a dichotomy between wanting to have easy access to the routes to success and a passion to keep talent in Wales.

Wales doesn’t lack talent, we nurture it and built it (and then it leaves via the Severn Bridge and never comes back again).

There is a predictable career timeline for young people in Wales, as we grow up here, are educated here, and then move away for work. Because, as a country Wales struggles economical, with over a quarter of the Welsh population living in poverty and Wales has one of the highest youth employment rates in the UK. Shaping your career here is hard, and myself and my friends have often worked in jobs outside of our field whilst we wait around for relevant employment. When searching, there are often perfectly suitable jobs, or even amazing opportunities, in science communications, but they are all based in London and I categorically refuse to move to London.

This utter denial of London life is only slightly the result of a distain for the cramped and dusty city, and is mostly because, as a Welsh person, I want talent to be kept in (and drawn into) Wales. Building a career in Wales can be a bit of a battle, especially if you in a niche area like science communication and have the aspiration to become a science TV presenter; it would be easier to gather up my things and move to London where the opportunities are fruitful. But I really don’t want to be a part of the perpetual cycle of talent leaving Wales and talent seldom being attracted.

It’s not a ground-breaking statement to say that everything happens in London, and this certainly is true for my industry. My ultimate career goal is to present and work on science TV programmes, and a sizable proportion of science magazines, production companies and STEM organisations are based in and around London. Because of this, it would make sense to move to London as this would grant me access to a greater number of opportunities, but with a potent cocktail of a stubborn nature and a desire to stay in Wales, I have written off this option – at least for now.

However, I fear that this passion to keep working in Wales has an expiration date, especially will the potential ramifications of Brexit on the Welsh labour market. If building a career in Wales or keeping talent in Wales was hard before Brexit, I don’t know what it will be like when our economy isn’t supported by European funding. (So please don’t blame me if you see me ignoring my moral compass and moving to London in a few years’ time.)

I suppose this blogpost doesn’t achieve anything, it is merely a rant about the difficult career choices young people face in Wales. Because as I continue furthering my career in science communication, I feel that I am not only having to hurdle barriers facing women in science, but I feel like I have to ultimately face up to whether I want to sacrifice my morals and my passion for keeping talent in Wales to get there.

(If you weren’t a fan of this non-STEMinist talk, don’t worry, normal broadcasting will now resume.)

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