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Inventing the Future


What links the Bayer diabetes kit, percussive paper, discovering the inner workings of a laptop with kids, superpowers and some comfy blue sofas?
23rd June 2014 was the first Women in Engineering (WES)’s National Women in Engineering Day #NWED, with some 200 events around the country, to celebrate WES’ 95th birthday and to raise the profile of, and celebrate, the achievements of women in engineering. And so we gathered in the Makespace front room on Mill Lane to do our little bit of celebrating and discovering what makes four Cambridge inventors and engineers tick. And not a Caractacus Potts character (read loner, eccentric, inventor) in sight!

Tanya kicked off with a short introduction talking about how the technology trends around algorithms, hardware, chips/devices and computing, are changing the world, by no means least in Cambridge itself. She was infectious in her enthusiasm that we are in a truly “golden age of inventions”.
We heard how Laura James is driven by Open Knowledge’s “A world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few” so that anyone, anywhere in the world, is then free to use that knowledge and power for innovation and invention. Makespace is a community workshop that supports businesses, both new and established, helps more and more people learn hands on practical STEM skills and finally is a place for the people in the community to get together and learn from each other.

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What next after Academia? Tania Montanari reports on an inspiring event at the MRC-LMB

LMB Speakers picThere may be many paths to choose on the way out from an academic research lab. You hang your lab-coat, and bring with you your PhD degree, your post doc experience and a wealth of transferable skills and a new adventure starts! On June 4th, three brilliant women shared their career path and the urges that guided their decisions with a very engaged audience at the prestigious MRC-LMB.

Dr Sobia Raza introduced the audience to the exciting world of science policy. In political institutions scientists are largely under-represented but their role is fundamental in the application of scientific knowledge in the political process and in the development of policies to support science. The final aim of pursuing a science policy career is to contribute to finding effective ways for science to benefit society.

Sobia had very clear ideas about her career which was carefully planned: during her PhD in Edinburgh, she applied for a science policy placement and seconded to the Scottish Parliament as a Research Specialist. She put great efforts in searching opportunities to grab for enriching her CV with relevant experiences while carrying on with her scientific career as a post doc researcher at the Roslin Institute.

Finding the right opportunities to prepare for pursuing a career in science policy is very demanding in terms of both time and energy as they are not properly advertised. Read more

“You don’t need to be artistic to be creative…”

event3-mediumIt’s 2:53am and that “Let It Go” song from Disney’s Frozen™ is running around my head, to accompany the sound of my youngest waking up, coughing and crying for the third time tonight. Perhaps the reason for this choice of earworm could be literal – I’m really quite cold now having got out of bed so many times – but more on that later.

Having missed so many of the great talks and workshops recently, I was excited to be attending Unleash Your Creativity, our April networking evening at Lucy Cavendish this week. Our very own Tennie Videler is used to providing training from her Vitae days so she launched in with her usual flair … and even a little ballet hop.

Tennie started off asking the room what we thought being creative was, and pounced on the suggestion that it was all about being artistic, and the counter that it was about thinking outside of the box. No, she said, artistic certainly helps but you don’t need to be artistic to be creative. She also asked us to indicate who had attended (a) because we thought we were creative, or (b) because we thought we weren’t – and then went on to say some people were “adaptive” (climbing ladders) and others were “creative” (haring up rock faces). Creative people take risks but “have a splendid time doing it”.

Ideally we could be both types of people, but the trick is to recognise which is your dominant character, then find others to work with who are the opposite of you.   We went through some exercises based on the ENTRE (ENquire, Transform, REalise) model which seems a great (oddly rigid but effective) way to zoom out/go wide with ideas, then bring you back into focus, go wide-focus, then narrow again. Three times apparently is the recommended cycle.   First we spent some time reframing Tennie’s question “How could AWiSE get more members?” which had our little group going round in circles with whats, whos, wheres, whens, whys and hows. Interestingly, while our final questions were worded differently, we were asking the same thing, eventually.

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Is nurture or nature the cause of under-representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)?

A view from academia…

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published their report on ‘Women in scientific careers’ on Thursday the 6th of February after consulting 90 written submissions, including one from Cambridge AWiSE, and 13 witnesses including academic researchers, diversity and equality groups, universities, research and funding councils and the Government. Reading this report as an early career biomedical scientist, was oddly shocking and encouraging at the same time. The Committee points out problems many young scientists will recognise, but adds that these problems have long been identified and despite serious efforts have not ceased to exist.

The Committee explains that the UK economy needs more skilled scientists and engineers. To meet this need more women will need to be retained in STEM careers. The Government currently focuses on inspiring young girls to choose a STEM career.

Penny lends a helping hand

The Government aims to increase the number of women in STEM by inspiring young girls to choose a STEM career, like Penny does here at the Cambridge AWiSE stand at the 2013 Cambridge Science Festival.

However, although this may increase the input, this does not stop women from gradually disappearing higher up the career ladder, the so-called ‘leaky pipeline’. Thus, nurturing girls into actively pursuing a career in STEM for some reason does not lead to a larger representation of women at the top. Can this have something to do with the female nature? To my pleasant surprise the Committee actually touches upon this in their report.

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Profile: Marloes Tijssen – Research Fellow in Megakaryocyte Biology

Cambridge AWiSE steering group member – Marloes Tijssen

Marloes_TijssenMy first experience with Cambridge AWiSE was when I came to 2nd Career Development Day in June 2012.  This was such an inspiring event that I decided to also sign up for the WISE UP Career Series. The workshops and networking events motivated me a lot. This made me want to share my own experiences and help CamAWiSE with the work they did, which is why I joined the steering group in June 2013.

I started working in Cambridge in 2008 after completing my PhD in Amsterdam at Sanquin, the Dutch blood transfusion service. My research interest has always been how blood platelets (the cells that clot the blood) are formed in the bone marrow from their “parent cell” the megakaryocyte. I was first funded by a grant from the Dutch government and then went on to a Marie Curie Fellowship from the European Union.
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