A Mother’s Day celebration of Mothers in STEM

Dr Fehmidah Munir and her daughter.

To mark this year's Mother’s Day, Loughborough University is celebrating some of its inspirational mums who work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are collectively known as STEM subjects.

The celebration is part of Loughborough’s Athena SWAN Charter, which encourages universities to take steps to address the gender imbalance prevalent across many areas of the scientific workforce and promote women in STEM. The University was one of the founding members of the Charter, which began in 2005.

Professor Serpil Acar, PhD, Loughborough Design School

Serpil is Professor of Design for Injury Prevention.

After completing her PhD in Mathematics, she worked in engineering departments and collaborated with automotive industry. Her principal research activities include occupant safety, engineering design for women, spine modelling and associated engineering design. Serpil is the principal investigator of many major Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council-funded projects investigating and designing for occupant safety especially for pregnant occupants.

Serpil is married with two children.

“Being a mother and a career professional has always been challenging. Our first son was 12 months old when I began my PhD – it was like doing two PhDs!  It required sacrifices in many aspects of our lives to bring up our two boys, but it was worth it.”

Dr Sarah Barnard, Research Associate, Civil and Building Engineering

Sarah has been at the University for 11 years, working as a member of research staff and as a part-time PhD student – her thesis was submitted and successfully defended in 2013.

She has worked on a number of research projects on women in STEM, and is currently working on a European Commission-funded project – Gendertime, the aim of which is to identify and implement the best approach to increase the participation and career advancement of women researchers. Sarah is also chair of Loughborough University’s Research Staff Association (LURSA) and is active on a number of committees at institutional and school level.

Sarah has two children, aged 7 and 3, and a husband who works full time as a product design engineer. She is able to balance work and family life due to support from family and a good working relationship with project colleagues which allows her to work flexibly.

“Having children inspired me to complete my PhD. Working and studying with small children is tough but it is possible to do! Being a mum is the most fantastic challenge and you acquire all kinds of skills and strengths that are very useful in the workplace.”

Dr Marta Mazzocco, Reader, Mathematical Science

As well as being a Reader in Mathematics, Marta is Deputy Research Challenge Academic Lead in Health and Wellbeing.

She works in the area of Integrable Systems – a fascinating area at the cross road between pure and applied mathematics. In her work she brings together algebra, geometry and topology to attack problems that have so far resisted traditional approaches.

Marta has been at Loughborough University for five years. She is married to an academic at Aston University and has one child.

“Having a child changed my focus in life. Research does not occupy such a dominant role anymore and amazingly this has alleviated the pressure allowing me to write my best paper!”

Dr Camilla Gilmore, Senior Research Fellow, Maths Education Centre

Camilla was awarded her five-year Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship in July.

Her research aims to understand what affects children’s early mathematics learning – an important area as many young people fail to learn the numeracy skills they need in primary school. She works with preschool children, following them as they start school to try to understand what skills and experiences provide the best foundation for learning maths in school.

“Having young children has definitely influenced my research focus. I am more aware now of the huge amount of informal learning that happens before children start school. So my fellowship research will be focusing on this really important period in children's lives.

“Combining a research career with having a young family is a challenge but also very rewarding. I'm lucky to have support from the Royal Society which is specifically targeted for researchers within science who have caring responsibilities. This gives me the flexibility to work part-time and so my research career can progress while I also can spend time with my young children.”

Dr Fehmidah Munir, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Fehmidah joined Loughborough University as a Lecturer in Psychology in January 2006. Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009, her research interests include the prevention of, and intervention for, chronic conditions impacting on fitness for work and employment; the effects of health behaviours on recovery from ill-health, the influence of bio-psychosocial factors to sickness absence, work engagement and return-to-work outcomes; and self-led interventions for recovery, enhancements for well-being or re-entry into work.

Fehmidah has two school-aged children.

“As a psychologist I work with all kinds of people with chronic health conditions and this has given me a unique perspective on life that I am able to share with my daughters. I encourage them to be more resilient with life’s ups and downs. It’s a two-way relationship, and my daughters also help me with my work by teaching me to be patient and a great communicator! This enriches our mother-daughter relationship.”

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