We have invited our 2016 Womenspire Award Winners to reflect on their success. Dr Kelly BeruBe won our “STEM Pioneer” Award last year, here is her story…
Dr Kelly BeruBe
How would you describe Womenspire 2016?
It was a unique women-centric event like no other awards ceremony that I have attended over the course of my academic career. I enjoyed celebrating the achievements by women from all walks of life. The event was an energized hive of entertaining activities, music, food and drink! It was nice to mix amongst so many women in one place, whether casual dress or “to the nines”, supporting each other.
How did you feel when you were announced the winner?
I was thrilled to have my public engagements of science recognized. It is an aspect of my work as an academic scientist that is not given enough credit and as such, can lead to a shortage of active STEM Ambassadors. I felt (and still am) privileged to have been acknowledged, along with the other talented women in 2016, as a “Pioneer in STEM”!
What has winning the Womenspire Award meant for you and the industry/community you work in?
Winning such an award underscores that fact that we need female role models to devote their time to ensure girls and young women develop STEM skills, enter the work force and build a rewarding career.
What research are you currently engaged in?
As the Director of the “Lung & Particle Research Group” (LPRG), in the School of Biosciences, my research specializes in “molecular environmental health”. My special interest lies in understanding how air pollutants (e.g. man-made, biological, natural) compromise lung health. The key research tools used by the LPRG involve tissue-engineering 3-dimensional cell cultures of the airway epithelium. These in vitro lung models are derived from medical-waste tissue and are viable substitutes for the replacement of animals in medical research. My STEM research has provided an opportunity to be on the leading-edge of what’s next.
What/who inspired you to take up a career in STEM?
My inspirations to take-up a STEM career (i.e. bioscientist) were my female Science Teachers and Guidance Counsellors at my primary and high schools. My Mother (Patricia) was also pivotal in influencing my decision to focus my studies on a STEM career. I remember her telling me to “forget about other traditional roles expected of woman and to focus on becoming a scientist.” My Father (Robert) was also keen for me to seek out a “professional career”. They bought me science toys and books throughout my youth; even though I set my parental abode on fire several times after obtaining my first chemistry set when I was 10 years old! Thus, my inspiration for a STEM career was instilled very early on in my life.
What do you love/enjoy about working in STEM?
I love my job, and not many people can say that! I always look forward to going to work in the morning, since my job as a bioscientist involves a diverse assortment of activities (e.g. lecturing, laboratory work, tutorials, administration, speaking engagements, grant and paper writing, continued professional development, professional society events, travelling, etc.) on a daily basis, and as such, is never boring. There is also the satisfaction of my playing a hand in “shaping our future” bioscientists through my teaching and research innovations.
How do we go about inspiring the next generation to consider a career in STEM?
There is a need to inspire early on! I have no doubt that each woman who has achieved a career in STEM was inspired by someone along the way, such as a teacher or parent. I also think it’s safe to say that these moments of inspiration occurred when they were young. When I show up to deliver a scientific engagement event, I can spot the girls who are amazed to see that the scientist visiting their class is a woman. This shows them that being a scientist is a real-life option. This underscores the importance of having female role models in STEM fields that give girls someone to look up to. You can’t force an interest in STEM professions, but you can expose young women to them and see if anything “clicks and sticks”. Beyond the satisfaction of having an opportunity to “shape the future”, there are also significant financial gains to be had, whereby women in STEM jobs earn more money than their counterparts in other fields. All in all, we women in STEM have a remarkable sphere of influence and together we can encourage and inspire the next generation to follow in our footsteps.
Dr Kelly BeruBe – Cardiff University