Improving Gender Equality and Raising Aspirations in STEM

Zheni Rasheva
Social Impact Coordinator

We believe that the engineering industry needs creative and talented minds, irrespective of gender or background, who are willing to push the boundaries and help solve some of our biggest social, environmental, and economic challenges.

Improving gender equality and raising aspirations in STEM amongst all students must begin from within the industry; it’s our responsibility to join forces with STEM organisations and provide accessible learning experiences for young people.

To that end, The Panoply recently made the commitment to support an Engineering Scholarship through Arkwright Engineering Scholarships. With women currently accounting for just 22% of the STEM workforce, the Arkwright Engineering Programme aims to close the gender gap and support young people from all backgrounds, giving them the skills and confidence to change the world through engineering.

Arkwright Engineering Scholars benefit from financial support, professional mentorship, exclusive networking opportunities and real-world learning experiences with industry experts such as The Panoply.

This year, the programme awarded 300 scholarships to bright and aspiring 16-year-old students from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with 45% of those  given to female students. One of these, Nabeeha, became a Panoply Scholar.

Nabeeha is a talented young woman who is attending a state secondary school in Essex and is studying for her A Levels. We asked her a few questions to find out more about her background, career aspirations, and experience as an Arkwright Engineering Scholar with the Panoply.


Tell us a bit more about yourself Nabeeha

I am 17 years old and attend a sixth form college in London, where I study Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics. I am a hard-working, bubbly, and resilient person who enjoys learning through experience and collaborating with other people. I enjoy art, baking, gaming; anything else that enables me to think creatively.

My current interests lie in astrophysics and machine learning: I love learning about the vastness of our universe, how its contents were formed and find the search for advanced civilisations outside our solar system fascinating. Hence, I am currently taking part in the QMUL Planet Hunting with Python project and the ORBYTS Exoplanet research project, which involves analysing spectral data from exoplanet systems taken using telescopes such as the Kepler.

I like to follow the new ways that companies make use of AI and machine learning and the ways it can be used to increase efficiency in the workforce. I am also passionate about BAME and LGBTQ+ rights and am part of a network in my college that aims to educate people on issues facing those communities in an effort to make the school environment more equal.

Why did you apply for the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship?

I applied for the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship as it was recommended to me by a teacher: I had some knowledge about how the scholarship had benefited scholars in the progression of their engineering careers and was motivated to submit an application. The process (involving an assessed application and aptitude test) taught me to be succinct, amiable and display growth through experiences in order to present myself as an ideal candidate; skills that are essential for employability. The aptitude test enabled me to develop creative thinking skills to generate multiple different solutions for a given brief in a short span of time. I learnt the importance of annotations to explain the flow of a certain product/solution. The experience has increased my confidence and I am grateful for being presented with such an opportunity.

What aspect of being a Panoply Scholar has been most beneficial for your progress into engineering?

Being a Panoply Scholar has been such a pleasant experience so far: meeting incredible people from the group has been a great opportunity to learn about their progression into their careers. I find it fascinating to learn about peoples’ stories – completed or in-the-making. It allows me to decide the pathways I want to get into. The mentoring sessions are extremely helpful as I appreciate any and all advice from people with more experience in life.  I would say the most beneficial thing about being a Panoply Scholar for progressing into an engineering career is the potential industry connections and opportunities for some work experience to help me consider different career prospects. 

If you could create an innovation to positively impact the world, what would it be?

Waste accumulation is a huge problem that impacts our biodiversity, with plastics and e-waste negatively impacting sustainability on earth as it is cheaper to manufacture using new resources. I would like to design a product or process that can effectively recycle e-waste and plastics in an affordable and sustainable way so that more companies would opt to use more recycled materials in manufacturing.

Once you have finished studying, what are your career aspirations? 

I am still quite unsure as to what I want to do after having finished my studies as I have interests in a few different engineering disciplines. The short answer is anything that pays well. I would like to pursue a career in chemical, aerospace or software engineering or in product design. I want a job where a hands-on approach to problem-solving and a lot of creative thinking is required. I want to keep learning new things and become a professional in whichever field I decide to work in.

Could you share something with us that you have read or recently learnt that really interested you?

I have recently read an article relating to chemical engineering, about the use of “Extended gate field-effect-transistor [EG-FET] for sensing cortisol stress hormone”. The article provides a comprehensive analysis of a study on the EG-FET sensor’s sensitivity in the detection of cortisol in bodily fluids, such as sweat and plasma, under different configurations and graphene electrodes with peptide molecules that bind to cortisol. The patch is useful for discrete disease detection due to cortisol being a biomarker for many stress-related illnesses, which will enable doctors to make more accurate diagnoses with burnout, depression, cardiovascular diseases, etc.

Link to article: Here

I have also read another article on a similar development of epidermal patches, one which is the first to be able to measure multiple biochemical levels simultaneously (with distinct aptamers on electrodes for different small-molecule detection, such as alcohol, caffeine, etc.) as well as monitor heart rate and blood pressure. This innovation is incredibly useful for detecting causes of abnormalities in real-time and pairing this innovation with small devices such as fit-bits can warn people if they require treatment and the constant monitoring will reduce the need for certain tests for illness diagnoses.

Link to article: Here

Zheni Rasheva
Social Impact Coordinator