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Meet the Steering Group

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Stephanie Höhn

Pic_StephanieI am currently a Research Associate in the Biological Physics and Mechanics Group at the Cambridge Maths Faculty. After obtaining a PhD in Biology at the University of Bielefeld (Germany) I took a step out of my field to study the physical parameters that influence biological processes like tissue development. I am combining experiments and mathematical modelling to explore how tissues like our retina obtain their correct three-dimensional shape. Understanding these processes from an engineering point of view will in the long run hopefully help to find remedies for associated birth defects.

I came into STEMM via some detours. Before studying biology I worked as a legal clerk at justice courts. At the age of 25 I decided to leave the security of my permanent job, go back to school to achieve my A-Levels (Abitur) to enable me to study molecular cell biology.

In all different environments outside and within academia I encountered gender-stereotypes and other challenges for women and other marginalised groups. I believe that everyone can contribute in their own way to challenge these obstacles and create a positive work and personal environment for us all. I am an active member of the Maths Equality and Diversity Committee and the local LGBT+ group.

In my free time I am a dancer and a twitcher.

Penny Coggillpenny-cogill

What is your current profession/background?

I have just retired from working with a protein-families database, finding evolutionary relationships between proteins from all forms of life. I have started my own company to edit/proof-read STEMM documents in readiness for publication.

What point in your life led you to pursue a STEMM career?

My father was a dental surgeon interested in facial surgery after war-wounds and brought home what I found were fascinating illustrated textbooks, so when I got to High School I wanted to study all the -ologies, ie STEMM. As it turned out I didn’t pursue a career in medicine but went into biochemistry and nutrition.

What is one of your biggest aspirations?

Simply to see parity in male-female numbers up to the very top levels in STEMM. To help as many other women as possible to achieve their potential in STEMM.

What advice would you give to aspiring female scientists and engineers?

Have faith in yourself. Go for what interests you and you wish to do and do not be put off by others telling you that you don’t have the right background or aptitude, or whatever. Never wait for someone to offer you promotion or suggest you apply for that professorship. Work out what your career path is going to look like in advance, ie. how far you wish to go, and seek out the opportunities and the promotions along the way.

Always find people to seek advice from – these are often termed Mentors – to talk through your own plans with; and if they turn out to be good mentors then nurture them well. Don’t be afraid to go to the very top for advice either, even near the start of your career. On the professional front, become familiar with basic statistics and learn to program, even as a biologist.

Isabel Tingay


What is your current profession/background?

I hold a PhD in Chemistry and currently work at an International Chemicals company, developing after-treatment solutions for the automotive industry. I apply my knowledge and skills to the creation of next generation catalysts.  I started in research and followed this with a move to development. This involves working with customers to understand their requirements, turning these into development projects.

What point in your life led you to pursue a career in STEMM?

I have always had a keen interest in how things work; one of my earliest memories is finding a bird skeleton in the garden and working out how it functioned and fitted together!  I was fortunate to be taught by two very inspirational chemistry teachers at school who sparked off and encouraged my interest in chemistry.

What is one of your biggest aspirations?

To use science to improve the environment and human health.  I spent a year in a research lab in France studying marine sediments for pollutants. This was both thoroughly enjoyable and the turning point in my decision of how I was to apply my scientific background in my career.  I have continued this through my work, reducing pollution from trucks and buses.

What advice would you give to aspiring female scientists and engineers?

Follow what interests you and what you love doing.  Seek out a mentor and offer mentoring to others.  Actively manage your career at all times.  And most importantly, science and engineering are fascinating and constantly changing subjects, so enjoy!

How have you benefited from being a part of CamAWiSE?

I have been a member of CamAWiSE for a couple of years and it has been wonderful to meet fellow STEMM professionals with similar interests and experiences.  The workshops have been complementary to the training I have received through my job and have given me additional tools to use for personal development.

How have you benefited from being a part of CamAWiSE?

CamAWiSE is a support network, with frequent opportunities for networking/meeting people, hearing about their professional lives and making friends. The many workshops and talks on improving one’s personal image, outlook, technical abilities in giving presentations and chairing meetings more effectively have all benefited my career-profile.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I have completed the Cambridge half marathon and fit in exercise whenever I can. I have an allotment and love spending a Sunday afternoon digging, weeding and growing unusual produce. I even grew award-winning pumpkins this year! I did, and sometimes still do, quite a bit of choral singing and I play the bass recorder. Learning to appreciate modern Art is ongoing and I have taken up knitting again…

Ask me about…..

Protein-evolution, British wildflowers, choral singing, and gardening.

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