If you think you might like to support us through volunteering, please contact alumni@exeter.ac.uk.

Exeter alumnae challenge gender inequality in post-16 Physics

Five Exeter graduates from Physics recently volunteered at an event on campus to support the University’s commitment and continuing efforts to tackle gender inequality in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) education and careers.  

50 students from Devon schools were invited to the event which enabled them to meet the alumnae and discuss with them their experiences of studying Physics and then entering their professions. Volunteering at the event were:

  • Elizabeth Brock (PhD Microwave Phototonics & Electromagnetic Materials 2013; MPhys Physics with Astrophysics 2008) - Observations R&D, Radar Signal Processing at the Met Office
  • Helen Rance (MPhys with Astrophysics 2008) - Met Office
  • Joanna Tilling (BSc Physics 2010) – Acoustic Engineer at Thales
  • Kat Vinden (BSc Physics 2010); - Senior Process Engineer at Plessey Semiconductors
  • Tricia Harrison (BSc Physics with Medical Applications 2001) – Clinical Physiologist, NHS

The alumnae gave their time to sit on a discussion panel where they explored their careers and journeys since graduation, offering inspiration and insights to students. The alumnae discussed the benefits of scientific careers and why the participation rate of women in post-16 science education is low. This was followed by a speed networking session where the students could speak to the alumnae on a one-to-one basis.

The students spent the whole day on campus, participating in team building exercises with their classmates, learning about the work of the Institute of Physics, and were able to listen to a lecture on ‘The Physics of Father Christmas.’ The students also took part in a number of practical, lab-based sessions where they could understand what it is like to study Physics at degree level. Physics and Astrophysics PhD researchers also supported the event by mentoring groups of students and leading discussion groups, helping to demonstrate the breadth of opportunities available to a Physics graduate and to inspire the girls to continue with STEMM subjects at post-16 level.

Speaking of their experience at the event, one student commented that “the day was a fantastic experience and we all really enjoyed it. We found it refreshing to be surrounded by girls who also shared our passion for Physics and STEMM in general, and learnt all kinds of interesting information about careers in physics. The event certainly has made me want to pursue a career in STEMM even more so than I did already, and I know it has influenced the others similarly as well.”

The event was organised by Dr. Alice Mills, Ogden Science Officer at the University of Exeter, who commented that “it is important to run events that help girls feel no barriers to studying Physics if it is something that they are interested in. Meeting a large range of accessible role models was a really valuable experience for the girls. Many of them said afterwards that they would be interested in becoming ambassadors for science within their own schools. We are very keen to follow-up on this and give schools support in training their students to work with younger students within their own schools, as peers can have a profound effect on each other.”

Alumni volunteer Jo Tilling said “I am really passionate about inspiring the next generation, so it was really great to meet girls that were enthusiastic and interested. My time at Exeter was both the best and worst time of my life – the best because of the friends and networks I developed, and the worst because I found my degree very hard. That’s why it’s so nice to be able to give something back.”

Are you passionate about increasing access to higher education or STEMM careers? We’re always looking for alumni who could support Exeter in this area. If you think you might like to support us through volunteering, please contact alumni@exeter.ac.uk.

Date: 17 January 2017

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