Director (STEM Scotland Ltd.)
I run my own business developing and providing science and STEM education services, to help a wide variety of people meet their STEM goals, one step at a time! I run After-School Science Clubs (Dr Dot’s Science Club), deliver Workshops for Brownies and Guides, and tutor school and University students. I am now developing online courses for students and others interested in improving their science and STEM skills and confidence. I am an invited speaker at various events, present regularly at conferences and exhibitions, and give advice to schools and other organisations on the content and format of science and STEM resources. I’ve recently advised on a STEM Engineering challenge for the charity We Are Futures, and am the Science and Educational Advisor for a Virtual Reality game to teach students about cell physiology. I am also organising a STEM conference for schools with one of the teachers I work with.
I studied science subjects at school, then a Pharmacology degree and PhD at University. I then worked on various science research projects in Scotland and England both as post-doctoral researcher and Research Technician. A lot of this involved temporary contracts and moving around, so then I trained as a teacher and taught High School science in England for a couple of years.
Another decision point came when I relocated back to Scotland, and an opportunity came up to teach at Glasgow University, where I was a lecturer for 15 years. I led the 3rd Year Pharmacology programme and was Graduate Attributes Champion for Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences. In this role I developed initiatives for helping students build a wide range of skills, including an annual Careers Afternoon with students and employers. The Student Enterprise Manager also spoke at these sessions, which raised my own awareness of starting a business as a viable career option. Thus a seed was planted!
Starting my own business in science in 2018 was one of the best decisions I ever made! I was at a point in my career where much as I loved it I felt something was “missing”… but sensed a lot of other things (skills, experience, life decisions, ambitions) coming together - so decided take the plunge and founded my Company, STEM Scotland Ltd.
I have a PhD in Pharmacology, a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, and a PGCE. These are all very relevant, as every day I use the skills I developed while achieving these qualifications. These have also given me experience, confidence and contacts, which are hugely important and relevant for running my own science education company.
I didn’t realise at the time, but one of my greatest influences is my dad! My dad was an engineer and worked with computers in the very early days before anyone had a computer at home. I loved the “Ladybird” books with Marie Curie (who discovered the element Radium) and one about Constellations, which got me fascinated with the night sky and the idea something else was “out there”. I remember watching “Tomorrow’s World” (where I first heard the word “antibody”), and one of my favourite books was “The Rest of the Robots” by Isaac Asimov – look where Robotics has taken us now!
At school my 6th Year Chemistry teacher was very inspiring! He had a canoe and would paddle down the river to collect water samples for my project on Water Quality in the River Clyde, then drew elaborate diagrams on the board of what to do if your canoe got stuck in a weir. I love this aspect of relating science to everyday life, which is really my main inspiration. Science/STEM is everywhere!
A typical day could be a project meeting, planning or filming videos, trialling an experiment, and professional development to keep up with science and education. Research and communication skills are key, as are practical, technical and analytical skills, prioritising, and reflection. Creativity is also central!
I love the variety! Each day is different, and as a business owner I enjoy being my own boss! It has surprised me to learn just how creative developing a business is. I really enjoy working with a wide range of people from a variety of organisations but all relating to science/STEM and education in different contexts. One of the things I enjoy the most is doing events with young people, especially Dr Dot’s Science Club. It’s especially rewarding seeing a “spark” in people when they really “get” something and I always come away from events having learned something myself.
I am always researching, trying out, improving and adapting experiments for my Science Clubs and events. Other relevant STEM-related challenges include planning, decision making (do not underestimate this!), logistics, time and project management, and clear communication.
I use a lot of communications and content creation technology in my business (website, YouTube channel, online course platform, social media, video production equipment and software). It is a challenge learning to make this all work smoothly together; and especially keeping up with all the updates!
I would say go for it! You might be a bit apprehensive or unsure if you are “good enough” but this is a very common feeling so just recognise it as such – then tell yourself You can do this!
You may feel overloaded with information, but just take it one step at a time. Ask questions, look online, watch videos on YouTube of things you are interested in and want to know a bit more about. Talk to your teachers, people at home, friends. Chatting to other people helps so much – do not underestimate this! Build your own networks of people you can talk to or learn from. People want to help and will be very happy to give advice, suggestions, and specific information.
I don’t actually live in Argyll but it is a favourite place of ours for holidays. I love looking at the sea and this is not too difficult to do in Argyll! I first thought about Argyll in a STEM context when at a conference in 2019 and was intrigued to hear about so many STEM plans for the area. Since working on a STEM video project with ALIEnergy I have come to realise Argyll is so much more than just a beautiful place and is a hive of industry and innovation, much of it waiting to realise its full potential. Argyll’s stunning geography is also one of its biggest challenges being so spread out and much of it rural or island communities. Coming from the “big city” (Glasgow) this is a real eye-opener for me. I am very keep to explore ways to make science and STEM more accessible for people in Argyll and throughout Scotland in general, and really excited about further projects down the line.
Using Red Cabbage Indicator to identify acids and alkalis – this is a very visual experiment and great fun, with lots of science concepts. An additional challenge is to produce a simple visual set of instructions for use by much younger pupils.
My Company website is: https://www.stem-scotland.com/
My YouTube channel is at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7WhaPZWLtG-UxP82kyqejA