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lecturer

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Michelle Oyen, University Lecturer, Engineering

Michelle Oyen

Dr. Michelle L. Oyen

University Lecturer

Cambridge University, Engineering



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
It’s hard to remember! I was set on the idea of being an engineer by the time I was 10 years old. I loved math as a kid, and had a computer quite young (a Commodore 64 by age 7). I was always trying to take my toys apart and figure out how they worked.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Although I’ve had the chance to work on a number of very fun projects, including our tendency to use Lego robots in the lab (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBEtUJmp05w), my own favorite research work involves using engineering to try and study problem pregnancies, particularly in the context of understanding and preventing premature birth. People don’t think of engineering and human reproduction in the same framework, but there are actually a lot of very exciting opportunities in this area.

Role models/heroes:
My favorite early role model is Sophie Germain, who worked in both mathematics and elasticity far before it was easy for women to do so. My other favorite is Lillian Gilbreth, who was one of the early female industrial engineers but also famous from the books “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Belles on their Toes” about raising a large family in the early 20th century.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love knowing that there are so many opportunities for science and engineering to improve the human condition, through biomedicine and biomedical engineering, by using our engineering skills to be better stewards of the environment, and to apply our knowledge to real-world problems facing developing economies.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Be proactive and have a thick skin. I’d love to say that STEM subjects were gender-blind in the 21st century but I don’t think we’re there yet. Amazing change has been taking place since the start of the 20th century, and it’s going to be a few more generations until all of those working in STEM don’t blink when seeing female colleagues in a wide range of roles.

Favorite website/app:
Kindle app. I love having access to so many books (both technical and otherwise) at my fingertips no matter where I am or what hardware I’m using.

Twitter: @michelleoyen

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Leah Ridgway, Lecturer in Electrical Engineering & Electronics

Dr. Leah Ridgway

Lecturer in Electrical Engineering and Electronics

University of Liverpool, UK



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was a 4 year-old girl who knew what an axle was! I’ve always been fascinated by why things work and love the buzz when you understand that why. Now my job is to inspire and help student engineers understand the world around us and teach them the tools they need to solve the world’s problems.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’m keen on finding new ways to use technology to support the learning of a diverse student group. I did a series of videos to support my lectures for students to watch in their own time. I had no idea if it would be successful and I had to get over hearing the sound of my own voice! The feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive; they liked studying at a time which suited them and it stimulated discussions about the content outside of class.

Role models/heroes:
You may laugh, but my role model growing up was a fictional character: Jadzia Dax from Star Trek DS9! She’s a strong female character with an analytical mind and has an incredibly sex-positive attitude.

Part of the reason I don’t have a role model is that I don’t think there were many notable people who I felt I could relate to in any way, thankfully I think this is changing.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because it’s interesting. No two days are the same and there are always new problems to be solved. There’s a lot of creativity involved which I don’t think most people realise until they talk to us.

Advice for future STEMinists?
I wish someone had told me that you don’t have to give up being feminine to succeed in a male dominated industry and don’t let anyone try and bully you into it (sometimes women are just as bad as men for this). I describe myself as a glamorous tomboy in a dress!

Favorite website/app:
I’m absolutely addicted to Twitter. It’s my personalised window into what’s happening in the world around me where I can hear things apart from the mainstream news. I’d also be lost without Dropbox which I use to easily sync files across multiple devices.

Twitter: @verdantstar