What is the Inspiring Women in STEMM grant?
A higher degree in STEMM can be a springboard towards a rewarding career and an opportunity to give back to one’s community. Unfortunately, women are often under-represented in STEMM careers and women from remote, low-income areas, indigenous or minority communities often face additional barriers to achieving employment in STEMM fields.
Fortunately, many women overcome these substantial barriers and complete tertiary degrees in STEMM fields. These women are potential role models for the next generation of scientists in their community. However, they often do not have the training and opportunity to effectively tell their STEMM Story.
This grant seeks to lift the profile of some of the incredible young female scientists in Tasmania and amplify their voice so they can inspire the current and next generation of women in STEMM. The inaugural 2019 grant was supported by funds from Emily and Andy Flies’s Vice Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Community Engagement; from 2020 this program relies on support from the community. There are so many incredible women willing to work hard in their studies and for their communities. Help us help them connect with and inspire the next generation of scientists. If you are able to contribute, please do so through our GoFundMe page.
The inaugural ‘Inspiring Women in STEMM’ Grant in 2019 supported four winners to reach hundreds of girls in their communities. The 2019 grand winner, Mercy Ndalila, brought smoke detectors to a girl’s boarding school in Kenya, and fire safety materials to a primary school, to both safeguard students from fire and educate them about fire risks. Another 2019 winner, Gabriella Maria Paniagua Cabarrus, used the funds to buy supplies and new lab coats for a girl’s chemistry club in remote Guatemala. Then, through a virtual presentation, she guided them through a chemistry lab experiment, building their skills and curiosity about a career in science.
The 2020 grant
The 2020 grant was supported by generous donations from the community, and from the UTAS College of Science and Engineering and the UTAS School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences. Due to COVID travel restrictions, some 2020 fellows engaged with youth remotely. Hear their stories below from our special International Women’s Day Science in the Pub event:
Annie Nguyen is a PhD student in the School of Natural Science at UTAS. Annie witnessed first-hand how a lack of English-speaking ability can be a barrier to higher-paying jobs. She has since taught English as well as the Python computer language to youth in different parts of the world. Annie had plans to teach at the Natumuse Junior Academy in the Loitokitok district in Kenya before accepting her PhD scholarship studying the drivers of biodiversity in Australia.
With this grant, she purchased science and maths books, written in English, for students in grades 5-8 at the Natumuse Junior Academy. She hopes that learning maths and science in English will open up educational and economic opportunities for these students and disrupt the cycle of poverty that exists in this part of Kenya.
Nneka Orji is a medical doctor, a health economist at the Federal Ministry of Health and Ministry of Women Affairs in Nigeria, a PhD student at the Menzies Institute of Medical Research in Tasmania (long-distance due to current travel restrictions) AND a mother of 4. Through this grant, Nneka has developed a community-based mentorship program in a sub-urban community in Abuja, Nigeria. The mentorship program will boost girls’ self-esteem and aspirations in STEMM fields, and provide them with education and supplies for menstrual health and hygiene to remove a barrier to their full participation in school. Nneka hopes that through these presentations and mentorship, she can inspire the next generation of Nigerian girls/women in STEMM.
Olly Dove is a PhD student at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies. With this funding, Olly purchased videography equipment for creating video series about the flora and fauna of Tasmania. She will be distributing these videos to schools here in Australia and back home in the UK, hoping to spark children’s interest in wildlife.
Olly is also a co-host and editor for the Hobart-based radio and podcast show ‘That’s What I Call Science!’. The equipment purchased through this grant will also further extend the media outreach and impact of the show.
How to apply?
Applicants must be currently undertaking a PhD by research in a STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths or Medicine) field at the University of Tasmania. The application involves writing a short essay that addresses four questions (in <500 words):
a) Why are you doing a PhD in your chosen STEMM field?
b) What barriers have you faced in undertaking your PhD in STEMM and how have you overcome them? (e.g. are you a member of a disadvantaged group and how would you describe the barriers you have faced? Some recognised disadvantages include being from economically-disadvantaged locations, being part of a marginalised community, being the first person in your immediate family to undertake a tertiary degree, and being the sole or primary care-giver of dependent child or adult family members)
c) How would you use these funds to inspire the next generation of women in STEMM? (including an estimate of costs which is not included in the 500 word limit)
The top three applicants will be invited to present at Science in the Pub’s special event for International Women’s day.