Thursday, 25 April 2013

Pants in spaaaaace!

Pictured left to right: Becky John of WhoMadeYourPants, Liz Bonnin of BBCs ‘Bang Goes the Theory’ and ‘Stargazing Live’ and Heather Williams of ScienceGrrl, each holding a pair of pants which make up our new unique product. Thanks to the Science Museum for permission to also feature the model of the Hubble Space Telescope, in their space gallery. Copyright ScienceGrrl/Tirion Jenkins.

The 24th April saw the anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, and to celebrate, two organizations with shared ambition for women to fulfil their potential are reaching for the stars and celebrating.....with pants. 

Launching a new set of beautiful underwear, ScienceGrrl has teamed up with  Who Made Your Pants? (WMYP), a social business created to empower marginalised women through work. Sales of these gorgeous limited edition pants with a customised USB stick “astronaut lady”, will help to fund the work of each of these brilliant and empowering organizations.

The 'Reach for the Stars' pack - three gorgeous pairs of pants in ScienceGrrl colours (a long weekend of lacy loveliness) AND an astrogrrl 1GB USB stick. Copyright ScienceGrrl/Tirion Jenkins.

“We believe that every little girl should grow up believing that she has as much chance as every little boy of flying to the moon or living on the international space station.” said Becky John, founder of Who Made Your Pants? “We believe that at five, ten or fifteen years old, girls’ horizons should be as wide as boys and we believe that hope is priceless, and that aspiration is key to driving people out of poverty, both financial and of ambition. Who Made Your Pants? is all about empowering women. We love ScienceGrrl’s determination to show real women doing real science and are delighted to be working with them.”

And it can be a poverty of aspiration that stops people choosing science as a career.  For some families who are unable to provide such aspiration, hope needs to come from outside the home to harness the inherent wonder and curiosity of children and use it as an inspiring force.

This is where ScienceGrrl comes in, encouraging girls to consider a career in science through real role models, connecting with local schools and providing work experience opportunities, and many other activities supporting those in science careers. The mission of ScienceGrrl is “to celebrate and promote STEM careers by building and strengthening a network of people who are passionate about passing on their love of STEM to the next generation”.

“This is a wonderful collaboration between two organisations that share a passion to inspire and empower. I’m delighted to be associated with this gorgeous product which has at its heart such noble ambition, and to be part of an initiative that encourages women to reach for the stars and achieve their dreams” Liz Bonnin, Scientist and presenter of BBC's ‘Bang Goes the Theory’ and ‘Stargazing Live’.

Dr Heather Williams, Medical Physicist and Director of ScienceGrrl, says: “We’re delighted to be partnering with WMYP. ScienceGrrl seeks to collaborate and strengthen like-minded organisations and initiatives, and I think we have a lot in common with WMYP in encouraging women to reach for the stars and fulfil their potential”.

This is a unique collaboration and opportunity to support the empowerment of women in science and in the workplace - so buy our pants to give more women that chance. There's even £15 off today (25th April 2013)!

This post is adapted from this morning's ScienceGrrl press release. If you'd like more information or would like to feature this story, please contact ScienceGrrl here
Dr Heather Williams is available for interview.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Physics Girlies - young female science students review the ScienceGrrl 2013 calendar

One of the aims of the ScienceGrrl 2013 calendar (now sold out, sorry!) was to show young women that science is for people just like them, and hopefully inspire them to pursue a career in science. But did we manage it? 

I asked the Physics Girlies at Holly Lodge Girls' College in Liverpool what they thought. This is what they told me, via Kate Doran, the KS3 Science Co-ordinator.

The calendar is closely scrutinised by the Physics Girlies. Good job we checked for typos.

Hannah Fityo
Helen Czerski PhD [January 2014], studies something which I think is really fascinating. She looks at bubbles in breaking waves to understand how they affect our weather and climate. Basically a tiny bubble can lead you into the core of our planets complex weather system! How extraordinary is that?! It must be absolutely remarkable knowing that every day you are a tiny bubble away from discovering something amazing.

Holly Dono
I think that this calendar is very unique. Each month the calendar shows different women in the science world achieving amazing accomplishments. This calendar is very encouraging to young women like me, showing them all of the scientific career opportunities that are available to them. The calendar promotes women who aren’t the stereotypical female scientists and in the descriptions the calendar shows women who have hobbies as well as amazing academic achievements such as running and music. In my opinion this calendar is great; it serves its purpose as I feel encouraged to get involved in the world of science.

Grace Kervin
My favourite part of the calendar is the March page. This is because our science building is called ‘Rosalind Franklin Building’ and Rosalind Franklin herself is mentioned on this page. I didn’t really know why our building was called Rosalind Franklin (I knew she was a Scientist) and I was impressed to read: “by exposing DNA to X-rays, she produced diffraction images that revealed molecular structure”. This page has also opened my eyes to other female scientists, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Jill Tarter, Hedy Lamarr.

The Rosalind Franklin Building at Holly Lodge Girls' College

Samira Hassan
I think the ScienceGrrl calendar was a great idea as it has shown me that there are a lot of things you can do with science. I feel inspired to try hard and never doubt myself and go for whatever career I want and whatever feels right! The calendar’s appearance is attractive and makes me want to look at who the people are in each picture! I think it’s a great way to get ideas for future career paths from the people in the pictures.

Jumanah Ahmen
Personally, I love the calendar. The information, layout and logo are well thought out and you can see the amount of effort that has been put into making this calendar interesting and useful. It is more than just a calendar. I love the science dates that are included one the relevant days and the little facts too.

Lisa Murphy
My favourite part of the calendar is the month May because I would never have looked at these women and said ‘Definitely a scientist’ and I like that! You don’t need to look like the stereotypical scientist shown in the media to be a scientist. The careers on this page are also really interesting to me and are something that I would like to look into for my future.

I'm pretty pleased with that - particular thanks to Lisa, for being so very lovely about May... 
anytime you want to talk about careers in Medical Imaging, let me know!

ScienceGrrl volunteers in Liverpool have also visited Holly Lodge Girls' College so they can meet female science role models for real. It's so encouraging to us to meet young women who really love science, and to know we are encouraging them to put that love to work in their careers. All the very best to you, Physics Girlies - science needs you! 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Maths?... no thanks.

Last week I was sorting through my ScienceGrrl e-mail and came across a really encouraging message from a lady who'd just returned to study Maths in her 50s. I thought it sounded like she had a story to tell, and asked her to write a blog for us. Which she did. 

I give you - the inspirational Ingrid Walker-Gibbs.

Ingrid in 1970 - and today

"Hello. Until very recently the title of this post is how I felt about maths.

I'd like to tell you a little bit about why I was put off maths - and consequently the sciences - at a young age, and what I'm endeavouring to do about it now.

Born in 1960 my education was via state-funded, primary and comprehensive schools (in Essex), and class numbers were around 30 or so children, with one teacher.

In a crowded environment learning's not always an easy ride, even for a child with a good subject knowledge; a quiet, shy child however, with only a feeble understanding of a particular topic, is easy to lose by the wayside and any chance of that feeble amount of knowledge developing, can be lost.

I was one of those quiet children, and especially so when it came to maths or the sciences. (My head seems able to grasp languages and rhythms better than it does figures.) I can recall, aged 11 or 12, my maths teacher looking at my very worried face after the input; she came and sat with me, quietly taking the time to explain the whole process again whilst everyone else got on with the work. I remember the glow of understanding I felt when it all suddenly went 'click!' and how I quickly grabbed my pencil and got on with the task everyone else was doing.

Unfortunately for me, that was the one and only time she had a moment to sit one-to-one with me and explain things.

It was even worse for me in Chemistry, Physics and Biology. I'd to go into melt-down and get shouted at by the teacher for 'not listening'; I was listening, but I didn't understand, and I cringed at the idea of showing my 'stupidity' to everyone else. I ended up absolutely hating the sciences. It was a shame, but I do understand that sometimes the teachers just didn't have the time to gather up all the stragglers and talk over what, and why they didn't get it.

Towards the end of my 3rd year (Yr 9 equivalent) someone, somewhere high up, decided that the maths group I was in and all the maths groups below it should be precluded from doing maths as they obviously couldn't!  So we were actually stopped from doing maths classes altogether and put into something they called “Book-keeping” classes instead. These lessons were taken by the teacher who also taught typing and shorthand, and we added or subtracted long columns of figures with headings like “Expenses” and “Receipts”. We were also allowed to use 'adding machines' (the precursor of calculators)...

...the end result was that I left secondary school without a maths qualification.

Now though, aged almost 53, my life is a different matter.

I recently decided on a career change and for the past 4 years I've gone back to school; I work as a Teaching Assistant at the local primary (and it's by no means the 'easy little job' that so many consider it to be!). There I regularly come across the kind of child that I was: quiet, shy and unwilling to draw attention to themselves. I'm really hoping that time will eventually show how I've been able to help at least some of them.

When I started working at the primary school, I realised that I'd have to do something about my appalling maths as listening with the children to the teacher's input at the start of the lesson just didn't suffice! So I enrolled on an Adult Learning Community maths course and I'm pleased to say I passed Level 1, and am now midway through Level 2, which I'm told is a GSCE equivalent. It all gives me a very good perspective from which to work at school.

Do you know what? I love it... I absolutely love maths. Hah! I never thought I'd ever say that. And I'm not frightened to say that I find some things difficult to comprehend [fractions], others though [volume and area] pah! Easy-peasy.

Don't snigger... this is big stuff for me :)

So, I intend to continue on this course for as long as it runs (and who's to say it won't close tomorrow?!)

Why continue further with maths? Because I'm really interested in Cosmology, and I think I'm going to need a Physics qualification to study that!

Thank you for taking the time to read this; I hope it might inspire others – of all ages, and all walks of life.

Lastly, a huge thank you to ScienceGrrl for being there, and for giving me courage to really give it a go!"