School of Science

Equality and Diversity

Women In Science blog

Our Women In Science Ambassador shares her experiences of life as a Loughborough science student.

2 December 2018: End of semester one

The labs are now one of my favourite aspects of taking chemistry!

Hi! This will be my second blog for this year, and will be a further reflection on both my studies/activities here and also the work that the University is carrying out to promote equality and diversity. As I am getting more comfortable and involved in my role as the Women in Science Ambassador I can talk more in depth about what it is we, as the School of Science, are hoping to achieve, but also talk about my experiences here as a student.

As the first semester comes to a close, there are more than a million things to talk about as part of my first experiences of Loughborough. In my course I’ve been exposed to a mixture of lectures, tutorials, workshops and, of course, labs. The labs are now one of my favourite aspects of taking chemistry, especially for the satisfaction you get at the end when completing it. More recently we conducted an experiment to determine the partition coefficient of iodine. This was one of the most visually appealing labs I’ve seen since the colour separation was quite a stark contrast (as you can see from the photo below). The top layer is the organic phase and the bottom layer is the aqueous phase, and it’s so interesting to see how iodine appears in either phase. The layers were then separated off and titrated, which also shows how organic and analytical chemistry can be combined to develop a more holistic understanding. For me this really tied everything together and made it much more relatable to the work we’ve been doing.

An event-ful new year...

In the coming year there are plenty of Welfare and Diversity events being run, particularly in the School of Science! On 13 February there will be a Pride in STEM Research Showcase - a chance for LGBT+ scientists to share their research and experiences, as well as a presentation by Professor Peter Coles. This is something that is definitely inspiring and all-inclusive, since it allows us to celebrate the challenges overcome by all those taking science.

The School of Science is also working on a student-staff diversity event in February that allows staff of all backgrounds to share their experiences and hopefully encourages students to take learning further, regardless of who they are. Another big event that is run by the university is a lecture by Dr Suzanne Imber on Claudia Parsons, an alumnus of Loughborough University whose name has recently been chosen for the University's newly opened accommodation. This event will also include female staff members from the School of Science giving five-minute introductions to their research, and is a chance to hear about the amazing work the women here have been undertaking. As well as these the University is always planning numerous different events, be sure to check them out on the Students' Union page!

Athena SWAN

Another big thing that the School of Science is working towards is the Athena SWAN Award! This award recognises the efforts made towards encouraging and helping women into STEM-related careers and research. In previous years, the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Mathematics Education Centre had a silver award. But recently, this Department has merged with the School of Science and now it makes sense to apply as a School for a new award. This has meant meeting formally on a panel to discuss the current situation, what is needed to get the award and looking over all sorts of data that the University has collected. This award looks at how both staff and students are split in terms of gender and if there are any imbalances and where they are, as well as the progression pipeline. This has really helped the University and the School to reflect on what we need to improve. It has helped form an action plan over the next few months. Part of this action plan includes the introduction of my role as the Women in Science Ambassador, and creating a link between the university and prospective/current students.

Visit days

I’ve more recently been involved in visit days and having my own little stand for students to ask questions or express any worries or concerns they may have. I’ve found that talking to students is a great way to help them, but also furthers my understanding of why women may be scared or have doubts about studying science. By sitting on the panel for the Athena SWAN self-assessment, I gained a deeper understanding of the network within the University and how there are a multitude of different ways women could be put off continuing science. As my role develops, I really hope to get more involved in these discussions and bring forth not only my ideas, but also ideas that I’ve gathered from the students and people I’ve interacted with.

There will be more updates throughout the year of related events happening so do keep an eye out! I also hope to see many more students at prospective visit days and open days, and get more involved with the university and the community.

Wishing you all a happy holiday and a fantastic new year!

About Katrina

"My name is Katrina Cranfield and I am the Women in Science Ambassador. I’m half British half Portuguese, and spent the last 7 years living in Hong Kong.  I’ve now come to Loughborough to start my undergraduate degree in Chemistry, and as the Women in Science Ambassador I hope to evolve the way Loughborough welcomes women into STEM through my own student perspectives."

Katrina was selected to be the School of Science Women in Science Ambassador on the strength of her academic results, supporting statement and performance at interview. Over the coming year she will be blogging for us, as well as fulfilling her role representing women in science on our School social media channels, open days and other events. Katrina is interested in engaging with current students and prospective students who have any questions and concerns about being a female student in STEM at university. If you would like to ask her a question, please email her.  The best questions may form the basis of future blog posts, but they will be anonymised and we will seek permission first.