Bethan Cornell MPhys (Hons) is a PhD Student in Physics at King's College London and a STEM Ambassador. Over the last year, she has delivered career talks for young people and supported their development of employability skills.
She is motivated to volunteer due to her frustrations about the stereotypes that exist in society about scientists. Bethan says, “You don't have to be stuffy, old and work on a blackboard to be a scientist”.
By engaging with young people, Bethan is able to break down stereotypes and challenge perceptions on what being a scientist means. “I wanted to show young people that being a scientist is the best job in the world and it is absolutely something that they can aspire to.” It is important for all young people to feel included in science and know it is a career which is an option for them.
Not only does she break down stereotypes about the type of people that can be scientists, but also about the type of work scientists can do! Bethan uses computer coding in her day-to-day role but not everyone would expect coding to be applied in medicine. Bethan shows teachers and children that coding has a wide range of applications – including applications they would not expect.
STEM Ambassadors are a valuable yet free of charge resource for teachers. Not all teachers have expertise or experience from different industries and fields. “STEM Ambassadors are working in STEM fields day-in-day-out. This puts them in a fantastic position to tell children what STEM is really like. They provide something tangible and makes STEM feel far more accessible to children than something they might read about in school.”
“I wanted to show young people that being a scientist is the best job in the world and it is absolutely something that they can aspire to.”
In one day, Bethan engaged with every age group at St Stephen’s Primary School, from Reception to Year 6. Children in Years 5 and 6 used their creativity and scientific thinking to problem solve.
“[The activity] helped teachers show that creativity and 'thinking outside the box' is really key in science and gave them an opportunity out of the constraints of the curriculum to allow the students to play with scientific ideas.”
The pupils developed their own way of testing and solving and created a poster to present their work. Bethan challenges the misconception that all scientists run experiments, when in reality some scientists only do theoretical work. Bethan also highlights the importance of communication skills for scientists and gave the pupils an opportunity to present their work. “We explained to the students that scientists who do work come together and tell each other about it at conferences”.
Being a STEM Ambassador also supports Bethan’s own skills development. “[Volunteering] provides you with a real sense of achievement and helps you develop your confidence and communication skills like nothing else!”
If you want to challenge stereotypes, raise awareness of your field and develop your confidence, why not sign up to become a STEM Ambassador?
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Our 30,000 STEM Ambassadors, representing more than 2,500 employers, play an essential role in inspiring and engaging the next generation of scientists, technicians, engineers, mathematicians and technologists.