Dr Kayleigh Wardell
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Sussex
Why did you become an Ambassador?
I really enjoy working with young people; I find engaging with students both fun and inspiring. I also find it highly rewarding when I know I have made a difference to a student’s life, even if it is something as small as helping them understand a scientific concept a little better.
As a researcher most of my time is spent working in a lab, and it is great to be able to spend time interacting with young people and telling/showing them how amazing science is! It also gives me a chance to view my research from a different view-point: explaining why your research is important to young people really does help you think about your work in the bigger picture!
How much time do you commit to Ambassador activities?
I tend to do a couple of activities a term. One of the great things about being a STEM ambassador is that you don’t have to commit to a certain amount, or to a schedule. This means that I can fit my activities in around my work and it doesn’t interfere.
Preparing for activities can take a little time to begin with, but once you have activities and talks prepared it is a lot quicker to tailor them to a specific event rather than having to make them from scratch.
What activities have you been involved in?
The majority of the activities I have done have been career talks: speaking to students about how I became a scientist, and what my job is like day-to-day. I have also done subject specific talks, run practical workshops and volunteered at the Big Bang Fair South East. I really enjoy the activities where I get a chance to chat with small groups of students and answer any questions they have about my job. It is very rewarding to know that you are making a different to student’s lives while they are deciding what career path to take. I also find doing practical workshops really fun: my favourite is extracting DNA from strawberries. The students are always really excited when they do it, plus it makes the room smell really nice!
What do you feel were the positive outcomes for the pupils?
I think it is really great for the students to see what life is like for people who work in STEM jobs, especially when they don’t know anyone who works in the STEM sector. It is also really good for them to see how many different jobs there are out there, and how varied they all can be! I also think it is important for students to get a chance to see “real world” applications for the things that they are studying in school, which will hopefully pique their interest even more. Or at the very least make them understand why they are studying STEM subjects at school!
Do you have any tips for future STEM Ambassadors?
Definitely sign up is my first tip! If you are nervous about what to do for your first activity I recommend signing up for activities with other STEM ambassadors that don’t require any preparation in advance (such as the Careers Speed Dating Events, or the Big Bang Fair). They are a great way to meet other ambassadors and work with students, without the pressure of bringing your own talk or activity.
One other important thing is to have fun! These activities are supposed to be enjoyable for both yourself and the students. Get creative with activities (the internet is a great source for ideas and inspiration), and do something you would have wanted to do when you were at school. Your enthusiasm will rub off on the students and you will all get a lot out of it!