News STEM Week: Guest Speakers 19.03.2021

Sustainability was the theme of this year’s STEM Week, with students learning about the role STEM plays in tackling complex challenges for humanity through a series of talks from inspiring guest speakers.

On Tuesday we were delighted to have Tabitha Goldstaub, Chair of the UK Government’s AI Council, speak to our Lower Sixth as part of the week’s celebrations. Tabitha gave us an insight in to the growing impact of technology on our lives and an explanation of how it can be used to enhance Healthcare, Education and Climate Change, as well as discussing the potential for it to go wrong by building bias into algorithms. She pointed out the impact of women and groups of women on the development of technology from Ada Lovelace’s work on the Analytical Engine in 1836 to Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru who brought attention to racial bias in AI in 2018. Her closing statements to the girls were to ‘Imagine change, feed your curiosity and spread the word’ and she encouraged them to look for inspiration in each other as well as in better known celebrities. In answer to some excellent questions from the girls she told us not to fear AI but to use the answers it can give us to inform our decision-making to help change happen.

On Wednesday, Sixth Form student and environmental activist Izzy spoke to students on the need to reframe the climate crisis. Having spoken at rallies, marches, on television and on radio, Izzy is no stranger to speaking on the threat of climate change. Her talk centred on communicating crises – be it through storytelling, media and conversations – and the importance of making your cause accessible and easy to understand to trigger an emotional response from your audience. She cited the importance of scaling down data to a human level and making the stories and facts we use relevant to our own existence.

In the last of our STEM Week talks, we we were delighted to welcome Yasmin Ali, chartered chemical engineer who spoke to students on her work in helping to achieve the UK’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Yasmin, who was recently named in the Women in Engineering Society’s top 50 women in engineering list, talked about her career path, how she found herself working in chemical engineering after missing out on a university placement to study medicine, and explained the different careers a chemical engineer can have.

She spoke about her the exciting work as energy innovation project manager for the UK Government in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), contributing solutions to the issue of climate change and funding clean energy innovations. She explained how rewarding it was as an engineer to be able to make a practical, tangible impact to tackle the climate crisis and how she feels like she’s making a positive difference in the world.

A huge message of thanks to these three fantastic women in STEM for inspiring our girls throughout the week. We hope that the talks have inspired them to a consider a future career in STEM and how these four disciplines have an important part to play in creating a more sustainable world.