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Dr Stella Manoli

Dr Stella Manoli is a KTP Research Associate within the University of Southampton Optoelectronics Department, and a STEM Ambassador. Here, Dr Manoli answers the STEM NOW questionnaire!

What do you enjoy about being a STEM Ambassador and why?

SM: Gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom. Sharing it is

the first step to humanity''. As a STEM ambassador, I have found the interaction with young students very interesting. I find their questions very unique, honest and original. I really enjoy listening to them; the way they think and analyse new information. It is very challenging but its worth it!

What has been your best moment during your time as a STEM Ambassador so far and why?

SM: One moment stood out, when a young girl approached me to tell me that after my presentation she realised how many possibilities she has for her future career. That was the highlight of that event as I felt that I actually helped.

Can you remember what first sparked your curiosity in science and how this has led you to where you are today?

SM: As long as I can remember, I have always had questions to ask: Why is the sky blue? Why can airplanes fly? Why don't ships sink? During my high school days, I found myself fascinated with physics and chemistry subjects, especially when we had to do experiments. So after high school, the only path that was logical for me to follow was to study Physics. During my undergraduate degree my ‘curiosity’ questions were answered and many more were generated. From my undergraduate degree to my PhD, and still to this day as a researcher, I feel the same enthusiasm, the same excitement to work in a laboratory and contribute to expanding the limits of our scientific knowledge. And here I am now, a Research Associate working in the University of Southampton.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a future in STEM?

SM: Find what excites you most, ask as many questions as you can and let it light up your way! No question is stupid and nothing is easily won. The scientific world is a great place to be part of and every little contribution is big enough!

Which field of STEM interests you the most/tell us about your particular specialism?

SM: Working in the optoelectronics department, physics has an important role in making decisions about the design of experiments and evaluating the results. Physics leads the way for understanding the properties of the various materials used, laser sources and choosing the right way to analyse the results according to the selected applications. Nonetheless, I continually use engineering (mainly mechanical) to create a new experimental installation and modify existing optical equipment. Physics and engineering are smoothly integrated with each other, making this work possible.

Who has inspired you during your STEM journey and why?

SM: Firstly, my own curiosity. I was always the student asking questions and this led me to attend and participate in STEM seminars and workshops. Also, during my undergraduate degree I met a brilliant professor that inspired me to continue with further studies. The way he spoke about science made me believe in the power of it!

Why is diversity and inclusion in STEM fields important?

SM: As in all societies so in STEM fields, diversity is so important. In order to maintain the balance, the critical thinking, to overcome problems, ideas from different people must included.

What are your aspirations for the future?

SM: In a ten year time-frame I would love to see a world without stereotypes and taboo. A world in which each one of us have freedom of opinion and critical thinking. A world in which knowledge is not a privilege but a gift for everyone. A world with equal opportunities! Personally, I would like to help as much as I can in my community to inform, support and share what I know.