Women in STEM | Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering

Women in STEM | Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering

by Newcastle University

For the first time ever, there are more than 1 million women working in core STEM roles across the UK.

To mark this significant milestone we're celebrating some of the incredible women we have in STEM roles here at Newcastle University.

You can also meet some of our inspirational women working in STEMM roles within our Faculty of Medical Sciences.

You actually get to change the world

Kelly Kousi

Dr Kelly Kousi, Research Associate in Chemical Engineering

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

That sometimes, especially in engineering, you can be one of a kind, something like a unicorn. 

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

Being a minority in the field can be daunting, always trying to prove that you are good enough. However, being here is also rewarding because it means you were able to overcome any preconception and you can now represent what women are capable of in STEM.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Being a woman in engineering and academia is yet to be easy. Most often you will have to try extra hard to be seen as an engineer and not as a woman engineer. But if you persevere, then it would be worth it, if anything because through this job you actually get to change the world. Just look for the right mentors and people that can inspire you and hold on to always being yourself.

Which women inspire you?

I draw inspiration from women in every field, women who are able to juggle personal and professional life, women who are not afraid to speak their minds while still being themselves. Most of all, I get my inspiration from my mother who is the strongest person I know.

 

It means being brave, defying stereotypes, and pursuing your dream career

Chioma Udeozor

Chioma Udeozor, Research Associate

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

Being a woman in STEM means actively contributing to creating a better world. It means being brave, defying stereotypes, and pursuing your dream career in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

As a woman in STEM, you challenge yourself each day. You work to discover new things, to create new things, to improve existing products and processes, and generally, to make the world better.

Being a woman in STEM is also being a role model for young girls. It's showing girls all over the world that they can dream big. It is proving to girls that there are no "men's" nor "women's" jobs and that girls can be anything. Being a woman in STEM is being an advocate for gender equality in STEM fields.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

As a woman in engineering, I have found that there are many opportunities for me. Many organizations and institutions are consciously supporting girls and women to succeed in otherwise male-dominated environments. People respect women in STEM. When I tell people that I am a PhD research in chemical engineering, I see the amazement in their eyes. I think people view women in STEM as fearless, smart, strong, and confident.

When I was deciding on what science-related discipline to study at the university, everyone I knew suggested medicine. I was told that engineering was for men, while it is more acceptable for women to study medicine. When I insisted on engineering, I was told to avoid mechanical engineering at all cost, to avoid looking like a man. Looking back, and even in today's world, I think more should be done to promote all STEM disciplines.

What do you do to shape the world in your STEM role?

I am a researcher. I am looking at the use of immersive technologies like digital games, virtual reality, and augmented reality to improve teaching and learning of chemical engineering subjects.

 

I work on innovative and emerging technology projects

 Rachael Pattinson

Rachel Pattinson, CDT Manager (Digital Civics)

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

For me, being a woman in STEM means I work on innovative and emerging technology projects which have a real social impact. Last summer, I started managing digital research and innovation projects in Open Lab, a world-leading interaction design and ubiquitous computing research group in the School of Computing at Newcastle University.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

l play a role in promoting and supporting women's rights by aiming to be fair and supportive to all the students and staff I work with in the School of Computing.

One of the things I love about my current role is supporting women to progress in their technology and research careers. And I'm proud of the way Open Lab shares technology expertise with communities, including working with women's organisations.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Lots of young women are put off digital careers because they aren't given enough information about them, there aren't enough role models and it's a male-dominated sector.

But my experience demonstrates that you can always pivot. 16 year old me, when I said I would 'never do science again', would be amazed by the work I do now.

Which women inspire you?

Most of the women I know! But thinking about women working in technology in the North East, here's three off the top of my head:

- Jenny Nelson: Jenny manages the City Council's Digital Newcastle programme and led Newcastle's to become Smart City of the Year in 2019 at the DL100 Awards.

- Penny Day: Penny works as an Innovation Officer at Sunderland Software City and founded LITNE, which supports LGBTQ+ individuals working in tech.

- Reem Talhouk: Reem is one of my Digital Civics students and she's just passed her PhD viva, which focused on exploring the role of technologies in building Syrian refugee community resilience. And, in the last week she's started a postdoctoral research fellowship at Northumbria University too!

 

I have the privilege to mentor and encourage young girls to pursue their studies and careers in STEM

Yen Nee Tan

Dr Yen Nee Tan, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials (Singapore campus)

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

Chemical Engineering is one of the engineering divisions that has a relatively higher number of female-to-male student ratio, despite it is still lower than 30%. The number is even lower for female engineers working in the chemical industry. However, the ratio of males to females should not be a hindrance, it is about having passion for the career in STEM. I am glad to be part of the women in science and will continue to contribute as an academic, a researcher, an educator as well as a mentor for my fellow ladies in the field.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

As a female academic, I have the privilege to mentor and encourage young girls to pursue their studies and careers in STEM. As a women scientist, I do face specific challenges during my pregnancy, e.g., I need to more careful when working in the chemistry lab. As a working mother, it can be difficult sometime to juggle between family and work. But all these can be overcome with the love and support from our family and workplace leaders.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

It is important for me, as an academic, to play a part in empowering other women in science for the betterment of our society. I want to make sure that my research is impactful and my teaching is useful to unleash the potential of my students. I’d like to be a role model in my profession and inspire those that will follow my footstep one day to create the propagating effects in science.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Talk to people from different fields, understand the problems, working together to come out with incredible solutions through border-less collaborations. Most importantly, work on those fields that you are really passionate about. Believe in yourself, it can be difficult sometimes to juggle between family and work, but as women, we can endure and embrace the challenges.

What do you do to shape the world in your STEM role?

Be a role model. If we need more women in STEM, it’s our responsibility to inspire them at their young age. As female academic in science and engineering, I have the privilege to mentor and encourage my students to pursue their studies and careers in STEM as we do need more gender diversity and innovative ideas in the field. Indeed, “The World Needs Science and Science Needs Women” (Alexandra Palt, Executive Vice President, L'Oréal Foundation).

 

There is a lot of misconception on what an "engineer" does

 Marloes Peeters

Dr Marloes Peeters, Senior Lecturer 

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

You will be part of an amazing community working on the forefront of science and have the opportunity to make a real difference. Being female can come with some challenges though, especially when it comes to work-life balance.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

I think there is a lot of misconception on what an "engineer" does - I am horrible at fixing things myself, but very good at finding out what the actual problem is. Most people would be aware of what an engineer in a more traditional discipline does, such as a civil or a mechanical engineer. I would like to showcase what it is to work in the field of biomedical engineering, that is largely unknown to the general public, and particularly the exciting aspect of working in a multidisciplinary field.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Your first job is never going to be perfect - the important thing is to keep on developing yourself and find out what you want. Change can be scary but it is also a good thing. You have to work for a very long time so it is best to do a job you like.

Which women inspire you?

I am fortunate to come from a family of strong women - many of them, including my mum, employed in healthcare and who have been tirelessly working throughout the pandemic. Outside of my discipline, I find Queen Maxima of the Netherlands (I am Dutch) a prime example of a strong woman. She is intelligent, hard-working, passionate about whatever she does, and clearly cares about people.

What do you do to shape the world in your STEM role?

I have done a lot of outreach activities which vary from visit to schools, to Soapbox Science (where you literally talk to the audience from a soapbox), to engagement with policy makers where I spent a week in Westminster. Particularly with the ongoing pandemic, and a lot of inaccurate information circulating the internet, I think it is so important to engage with (local) government.

 

Keep learning because learning is a lifelong journey

Naayagi Ramasamy

Dr Naayagi Ramasamy, Associate Professor, Director of Excellence in Learning & Teaching, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

I would like to see many women in STEM since women are very few in my field. In my current role as Director of Excellence in Learning & Teaching, I provide leadership on all matters related to, learning, teaching and student experience.

This role gave me an excellent opportunity to interact with academic staff, industry personnel, students, and postdoctoral researchers from a variety of backgrounds. As a researcher, through my research which largely addresses the global warming, I am pleased that my research has a potential to make a real impact to the world we live in and the society at large.

Since last year, I have been Chairing the IEEE Power and Energy Society Singapore Chapter this gave me the opportunity to regularly interact with diverse people from academia and industry. Through this role, I continue to support women in Engineering and organize many events to promote them.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

At my workplace, I do not see any issues since we have a separate committee for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and I take a lead on the University initiatives. We analyse the issues preventing women into STEM and we work towards achieving gender parity in our workplace and the study environment that we offer for our students.

Since the number of female students and staff are less and we are underrepresented in STEM, which is a global problem to address, still a lot more should be done to improve the current scenario. Work-life balance has always been a challenge for many women in STEM due to their multiple roles. I think the option of flexible working hours without compromising on the work quality would go a long way in addressing the work-life balance for women going forward.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

My advice to young women going into my industry are "Do not be contented with what you have learnt, keep learning because learning is a lifelong journey" You can learn from your peers, colleagues, and your experiences day by day. Enjoy your learning journey. Be kind to others, motivate, try and support and help every woman who you come across!

Which women inspire you?

I would say it is my mother, I have noticed many skills and talents in her, if she had been given an opportunity at the right time during her days, she would have been a role model for many women today. The next woman who inspired me is Dorothy Hodgkin, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. I was offered the Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Award (DHPA), a fully-funded research scholarship to pursue my PhD study at the University of Manchester. I was the first woman to have been awarded the DHPA from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Manchester. Although Dorothy is not in my field, she has inspired me through her work and achievements.

 

I believe we can make a big difference for inspiring and educating the next generation

 Cora Uhlemann (1)

Dr Cora Uhlemann, Lecturer in Applied Mathematics

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

What I like about STEM work is that it's first and foremost about the topic. I enjoy that science is done in diverse teams of people with all sorts of identities and backgrounds. While there are still few women in STEM, I believe we can make a big difference for inspiring and educating the next generation.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

The world of STEM is fascinating and versatile, so every young women interested in it should pursue her interests. The path to a STEM career can be challenging, so it's important to find friends and mentors who can support you along the way and give you a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Which women inspire you?

I am an applied mathematician and find Emmy Noether one of the most inspiring women in my field. She discovered a striking connection between symmetries and conservation laws (called Noether theorem) that is one of the cornerstones of theoretical physics. She persisted in a time when women were largely excluded from academic positions and made her mark despite the obstacles she faced.

What do you do to shape the world in your STEM role?

In my role as a STEM researcher, I investigate how cosmic structure was formed and shaped by gravity. We know that all cosmic structure today grew from initially small seeds of order 10 parts per million. So, as 1 of the million STEM women in the UK, I hope to contribute to the education and growth of a diverse STEM community.

 

Science is my superpower

 Priscilla Carrillo-Barragan

Dr Priscilla Carrillo-Barragan, Research Associate

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

To me, being a scientist means I can remain curious about the many fascinating aspects of this universe. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics have given me additional tools to look at this world, they feel like extra pairs of eyes.

Being a scientist is also a great way to navigate, curate and select the important pieces from the loads of information we receive each day.

In particular, as a Chemist/Microbiologist and environmentalist, being a scientist means that I can dedicate my career to contribute to the holistic solutions that the current global environmental problems require.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

As a young woman from a minority background, I do feel Science is my superpower. In a world often moved by appearances, and old misconceptions, I some times find it hard to be heard in important discussions unless I mention I have a PhD. It is as if I can use my qualification to open doors or at least ears.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

I would like to nurture and to be an active part of a supportive and inclusive research environment where women from all backgrounds feel welcomed and get a sense of belonging on their every day, well beyond women's day celebrations.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Come and join us! If you are really interested and passionate about science you should know that yes, you can. Hollywood movies and the mainstream media really don´t represent how researchers look or behave. We are just normal people that get to ask questions and then try to solve them.

What do you do to shape the world in your STEM role?

I currently study microplastics pollution on crabs and fish larvae from the Northumberland coast. The information that we will gather could be used as the backline for future pollution monitoring programmes, and to inform local policy to prevent further plastic contamination of the marine environment.

 

Consider the challenges the world is facing when choosing a profession

Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Energy Research Programme Manager

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

As a woman in STEM, it means you are using your knowledge and skills to provide a valuable contribution to fixing the challenges faced by the world.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

I work with the Women's Engineering Society to run networking and professional development events in the North East region.

I would like to think I'm a good example of how women can be engineers and really make a difference in tackling global problems such as climate change.

I would also like to provide a polite but challenging voice when I see lack of equality of opportunity and representation.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Please consider the challenges the world is facing when choosing a profession. For example, climate change brings with it problems for health, drought and hunger. Are you choosing a career that helps to tackle these challenges? You could really make a difference!

What do you do to shape the world in your STEM role?

I work with academics at Newcastle University to engage and work with industry and government in the UK to identify the best opportunities to decarbonise the energy and transport sector and develop a future energy system that is sustainable and equitable.

 

Women in STEM have GRIT

 Noori KIM

Dr Noori Kim, Assistant Professor (Singapore Campus)

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

It means they have GRIT. They have continuously shown passion and perseverance to make them survive in the STEM field today. They are truthful, reliable, and proven-hard working units.

What do you do to shape the world in your STEM role?

As an active committee member of IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) Singapore as well as Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), one of my big motivations is to promote and support the next generation of women in STEM.

 

I am very proud to be part of the Drug Discovery team

Celine Cano

Dr Celine Cano, Reader in Medicinal Chemistry

What does it mean to be a woman in STEM?

I am very proud to be part of the Drug Discovery team within the Newcastle University Cancer Centre. The Cancer Research UK Newcastle Drug Discovery Unit is an integrated team of cancer biologists, pharmacologists, structural biologists and medicinal chemists who develop new, differentiated, small molecule therapies for cancer patients.

I am also very proud to teach Medicinal Chemistry to undergraduate students in the School of Environmental Sciences. Our focus on research-led education means that our chemistry students can learn about the discovery of anti-cancer drugs.

 

Meet some of our inspirational women working in STEMM roles within our Faculty of Medical Sciences.

 Learn more about our Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering