Damaris, Materials and Analytical Scientist

Job title and an explanation of the role I work in Strategic Materials, which is responsible for forecasting the demand of materials, management of these and the end-to-end lifecycle of materials. Essentially ensuring the material demand is known, met and waste disposed of. There are lots of interactions across the company and with external parties, which provides great diversity to the work – interacting with manufacturing, infrastructure, product design, product strategy areas and partner collaborations to name a few.

Who or what inspired you to follow this career path? I’ve always loved science, my teachers at school were so enthusiastic and encouraged us to think beyond the horizons we can see (thanks Mrs Griffiths and Mr Churchill!). I knew I wanted to help people, but not in a medical sense, so I studied Forensic Science and Forensic Ballistics at university, and it was whilst doing my Masters thesis that I realised I wanted to work in Defence Science. I chose AWE because it enabled me to work in a completely different area and still fulfil my desire to help the nation’s defence. It’s such a unique mission and I wanted to be part of it.

Why did I become a STEM Ambassador? I became a STEM Ambassador because I want to help enthuse the next generation about science. I realised that science doesn’t really get a huge focus in primary schools and it’s not until secondary school age that young people really start to learn how exciting and expansive science is. I felt that there was something that I could give that could get younger people interested in science.

Why is it so important? STEM is absolutely critical for the future; it’s how we can understand the world and improve technology. We need to break moulds and show the next generation that STEM is anything you want it to be, and anyone can do STEM – it’s in all the ‘ordinary’ things you do. It’s about thinking deeper – how do trees grow? It’s not just you plant them and with sunlight and water they grow, it’s about root systems working to take the nutrients to the key areas, transpiration, chlorophyll… it’s about remembering to break down what we know to give a fuller picture, to encourage the ‘why?’ by answering more completely; dendrochronology as my four year old knows, is the study of tree rings!

Tell us about one of your favourite STEM Ambassador activities that you have delivered.

For British Science week 2020 I delivered my first in-person STEM Ambassador activity at a local infants school. It was so well received, and the children were so excited by the demonstrations and having a go themselves. Most rewarding was the feedback from the teachers who were so positive about the event and how the children continued to be enthused after the event. One of the students had spoken up quite a few times and interacted really well – they had struggled to settle into school and to find something that interested them, but the event had sparked something different in them. That was so rewarding and fulfilling to hear.

How can we encourage more children into STEM? I think if we can show children how key STEM is to everyday life. We can show them at an earlier stage we can break down stereotypes and enthuse them about the breadth and depth of STEM. STEM as a career is so diverse and showing how varied STEM careers paths are would provide further encouragement, for example science isn’t always being in a lab doing experiments, and likewise maths isn’t always finance or accounting.

How AWE supports the STEM Ambassadors AWE is incredibly supportive of STEM Ambassadors; they’ve provided the opportunity to complete the role in the first place which I hadn’t heard about before. They provide many opportunities to get involved in the local community and outreach events and provide a paid leave allowance to enable us to undertake support activities.

What advice would you give to a young person about pursuing a career in STEM? I would say go ahead! STEM is diverse and innovative – you will find more than one area that will interest, challenge and change the way you think about the world. Ask questions, keep challenging and don’t worry if things go ‘wrong’ – you’ve just learnt what didn’t work instead of what did!

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