Who inspires you? Who do you inspire?

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Guest blogger: Sarah Pannell, Sussex doctoral researcher and STEM Sussex Outreach Manager

Sarah completed a BSc in Biochemistry at the University of Sussex in 2006.  She then refused to go out and get a life, staying for a DPhil studying the structure function relationships of a family of proteins.  During her DPhil she became a STEM Ambassador and enjoyed it so much that in September 2009 she joined the STEM Sussex staff, managing the STEM Ambassadors programme (amongst other things) in the Sussex area.  She is intending to finish her DPhil.  Soon.

Why does Mr. McCavanagh matter?

Here’s the thing: Mr. McCavanagh is the reason I’m where I am today.  I don’t think he knows that though.  He was my science teacher at the end of secondary school (about ten years ago now) and is one of the first reasons that I chose a career in science rather than in English or French (the other A*’s I got at GCSE and subjects I also enjoyed.  Yes, I’m a geek.  I know.  I’m fine with that.).  He was inspiring, enthusiastic and gave me the encouragement that I needed to pursue a subject that is seen by many pupils as difficult and boring.  Admittedly there have been a few other people that have influenced my life since then, but Mr McCavanagh was the start in the chain.

Most people can identify a few individuals that have made a profound impact on their career choices.  Who inspired you?  Who continues to inspire you?  It might be a family member, friend, a teacher, lecturer or someone completely different.  These people impact our lives at different stages, but it is the people who influence our very early career choices that really transform the people we are to become.

Would you like the chance to inspire the next generation?

If you study a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) based subject, or have a career utilising STEM you could become a STEM Ambassador.  STEM Ambassadors have the chance to volunteer with school pupils and be the motivation that some of these young people need to become the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

As part of a national programme to encourage pupils in STEM subjects, the STEM Ambassadors scheme links people who are working or studying STEM with local schools.  The activities that STEM Ambassadors get involved with are incredibly varied – from supporting a STEM club in a primary school to talking about careers with A level students, ranging from a ten-minute assembly to a day or more in a school.  There are opportunities available at different times and days that can hopefully fit in to even the busiest of schedules!

The only requirements for anyone to join the programme are that you are enthusiastic, willing to wax lyrical about your subject to young people when required, and are interested in inspiring and supporting the next generation to become skilled in STEM.  Fortunately you don’t need to be an expert in the education system!

All STEM Ambassadors must have an acceptable Enhanced CRB disclosure and attend a short induction session to ensure that you are confident to make school visits.

If you would like more information about the STEM Ambassadors programme please see www.stemnet.org.uk/ambassadors.cfm or www.stemsussex.co.uk.  Alternatively, phone Sarah Pannell at STEM Sussex on 01273 641876.


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