#AskAQuestion: Dr Helen Mason OBE

#AskAQuestion: Dr Helen Mason OBE

What is your job title?

Retired Reader in Solar Physics (the University of Cambridge).

Please describe your journey into STEM?

As a child, I loved science and so I studied this at the University of London, first doing a BSc, then a PhD. I began to study the Sun, in particular using observations of the Sun from space. I have continued to do this for many years, working with other colleagues, at NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). I really enjoy learning new things about the Sun. I also enjoy sharing my enthusiasm with the public and school students.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I would love to understand better what causes solar flares (huge explosions) on the Sun!

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I think it is good to share our enthusiasm and what we have learnt with others. The Great Science Share for Schools enables children from each school to share what they have learnt with other children, with practical examples. Science is exciting and is all about asking questions, and trying to answer them as best we can. The GSSfS encourages this, developing curiosity and enthusiasm for Science.

What is your Twitter handle?

@helen_hm11

#AskAQuestion: Dr Vidyadhar Peesapati

#AskAQuestion: Dr Vidyadhar Peesapati

What is your job title?

I am Dr Viddy Peesapati, and I am a Research Fellow in High Voltage, in the School of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the University of Manchester. My work involves around making sure our electrical network works reliably. So, I work with electrical companies in making sure equipment working at hundreds of thousands of volts, does not break down.

Describe your journey into STEM.

I always wanted to be an engineer, as far as I can remember. I felt I could repair anything in the house, when it broke. I couldn’t, but it motivated me do try harder and pick engineering.

The truth is, I did not know if I wanted to become an Electrical and Electronics Engineer though (I was 16, there was a lot I didn’t know about). It was a hard choice to make, as I was torn between Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. I chose Electrical Engineering, as I was confident there were good future and career options. Looking back, I did the right thing by choosing Electrical and Electronics and I do not think I would want to be anything else now.  I love my work today, and I look forward to coming to work every day. I think this is the biggest win I could get from my Degree.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

The STEM related question I would like to tackle is how do we attract more people into Science and Engineering? These areas have both attractive career and future prospects. But in spite of this, we do not have enough STEM graduates! As an engineer myself, I see the need for more science engineering graduates to tackle future energy, climate and technology challenges.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I would have loved to see an initiative like Great Science Share for Schools when I was at school! I always thought Mathematics and Physics were so hard and I wouldn’t be able to do engineering. This was not right, but I lacked the information needed to make that decision. I think initiatives like this will help break the stigma towards Science and Engineering. I had to work hard in some subjects, but that would have been the case in any degree! Science and Engineering is about being able to do things, creative and analytical thinking, and more than just physics and mathematics.

Can we follow you on social media?

@drviddy

#AskAQuestion: Amina Frese

#AskAQuestion: Amina Frese

What is your job title?

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Please describe your journey into STEM?

It was pretty straight forward, I always wanted to become a scientist. My favourite subject in school was biology so I decided to do a BSc in Biology. I enjoyed working in research so much that I continued with a MSc in Biology. I then moved from my home country Germany to the UK to do a PhD in Structural Biology and afterwards got the position of Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Manchester.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

How did nature evolve the biochemistry of enzymes and how can we learn from nature to design artificial enzymes?

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I am passionate about showing diversity in STEM on my social media channel. During school and university I did not see that diversity was represented in academia and to me it is really important to show young people that this has changed.

What is your Twitter handle?

My Instagram account is @secret_life_of_a_scientist

#AskAQuestion: Jitesh Gajjar

#AskAQuestion: Jitesh Gajjar

What is your job title?

Professor of Applied Mathematics

Please describe your journey into STEM?

My STEM journey commenced at a young age. When I was 12, one of my teachers asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to be a mathematician. I loved doing problems and it was much more pleasurable than writing essays. Along my route so many wonderful people have helped and pushed me along, Pamela Bernbaum, Prof. Frank Smith, Prof. Trevor Stuart, Prof. Mike Gaster, Prof. Philip Hall, Prof. Anatoly Ruban, that without them seeing something in me, I would not be here. Of course I cannot forget mum and dad where the maths genes come from.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

Solving the millennium-prize problem about the Navier-Stokes Equation would help make me rich and famous, but the ultimate problem that needs to be solved is to find a formula to make everyone happy.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

There are so many big world challenging problems that we need to solve, cleaning up the environment, providing clean water, better health, etc, which need new ideas and people involved to help solve them. If the Great Science Share can help young people to become energised to go into science and engineering careers to help tackle these problems, it would be really great, and that it is why this is so important.

What is your Twitter handle?

@jitesh_gajjar

#AskAQuestion: Isabel Thomas

#AskAQuestion: Isabel Thomas

What is your job title?

Science writer and author

Please describe your journey into STEM?

I loved every minute of science at school so gorged on Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology A-levels, then did a Human Sciences degree which allowed me to delve deeply into genetics, evolutionary biology, epidemiology and animal behaviour. At university I also discovered a passion for journalism, so I looked for ways to combine science and writing. There is no standard path into a writing career – you find creative ways to build your own – but my science background has been invaluable. I’ve written around 150 science books for children and young people, as well as writing for children’s science magazines The Week Junior Science+Nature and Whizz Pop Bang, and creating STEM outreach resources – everything from websites to games!

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I was lucky to find my way into science from a disadvantaged background, and I really want to help other children and young people to do the same. So the challenge I'd love to solve is – how can we tackle socioeconomic and gender inequalities in participation in STEM education and careers? I’m currently doing a postgraduate research degree at the University of Cambridge, looking at the potential of integrated science and arts learning and teaching to break down barriers to STEM aspiration and participation.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

There are different theories about why some young people choose to pursue science while others don't, but they all agree on one thing – sharing and discussing science with peers, friends, family and other significant people in their lives is vital. The Great Science Share is an incredible opportunity for children, teachers and schools to do just that. By sharing and celebrating the questions that have inspired them, and the scientific tools they are using to answer them, children see that their skills, ideas and experiences are valued by science. They see that science is not about learning facts, but about asking questions they REALLY want to answer. They see that there is not just 'one way' to answer these questions. They begin to glimpse what science - and science-related careers - are really like.

What is your Twitter handle?

@isabelwriting

#AskAQuestion: Dr Eleanor Raffan

#AskAQuestion: Dr Eleanor Raffan

What is your job title?

Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Career Development Fellow

Please describe your journey into STEM?

Growing up I enjoyed animals at home and science at school, so it made sense to study to be a vet. I worked as a vet in practice but got the bug for research when I realised there quite how much we don't know yet about how bodies work. In particular, I am fascinated by how the 4 letter DNA code can be responsible for the amazing variation between people and species, and how that cellular programming interacts with our environment.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I would like to understand why some people are prone to getting fat whereas others are fairly resistant to gaining weight despite having the same access to food - we know genes are really important but not which ones, and how.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

Because being a researcher wasn't something I thought of at school - it always seemed scary and 'other' so anything I can do to help people understand that working in research is a real job would be great.

What is your Twitter handle?

@godogs_project

#AskAQuestion: Katherine Kuyt

#AskAQuestion: Katherine Kuyt

What is your job title?

PhD Researcher - Healthcare Science

Please describe your journey into STEM?

In school I enjoyed science, it appealed to my natural inclination to always ask 'but why?'. Biology was my favourite and I considered going to medical school and training to become a doctor, but once I was at university studying Biomedical Sciences I realised that medical research is much more than just white coats and using microscopes, so I changed direction and choose to focus on research! These days I am working on my PhD using heart scans to see how well the heart recovers after a surgery.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

My current goal is to answer my PhD question comparing how the heart recovers after two different surgeries for the same disease. If the heart recovers just as well in the 'key-hole' surgery that would mean that in future less people have to have open heart surgery! In the future I am not sure what question I would like to solve, as the more I learn the more questions I discover.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I think that education is key, and breaking the stereotype that there is only one type of scientist. Science is a huge and varied subject, and so are the people that study and work in it!

What is your Twitter handle?

@CardioKate

#AskAQuestion: Lisa Bennett

#AskAQuestion: Lisa Bennett

What is your job title?

Senior Quality Assurance Strategy Lead

Please describe your journey into STEM?

I studied Biology, Chemistry and Maths at A-level. I took a Biomedical Science degree, then did a PhD in Tissue Engineering, making synthetic skin. I finally joined the pharmaceutical industry to work on clinical trials. I make sure new drugs are safe and the data shows that they will work well for patients.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I'd love to see personalised medicine becoming a reality, so patients get medicines that are effective for them as an individual. Each clinical trial that is run gives us more information about how the body responds so we take a step closer to this goal.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

There are lots of jobs that you will never have heard of that use STEM subjects. Do what you enjoy at each stage of your education and you will discover more as you head into your career. There's no fixed route for many professions.

What is your Twitter handle?

@ttennebl

#AskAQuestion: Professor Sheena Cruickshank

#AskAQuestion: Professor Sheena Cruickshank

What is your job title?

Professor of Immunology

Please describe your journey into STEM?

My brother Iain was much older than me and was fascinated with marine biology and conveniently we lived nearish the beach. Iain would take me to the beach most weekends to show me the amazing and diverse life held within rock-pools. We even had a tank back home in which we could both study the rock pool life more closely. My favourites were our two hermit crabs. One day there was one crab and one empty shell- it had outgrown its shell and shed it only to become fish food. Our rescue mission to find a shell for the other hermit crab and nurturing it through its shell shedding moment was the final spark that cemented my love of science. I assumed that I would study zoology but unfortunately Iain became very unwell when I was in my teens. Watching him struggle with his illness made me question why and how people got sick. This lead to me developing an interest in the concept of immunology and the body's immune system and how it deals with infection, and that is what I have studied and researched ever since.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

Although typically we talk about how our immune system has evolved to deal with infectious threats like bacteria or parasites, in actual fact our immune system spends a lot of its time ignoring bacteria and microbes that make our helpful microbiome. So how does our immune system know what is good like the microbiome versus what is bad like a tummy bug? This idea fascinates me and I would love to solve it.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

Science is so incredibly fun and fascinating but I think there is an idea that it is something only the very cleverest people can do, yet in childhood many of us have a wonder and curiosity about the world around us. The Great Science Share for Schools helps many children spark their curiosity and investigate and test their ideas, which is vital to help people have the confidence to explore science later on in life, whether they do it as a career or not. If I had not had Iain in my childhood I probably never would have got so excited about science, as all the sciences were not necessarily always my strongest topics at school - I did very well at subjects like music and history as well as biology but struggled more with physics.

What is your Twitter handle?

@sheencr

#AskAQuestion: Maja Gorzkowicz

#AskAQuestion: Maja Gorzkowicz

What is your job title?

Software Engineer

Please describe your journey into STEM?

I started coding when I was 11, when I had my own website-blog with Harry Potter fan-fiction. As a teenager, I fell in love with video games, and wanted to learn how they are made. Eventually, I became a software engineer, making websites by day, playing games by night!

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I would love to solve issue of female-male ratio in computer science - we can all be great programmers, creators, testers, designers, if we want to.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

It is important for students to become aware of STEM being part of our everyday lives, that anyone can do it, and how valuable it is for them to give STEM a go, in any shape or form.

What is your Twitter handle?

@TeracottaTweets

#AskAQuestion: Autumn Rudd

#AskAQuestion: Autumn Rudd

What is your job title?

Development Technician

Please describe your journey into STEM?

I have always had a passion for science and loved learning about science, so much that I asked for chemistry sets and planet models every birthday and Christmas. I completed a Masters in Chemistry, with a year in industry, at The University of Manchester. I then decided to take a break from science and took an internship in Peer Support at The University of Manchester, before I took on two other roles: one as a development technician at Lubrizol and the other as a Casual Explainer at the Science and Industry Museum.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I want to contribute to removing the stigma that you have to be smart to do STEM. I love talking about science and finding ways to share my passion with a public audience who may have no knowledge or even interest of stem.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

The Great Science Share for Schools helps with the big challenge that people don't talk about science enough, and it shows how easy and fun it is to look at a wide array of science challenges.

What is your Twitter handle?

@Arryire

#AskAQuestion: Eleanor Horner

#AskAQuestion: Eleanor Horner

What is your job title?

Education Assistant, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre

Please describe your journey into STEM?

I studied Biology at the University of Sheffield and through my degree worked in the on-site museum organising and running trips with local schools. We ran days where the children were everything from 'Bone Detectives' to 'Pond Dipping Experts' and from there I found my passion for science education!

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I would love for science journals to be more accessible for the general public, and for it to be more common for everyone to be up to date with current research. From my experience in academia the jargon is almost impossible, shutting out anyone with low science capital and making them feel like it is not for them, or something they would not understand. I would love to develop a straight forward way for people in disadvantaged communities to engage with current science more easily.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I think it is super important for spreading knowledge and enthusiasm for science throughout communities. It ensures that children with a love of science have an outlet to discover new passions within STEM subjects and investigate their burning questions and theories in a space with like-minded individuals.

#AskAQuestion: Ellis Moloney

#AskAQuestion: Ellis Moloney

What is your job title?

Visiting Researcher in Marine Biology

Please describe your journey into STEM?

My journey into marine biology started with Spongebob Squarepants of all things. The creator was a marine biologist and I was obsessed with the show. However, I was told by my high school that I wasn’t smart enough to study science at university. I quickly ignored them and studied A-Level biology at home by myself after school. Eventually, I got to university and I now have a masters degree in marine biology! I am currently a visiting researcher at the University of Portsmouth where I study marine worms that live in the ocean surrounding Antarctica and how climate change may be affecting them!

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I want to spend the rest of my career understanding how marine organisms adapt to extreme and changing environments. By looking at the DNA and morphology of different species I hope to make predictions on whether they will be able survive the rapid changes happening to our planet right now due to events such as climate change.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I think it is incredibly important to humanise science and show the younger generation what a career in science really looks like. They get to see a wide variety of career paths and have their eyes opened to areas of research they might have never imagined existed.

What is your Twitter handle?

Ellis_Moloney

#AskAQuestion: Gemma Kirkman

#AskAQuestion: Gemma Kirkman

What is your job title?

Business Intelligence Team Lead

Please describe your journey into STEM?

At home we always had an interest in technology, so from a young age I was using computers to play games and also to help me research for and present my homework, and project work for school. What I really enjoyed is how I could have a problem and use technology to solve it.

I went on to take ICT for A-Level and then study Information Systems and Accounting at University. I found at University that careers in technology aren't just about coding or building machines, they are also about understanding how people work together and their interactions and how technology can make those interactions easier or quicker or better, or all three.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

Like with anything, a big challenge with technology is that it can be used for harm as well as for good. To find solutions around cyber security and creating a safe space for all, and using and developing ethically and morally responsible technologies that help people and enhance their quality of life rather than hurt them, would be a fantastic thing to achieve. A bit like living in the world presented in Star Trek!

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I think showing students not only the diversity of people in STEM subjects but the diversity of careers and skills that can be used when working in STEM subjects is a really important way to break down stereotypes. I hope this will help young people, their parents and their teachers to be confident enough to pursue subjects that they are truly interested in despite those stereotypes, and to be confident that there are lots of career options relating to those subjects as a result.

What is your Twitter handle?

@gemmakirkman

#AskAQuestion: Charlotte Istance-Tamblin

#AskAQuestion: Charlotte Istance-Tamblin

What is your job title?

MChem undergrad

Please describe your journey into STEM?

I am a mature student who spent too long working in a phone shop! After my wife and I came back from our honeymoon in New Zealand I decided if I didn’t do something it would be too late; I wanted to study chemistry.

After completing an Access course at Leicester college I was offered a place at The University of Manchester. The main reason for choosing UoM was because the only thing I really knew anything about in chemistry was radio-chemistry and Manchester has a global reputation for this branch of chemistry and it was something I wanted to chase. I am nearly at the end of my second year, I am working with a research group over summer doing actual radio-chemistry and next academic year I’m working for AstraZeneca for a 1 year industrial placement.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I would like to try to dispel the fear of the word “radioactive” and teach people how to respect it instead of being afraid.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

The world is too full of pseudoscience and people are too willing to listen. We in the scientific community have a responsibility to reach out to the next generation and get them excited about real science.

What is your Twitter handle?

@chemcharley

#AskAQuestion: Nicola Edwards

#AskAQuestion: Nicola Edwards

What is your job title?

PhD student

Please describe your journey into STEM?

Growing up, I was not aware of scientific careers; I did not know any modern scientists and I did not feel it was an option for me. I had always enjoyed reading about diseases and the human body but I did not know you could actually work with them! I discovered biomedical science when researching undergraduate courses and decided to swap my dance career for research. I studied biomedicine at Newcastle University and am now in my final year of a PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University, trying to discover how the blood vessels become damaged in autoimmune diseases. This involves working in a lab every day, carrying out new experiments and guiding my own research. I find it so exciting to uncover the secrets that could actually save lives!

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

Why does the body attack itself and how can we get it back under control?

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I grew up in Salford and had no contact with scientists or any idea that someone like me could be a scientist. So I support the Great Science Share because I think it is really important to reach out to children and young people and share our stories, inspiring the next generation of scientists!

What is your Twitter handle?

@nedwards_sci

#AskAQuestion: Marina Gardasevic

#AskAQuestion: Marina Gardasevic

What is your job title?

Doctoral Researcher in Neuroscience

Please describe your journey into STEM?

When choosing my options in school I always followed what I enjoyed. It was no different for choosing my first degree and I went to university to study Biology. Over one summer I volunteered in a lab and fell in love with research and lab work. After that degree I did my Masters where I got to work in two different labs doing completely different projects. I enjoyed it so much I chose to do a PhD which I am currently 2 years into. Working on a single research question and experiencing the variety of techniques and experiences available in science is why I love what I do!

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

Designing phone and computer screens that don't have a negative impact on our body clocks; so we can use screens in the evening without it affecting our sleep!

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

Science is all about asking good questions and then doing research to help get answers. Children are full of questions and curiosities, and projects like Great Science Share for Schools enable them to realise that this curious mind is a great thing! There's so many amazing young people who would make great scientists and may even change the world but don't pursue Science because they don't think it's for them; projects like this challenge the misconceptions and help children realise that anyone can get into Science!

What is your Twitter handle?

@MarinaGNeuro

#AskAQuestion: Cheryl Williams

#AskAQuestion: Cheryl Williams

What is your job title?

Advanced Biomedical Scientist

Please describe your journey into STEM?

I graduated from university with degree in Biological Sciences. I gained a trainee Biomedical Scientist post within 6 months of graduation in a NHS Microbiology lab. My job involves analysing patient samples to determine which bacterial or viral pathogens are causing infection. I have completed an MSc in Biomedical Science and am now an Advanced Biomedical Scientist. I manage staff and am heavily involved in verification of new and exciting technologies which allow us to investigate patient samples in a shorter time-frame and therefore provide a quicker result.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

Find a solution for antimicrobial resistance.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I was not aware of what scientific careers were out there until I was at university. It is important to get children enthused about science at primary school and make them aware what they can do in later life for a career. My daughter is proud to tell everyone her mummy is a scientist!

What is your Twitter handle?

@c_williams_1981

#AskAQuestion: Professor Lin Li

#AskAQuestion: Professor Lin Li

What is your job title?

Professor of Laser Engineering and Associate Dean, Business Engagement and Innovation

Please describe your journey into STEM?

BSc degree in control engineering from Dalian University of Technology and then a PhD degree in laser engineering from Imperial College, London, and then focused entire career on engineering!

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

Manufacturing of most components by lasers without too wear problems.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

It inspires young people into science and engineering

#AskAQuestion: Jennifer Lobo

#AskAQuestion: Jennifer Lobo

What is your job title?

STEM Ambassador Engagement Officer

Describe your journey into STEM.

I used to be a History teacher in a secondary school and I loved teaching about the history of medicine and World War Two. One of the most interesting people I taught about was engineer Joseph Bazalegette – in the late 1850’s-1860’s he designed a new sewer system in London – he used lots of aspects of STEM to design a sewer that would take all the waste from London away. His sewer is still being used today and had the unexpected benefit of keeping London’s water clean and stopping the spread of cholera. I work at the Science and Industry Museum now, where I work with teachers and STEM Ambassadors to find exciting ways to inspire young people with different aspects STEM!

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

I think space is really interesting. I would love to know more about the moon and what it looked like millions of years ago.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

I've been at the Great Science Share for Schools for the last two years - I've loved seeing all the exciting STEM experiments and projects that pupils have been working on. I really enjoyed the investigation about who had the healthier diet - Romans or us, and the investigation into which biscuit is best to dunk in your tea! I'm excited to see the investigations that pupils have been doing this year!

What is your Twitter handle?

@STEMteamHUB_TP