Women in science

Join us for a triumphant showcase of the women who broke down barriers and changed the face of STEM in Scotland.

With a panel of world-leading women scientists, including the first woman President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Lesley Yellowlees; the first woman professor of Chemical Engineering in Scotland, Raffaella Ocone; internally recognised expert on accelerating the transition to net zero, Mercedes Maroto-Valer; and CEO of a leading global biotechnology company, who’s firm develops life-changing therapies, Deborah O’Neil. This extraordinary discussion brings together voices of inspirational and determined women who’ll share their career stories and experiences in their field.

Curious 2023

RSE Curious logo 2023

This event is part of Curious 2023.

Get under the surface with Scotland’s leading experts! The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s summer event series, Curious, is back from 04-17 September.

Delve deep during thought-provoking discussions, explore cutting-edge research and ignite your curiosity through a range of engaging talks, workshops, tours, and exhibitions. Join in this celebration of extraordinary people discussing big ideas!

To get involved or see more Curious events visit www.rse-curious.com


This transcript has been automatically generated and so may feature errors.


Good. Good evening, everybody. How’s everyone doing? We feelin good. I’d like to welcome you here to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. And to this event this evening, which as I’m sure you know, is part of the Curious programme. As you can see, I am joined this evening by an esteemed panel of some exceptional women scientists. And I will ask them to introduce themselves in due course. But first, the boring stuff, the housekeeping, so we are not anticipating any fire alarms this evening. So if it does go off, please don’t panic and follow somebody in a purple t shirt. Now, let me just take there’s nobody in the audience in a purple t-shirt. So, RSE staff members at the back and purple T shirts, don’t panic, but follow them. Okay. You’ll be guided out onto George Street to the assembly point. Okay. So I think that’s the boring part. I should have introduced myself first. I absolutely always forget to do that. So my name is Dr. Clare Taylor. And I’m basically Edinburgh Napier University, and I am a member of the Young Academy of Scotland. And I’m here to chair the event this evening, forgive me for peering at you from over the top of my specs, but I can’t read what I’ve got written down. As you know, today’s event is part of the Curious programme. And this is the RSE series of events that’s taking part taking place between the 4th and 17th of September. So we’re into the last few days. And there have been a number of different events and talks and tours taking place. All sorts of workshops and exhibitions. I’m sure you know the theme of this year’s event is ‘under the surface’, which is to encourage you to delve deeper. Ask deep questions, look beyond the surface and then look again. So hopefully, with our panel today, we’re going to do just that. So I’ll just say something briefly about myself first, and then I’m going to ask each of our panel members to introduce themselves. Okay. So as I said, my name is Clare Taylor. I’m basically Edinburgh Napier University. I’m a senior lecturer in microbiology. So I teach microbiology and I have done research in microbiology. But more recently, my interests have been focused around equality, equity, diversity and inclusion. I don’t really do any laboratory work anymore. More focused on examining the life sciences and microbiology and trying to make it more inclusive and more diverse. So I’m absolutely delighted to be here this evening and to share this discussion with these four remarkable women feel a little bit I’m just briefly introduce them by name. First of all, and then I’ll ask them to say a little bit about themselves. Okay, so to my far left, to get that the right way. Is Dr Deborah A. O’Neil, immediately next to me on the left is Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer. To my right here we have Professor Raffaella Ocone. And to my far right, Professor, Lesley Yellowlees. So welcome to all of you. And if you don’t mind, I’m now going to ask you to say something about yourselves a little bit about your journey as a woman in science. And I know we’ve all brought something with you to tell us a little bit about what that object is and what it means to you. So if you don’t mind, we’ll start with Deborah.


Thank you, Claire. And good evening, everyone. So I’m Deborah O’Neil, and I’m the Chief Executive my day job and the founder of a company called Novobiotics, we’re based up in Aberdeen. And what we do is develop new medicines for respiratory disease, infection, and inflammatory disease. So Claire and mine’s path have crossed in the past at certain microbiology events. So we’re, we’re fighting bugs as well as also disease caused by inflammation. I’ve been doing that for 20 years. And prior to that, I was an academic and my training was initially in biochemistry, and then in immunology, which I fell in love with. So really looking at how the body deals with microbes, it deals with inflammation during health and disease. And that’s really the basis on which Novumbiotics does its drug discovery work, and to come up with new generations of much needed therapies for those three main areas really that are kind of interlinked. So inflammation, respiratory disease and infection caused by bacteria, as well as fungal and viral pathogens. So that’s my day job. What I also do is as well as fantastic events like this with the RSE, I sit on the board of the bioindustry association. So really keen to encourage more companies to spin out across the UK and to protect the businesses that we have in this sector of biomedical research life science, and also do quite a lot up north with opportunity northeast, another entity entities that are really kind of spanning that translation and transition of fantastic research that comes out of academic labs into the commercial world. So it’s great to be here this evening with a fantastic panel and looking forward to a lively discussion. Thank you, Deborah.


Yes, Good afternoon, everybody. And thank you, Clare. I’m Mercedes Maroto-Valer. I’m a deputy principal for global sustainability at Heriot Watt University is not too far from here. But we also have campus locations in Malaysia and Dubai. So we’re looking after sustainability with very different contexts as you can imagine them very different flavours, but really trying to embed sustainability across all the operations and their first deputy principal for global sustainability in Scotland. So that’s the first woman as well yet right. So you can, you can say that, but I think it’s important in terms of we need to understand sustainability and particularly how women how important it is the role they are. Sometimes it’s not quite considered so that that’s a point for reflection. On my other day job, I think that’s probably going to be a recurring theme. You know, we all have multiple, multiple jobs. My other day job as well is head of UK centre looking after industrial decarbonisation. So really with their largest industrial clusters all across the UK and how we can help them to transition in a just transition as well. And in terms of what all these is about, and I’m just gonna kind of drop it a little bit in there. My research work has really been around the theme: Not all co2 molecules are equal. And I think for many in the room here, probably that disqualify me for any RSE medals in the foreseeable future. But I think it’s important that we realise that not all the activities, even if they produce the same amount of co2, how you’re actually going to be evade that co2 Or what you can do with that co2 is not the same. And if you allow me one final point here, before you see my prop, I think we need to consider as well that the benefits for instance of today, all of us being here, we all have trouble for maybe far not so far distances, but we all have incurring a carbon footprint to be here today. However, I’ve seen the benefits of the conversation that we are going to have today. I do hope that they outweighed the much more tangible and quantifiable carbon footprint that we are generating by coming to this event. Is this the time to show the prop or do we do it later?


I realised we we didn’t see your prop. Deborah’s. So that’s what I was thinking, shall we? Shall we? Shall we do it now? And then we can.


So this is different from the prop that I think has had a lot of sticks social media backlash that I appeared in the portrait, which was petri dishes, I mean, pretty predictable for somebody who fights bugs for a living. So this I thought, really tells the story more of I suppose why I fell in love with learning and did become curious. And it wasn’t actually science I loved and still do history. So what I’d probably be doing and I might answer already, one of the questions for later is I should be digging something I’ll probably be an archaeologist if I wasn’t a scientist, so I’d be happy, digging away at some historical site that so it probably is history that just triggered my kind of love for learning curiosity. And a subject that I found easy, but I always knew I wanted to do science as well. So it’s a trowl.


Yes, please. Go ahead. I wasn’t sure whether to so the prop now, just getting into my pocket now. So it’s quite small, it’s actually pretty much the same that you see on my photograph, whatever it is upstairs. So if you have read the text that comes together with the photograph, whether or not can you see it on the back is something is really looks like a domino piece, because that’s what it looks like. But this is made of co2. And actually, we have been able to pack close to five litres of co2 into this. So going back to what I was saying before about not all co2 molecules are equal, we can do useful things with a co2. And this is an example. We’ve also been working on producing aviation fuels in many, many other projects. But there’s this idea that the co2 we can do useful things with that, that doesn’t mean that we don’t decrease our emissions. But I think that’s the role of science and a lot of the things that we can do together is finding uses and options with a co2 that we are producing it if we cannot abate it.


Thank you, Raphael. I think you’ve just blown my mind a little bit. Sorry, Mercedes. Apologies, my my brain. I’m not gonna say that. I’m gonna I’m gonna ask Lesley to introduce yourself if you don’t mind. No,


that’s fine. What have you done to be skipped over.


I’m just keeping it keeping it fresh.


Hi, I’m Leslie Yellowlees. And I’m delighted to be here and to see you all. And I’m looking forward to this evening very much and hearing from my fellow women and also from you. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions very much. So I had my whole academic career at the University of Edinburgh. And I never moved and people go, how can you have a whole academic career in one institution? You know, everybody says you must move you must go here. You must go there. I never let I’d stayed in Edinburgh. That being said, I didn’t stay in the same job in Edinburgh all the time. I did various roles within the university. See, and I think that’s the other thing you can do is you don’t have to move. But I do think it’s important that you have different experiences. I’m a chemist, and my research is into solar energy. So I’d fit very nicely with you. And I enjoyed solar energy research very much indeed. And when people asked me, after all this time was if you go back and do your PhD again, what would you do it and then I’d say, I’d still do it in solar energy, because we’re still not cracked it, we’ve still not got it, we’re still not got it at an affordable price that everybody can use. And we certainly haven’t sorted out how we can use solar energy with batteries to be able to store that energy. So there’s still a whole lot of questions to be asked. And I think it’s unusual for I mean, it’s many years ago, so I did my PhD. 45 years dare I say that a long time ago. And I think it’s unusual to have a subject that still hasn’t come to fruition hasn’t reached its endpoint yet. So I still am fascinated by solar energy. And I still think it has, I think it is part of the solution. I’m not saying it’s the whole solution. And I’m not saying it’s the whole solution in Scotland, but it is going to be part of the mix part of the solution. As well as having as we’re talking about day jobs as well as having an academic career in research. I also got heavily involved in management within the university. I was head of school head of chemistry. And then I was head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, which is a huge college. It’s bigger than most universities actually in Scotland. So it was a it was a big responsibility, a huge opportunity. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, I thoroughly enjoyed being head of the College of Science and Engineering. At the same time as doing all that I was also heavily involved in the Royal Society of Chemistry, which is the professional society for chemists, or people in chemical sciences, both industry and academia, in the UK, and it was my privilege to be asked to be their president. And I was their first female president in their 170 year history. And I thoroughly enjoyed being president of the Royal Society of Chemistry. That was my dream job. So I retired, I stopped, unfortunately, could only be president for two years, I would have continued, but they didn’t want me to continue, you can’t. I would continue to because you know, that’s the life swanning about the world. That’s great. But sorry, but I did retire from being vice principal and head of the College of Science and Engineering. To take up, people say I’ve now got, you know, portfolio, I’ve got lots of different things I do. And I’m happy to discuss those. But you know, and I really enjoy doing all that bringing the experience I had the people I know, to doing things outside of the University of Edinburgh and outside of chemistry now so and I count myself as very fortunate being able to do that. So my object – I’ve lost it -, this is my object. And this is a statue of a bust of Nefertiti, which actually think if you’d asked anybody, nobody would have said it would have brought this out. But this is what I this is what I brought out. Why have I? Why is this important to me? When I was president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, I was asked what it is I wanted to concentrate on doing. And I said, Well, I’m the first woman. So I think it’d be daft not to use that as a platform. This was in 2012, when really things were starting to take off. EDI, equality, diversity, and inclusion was really starting to be a big thing. And I use that. And I travelled the world, speaking about chemistry, but also about equality and diversity. And I was fortunate to go to Ethiopia at one time to the PAC and meeting that Pan African Chemistry network. It’s not been going long. The Royal Society of Chemistry gave a lot gave gave all its journals to them for free to help African chemists start and I remember meeting a professor from Egypt who gave me this. And she said it’s really important Lesley that you come and use are visible, particularly in Africa, but all across the world, because there are not enough senior women out there, spreading the word and speaking to them. And every time I look at this, I think of her words and think, you know, we’ve all got a duty to go out there and tell tell the word, you know, say to everybody, this is what’s possible for you go and achieve. So that’s my bust of Nefertiti.


Wonderful. Thank you, Lesley. But as President, could you not have changed the Constitution? Apparently some presidents do.


As President, I was interviewed, magazine professional journal at one time, just as I was about to start, and he said to me, how is the Royal Society of Chemistry? You know, is it is it you know, have we we cracked it? And I said, No, I haven’t cracked it that we haven’t cracked it. It’s not sorted yet. It’s not sorted. The headlines in this journal and this is a lesson to everybody. Be careful what you say the headlines in this journal were new president sacks counsel. I had a lot of phone calls to make.


Well, that’s how to start a presidency with a bang. Thank you, and Raffaella?


My turn I suppose. Hello, good evening to everybody. My name is Raffaella Ocone. I’m professor of chemical engineering, Heriot Watt. As you can spot from my beautiful Scottish accent. I’m originally from Italy. And I’ve been in Scotland long time, despite that didn’t pick up the accent. My journey started really in Italy. I’m I think I’m, I have to confess I’m a very boring person. I did my first degree in engineering, my master’s in engineering, my PhD in engineering. And then I Yes, and I worked all in engineering departments. And I came to Scotland in 1999. And they was last century, first female, first female, chemical engineering Scotland, strictly speaking, actually, probably in the UK, because the older one was the only other female professor of chemical engineering, actually, she had a degree in polymer science, which strictly speaking not It’s not chemical engineering. Anyway. So yeah, I have been working on Heriot Watt for a long time, I’m not going to bother you with Herriott Watt. Mercedes already told you have beautiful Herriott Watt is so I’m not going to do that, again. My area of expertise, I mean, I have of course, I mean, I have a general trend in my in my area of expertise, which is mainly energy. And I have to confess I started last century, I was working in oil and gas, sorry, however, I can spot in the audience, my my partner in crime, Professor Yata came here, we will walk back home because she lives close by we are neighbours. So I’m sure that we walk back and we are not going to use any produce any co2 only what we breathe anyway. It seems inevitable. Anyway, having said all that, I have worked seriously, I worked in oil and gas. And, of course, I mean, we are now into the transition into new kinds of energies. And like Lesley rightly said, Mercedes made the point about co2, you know, we need the mix, we need to make any different kinds of energies, for the for for the future. And at the moment, my main interest is production of hydrogen, to contribute to the, to the next to the generic to the transition, then then the energy transition. Another thing that I would like really to stress today, it’s one of the things that I’m really proud of, of course, I mean, being the first female professor of chemical engineering, you can imagine that, you know, I had many chores, and many things to do. And one of those was EDI when it just started. And I have to say that if I reflect now, back, the last 20 years, things have changed enormously, rightly so, but the pace is still really slow. And I think that we have to accelerate the pace and this is something which we need to do and we need to work hard on that. But another area which are also I have a great interest is ethics in engineering, and have to confess that I started with ethics and engineering simply because I wanted to show you my brother who’s a very well as accomplished philosopher, yes, people can make money with philosophy with being philosopher not philosophy, being philosopher. So my brother is a very well accomplished philosopher. I want to show him that engineers can you philosophy, philosophers cannot do in engineering. Sorry. I mean, I want to be honest here tonight, I could say something different. But I mean, please bear with me. So, and actually, this is not true, I couldn’t really do philosophy like the way he does it. But I just thought that was a very good education for me, because by learning a different discipline by learning how ethics, moral philosophy can influence, what we do in engineering helps us also to have another perspective about our work, I work in engineering. And at the end of the day, the engineers do things that are used by by everybody. And then we have to make sure that we do things that really can be used by everybody in an ethical way. And so I’m extremely proud of this area of mine and my research. And what I brought today is exactly the same thing that I brought, which I have in my picture that you can see on the wall. And this is this is not an A, our glasses are something different, it shows it’s, well, it’s this is semolina, it’s a chosen just because it’s a specific kind of size, particle size and specific kind of density for the particles. And depending on the inclination of this hopper, here, when you discharge it, you can create different kinds of flow here, as you can see, the middle is going down and the the, the wall is not going down, while the same material here goes down all together, extremely important in chemical and process industries, close to your daily sum, the they produce biscuits, by the close to your site, along the road a 70, after 20 more years, I still don’t seven to one, and that they are kept in big silos and they are discharged. And it’s extremely important, especially when you have materials which is which can be the


that it comes out all together. So first cause first first in first out if it stays up the wall and then integrates and then can produce also things which are not good for for for health, essentially. And why do I have this one? Well, when I did my PhD, I moved from Italy to the United States. And I wanted to work in polymer science. I want to work in plastics, I want to understand everything about producing things from plastic, went to Princeton, and surely enough, the professor I wanted to work with went one year on sabbatical, and then he left and I was coming in was left on my own. So I had to make a choice. And I made the choice, I went around. And they found out that there was this professor working with sun. And I said, probably I can do some experiment on a beach. Good, good, good way to go back to Italy. And then I, I decided to change completely and go and work for him. So when I look at this, I think, well, you know, sometimes things that really upset you. And that was very upset that the person I wanted to work with left can come into opportunities and for for the future. So I really enjoy now working with particles, which are, in a way much more complicated than polymers. And then, and then he has the opportunity was there. And that’s why I was being I was very lucky to to have that opportunity. So that’s been


wonderful. Thank you very much. Well, well, as you know, we sat here hearing about wonderful achievements. My colleagues have been the first to do something, you know, the the first of this the first of that minute, it’s pretty remarkable when you when you think about it, and where we are. And, you know, I read recently, it’s going to take something like 132 years before we reach gender parity in the world. And you talked about the pace, the pace of progress and everything is too slow. So let’s, let’s dig in. And let’s talk about what what what can we do so my first question What do you think? We really what do we need to do? Who do we need to pressure in order to accelerate the progress that we’ve made so far? And which of the initiatives that you know of do you think have been the most successful? I can I’m gonna go to Lesley because I don’t Leslie will no no, no, no, but you have to know you have some experience. And then.


So things are improving, thank goodness, but not quickly enough. But then I’m impatient. And I do think if we want things to change and remain changed, then we have to make sure that things are. It’s done correctly, it’s done properly, that the support is there. I mean, for example, I never wanted to be the first woman, I wanted to be the first one. I didn’t want to be the last. I mean, I think to be the, the one and only is is not good news, either. Because that sort of smacks of you’ve done the experiment. And that either it hasn’t worked or whatever. And I’m delighted to say I think they’re on to about their fourth or fifth and the new President, again, is to be a female. And in fact, there have been since I was president, there have been fewer men than women presidents. So I think that’s, that’s great. There has also been another woman head of Chemistry at Edinboro, so take that as a credit, there’s not yet been another vice principal and head of science and engineering a woman but you know, our candidate hope. So I think it’s important that we make sure it’s done properly. And that people have the support, and that people under, you know, the people that everyone feels that they’ve got their part to play. And we’re all individuals, and you can bring your strength to that. But it is important to support people while they do that. So I’ve always found it, I’ve always felt that it was, that was one thing I could do was to help people. And to, you know, if you want to break through a glass ceiling, or whatever you want to do, but to then make sure you throw the ladder down to help people to help people up, I’ve always found that was important. I’ve always felt that it was important to give back. And that’s really what I that I now get a lot of pleasure out of doing is giving back and helping people to do that. It is important that leaders understand that, that they get why they should have a diverse team. I mean, people talk about having a diverse team, I think it’s incredibly important. I mean, I’ve led loads of teams, but the more diversity was, the better the results, and the quicker the results happened. So I think it’s important to work in a diverse team. But to get a diverse team, you need people to understand why you wouldn’t pick your best friend or the person that was in your own image. Because I mean, you know, it’s good, isn’t it to get together and have a coffee with somebody that you know, really well. But is that necessarily going to be helpful. So I think it’s getting the message across, that you do need to support people. And that is what that we have to we have to do that. And whether I count leaders, but it has to be politicians, it has to be leaders in industry, it has to be leaders in education, it has to be leaders across all walks of life, people need to get the message and then promote it as well. And sometimes they only support it promoting it. So I’m all for support. That’s my message support.


Content, say something, I think that we have made too much. Well, rightly so we have stressed a lot, women gender, I think that diversity for me is much more than that. And I think that we have to support all kinds of diversities. And one of the diversities that I think is very little acknowledged at the moment is like disabled disabled people. And they cannot do everything that we do. And that is appalling. And also the engineering artefacts that we do create have to have in mind, the user and sometimes most of the things that you use are just not made for women, or non made for somebody who is disabled. I personally believe that this kind of what we can do in accelerate in the face, the pace is just support, communicate, and embed it because for me it’s embedding it’s not the law that is there and then you have to create the way to come to this room. It has to be embedded in the way we think it’s the way we think about what we are producing that has to embed diversity in that and when I was a student when I was young, I never cared so much for the environment. It was not there simply was not there. I use I like to think that now we are at this now everybody’s concerned about the environment we do things we recycle our to make sure that we do what we have to do. I want you to think that this is what we are going to do next with you automatically thinks for diverse See without having the load that in forth something for that, because we really believe in it. And I think that this is the it’s the only thing that can accelerate. So communicate, and think about the work that you do that has to be really tailored to embed diversity. And like I said, I’m diverse, because I speak with another accent. I mean, I might have some other diversity that I don’t like to speak about. But all of us are diverse, and that is what is really relevant to me. Sorry.


Please don’t be sorry. You’re absolutely right, you know, we will multi dimensional, and we don’t talk about it often enough, I think. We use the phrase intersectionality it’s the, the way we should consider people, you’re not just a woman, you’re a woman. But this or that, or, you know, a person of a different colour. We don’t talk enough about that. Debit, industry, diversity must be hugely important to you.


Absolutely. And it’s, it’s a, it’s a strange thing. It’s changing at the biotech level. So we have a gender imbalance in the Northeast, where most of the founders and CEOs of the biotech companies are female, great problem to have, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s just, you know, you sort of think, well, why it just is what it is the mentoring and the support been there. And this attitude of well, why not? You know, I can do that. And this perception of, yes, but but you’re a scientist, you know, as well as being female, but you can’t run a company, so but I can. And in the 20 years, I’ve been doing that, that has certainly changed, you know, this idea of the academic absolutely sticking with it, and not just being the the Chief Scientist, you know, that actually, no, you can step up and you can lead the whole organisation. But sort of, look at Big Pharma, there’s still only two female CEOs running global pharmaceutical companies. And that’s just not how many there’s a change because it tends to be Now, again, medics, or even MD PhDs who are at the helm, who are the leaders of global pharma companies, not accountants, and not just business people. But you know, what’s, what’s happening there? And they’ll say, no, no, my boards diverse look at my board. But are you ticking boxes there. So you know, when the the ultimately the selected still doesn’t seem to be a female? So it’s interesting that the self selection of the other biotechs, the emerging companies, its female Science Leader, stepping up and doing it, but at the top style, where that’s that structure? We’re not quite there. But I hope that I agree, you know, change is happening. It’s not fast enough. That, you know, will eventually come. But yeah, I think that the timescales to get there just yet not acceptable.


Yes, I think, you know, some of us will recall that we’ve probably been having very similar conversations for a number of years, decades, in some cases. And of course, that’s, you know, that’s why we’re here tonight to keep reminding ourselves that we have to keep pushing for progress. You know, we’re hearing about where change is happening. So what exactly is going on and up in the Northeast? That’s, that’s, you know, what can we learn? What can we what can we be more muddled up in the Northeast that we can maybe spread a bit further across Scotland?


I think he’s back to the the network and the support and the mentoring that there’s no perception of it can’t be done. You know, it just can be, you know, why can’t I take that next step one, I guess, you know, we’re live scientists, I think it tends to be fairly balanced, if not, in some cases in some biological sciences. Slightly biassed towards women, you know, in terms of the research associates, even people coming through PhDs and postdocs, but there’s still that pyramid effect. You know, the leaders aren’t there in general, but in the northeast, we do have this great microclimate. And I think it’s the biotech industry that is emerging. The perceptions probably aren’t there. If I can’t do it, and there’s just a system I’ll just step back Can I’ll support the company but you know, won’t necessarily lead it. And this is even probably for, you know, women who’ve led academic groups, you know, they are leaders already. I think it’s just that the historical issue of an industry. Yeah, but but you’re not leading here. And I think for me as well, the strange thing is that there’s always an age thing. And I’m going back to many years ago when I was in my 30s. But also, you know, you don’t have the grey hair. So you can’t be a leader. It’s not just on natural ability. And, of course, haven’t got any grey hairs. Now, this is all natural. But so that was a strange thing, as I said, Oh, you know, a young female scientists wanted to step up and be a leader of something that, you know, isn’t our a private enterprise as well. So I think, you know, she said, we’re getting it right in Aberdeen, we do seem to be bucking some trends, I really hope that sticks, we need those companies to be successful. And definitely the female CEOs. And I know they are bringing female talent through. And, you know, the academics, I think seeing female leaders anyway, but even the ones that want to spin their own businesses out seeing that, and it not even being a question of them not being able to do it, the precedence kind of there. So I hope it continues on a hope in terms of the rest of Scotland, and even the UK, that’s a model that will be rolled out.


That definitely agree with everything has been said, so far, if I can add something, I think, echoing what you were saying it’s about, it’s a campaign that we have been working on for 12 months. And it’s called, you can’t be what you can’t see. So it’s pretty much aligned to that. And this is part of the the UK centre that I’m leading, I’m a Drake for certain we have created them a YouTube channel. And we publish probably less than every month more frequent than that. We publish a video where there is actually somebody working on the energy transition with very, very different backgrounds, very different backgrounds, very different careers and how they got there. And the way we try to get that because it’s also about where do you get these messages, right? So what we have been doing is we go to schools and ask them to get the question that they would like to ask to somebody working in the energy transition, then we ask that question to the person that we are filming, and then we take that video back to the school. So they actually can’t really associate with that. That’s, that’s a question that they have asked, and he has been answer. And it opens up the opportunities and really gets them into this YouTube channel with Oh, nothing, we have 20 plus videos. And this is just an opportunity. An example of something happens, you know, I’m sure that across the room, there are many things that we’re doing and, and with my fellow panellists, but that is one other message that I think is quite important to reflect on. And we’ve been talking about solar energy and hydrogen and, you know, differences that we need to do going forward and net zero and all that. But I think if there’s something that we are going to run out, in terms of our energy transition, and in terms of getting net zero, we are not going to run out of solar energy or hydrogen, what we are running right now today is we are running out of skills. Because we don’t have a diverse skill force, an inclusive one that can actually help us in that transition. So I think we need to be thinking in terms of, we are not only doing it for all the right things, we are doing it because we are really gonna need it if we are actually gonna meet a series of goals in terms of you know, targets of health and net Seto. So I think it’s important, we keep that narrative as well. We need every single all decks on hand. Sorry, all hands on deck. I said that the other way around, right. So we need all hands on deck to actually make sure that we really achieve these goals and these grand challenges whether they are grand challenge that have to do with health, grand challenge that have to do with Energy Grand Challenge that has to do with a social dimension, all of them are. And I think that’s really important as well to think of


I just wondered want to say one other thing. And I wanted to say at the end, in case a peer to sycophantic here, but I do think things like the Royal Society of Edinburgh have an important part to play. And so that wonderful exhibition you did, I mean, I know we’re fabulous in it. You know, the amount of people that saw it in the airport, for example, and the amount of people that came and spoke to me about that and said, What’s it all about? You know, I think that has a huge part to play. But it requires something like the Royal Society of Edinburgh to do that because we individually can’t do that. But collectively, we can take part in it. So I think it’s important that we use and tonight’s another good exam. So I think you have an input. And I’m looking at Sarah here, because she’s leading now. So I think it’s an important, you know, don’t lose sight of that. Keep going. Because it’s not cracked. It’s not it’s not sorted, it’s not solved. So I would just implore you to keep going. Because if if you don’t, then I think it’s poor.


Thank you, Lesley. Good point well made, for sure. I think the thing for me, though, is a lot of sometimes a lot of what we we talk about and hear about is this idea that the deficits in women and they should fix this, and they should fix that, which you can tell probably, from my tone, don’t agree with. We, we shouldn’t be expected to fix this by ourselves. Right? This is not a problem we made? Why should we fix it? So what can we do? What do we need to do to? And I’m going to put this in some polite terms, encourage what we call active ally ship? How do we do that?


I think there is something good for everybody. And I think that if far we are I think if there is a law, which is good for a woman, it’s good also for the man. And I think that if you do something for these disabled people, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man. So I think that they are basic principles that are that don’t are not based on gender, and then the way to get allies. I remember when I arrived to Heriot Watt, of course, the principal calls me and say, Oh, we have to do something about about diversity and inclusion. And Athena was just that in us. One was just becoming this this scheme for women in in, in, in academia was just coming out, and that we ran a questionnaire. And we made a big mistake, we run the questionnaire for women send it all to women. Big mistake, when I read what was coming out from the questionnaire, I realised, but if a woman is asking me, you have a better staff row, I’m just making your bed facilities. This is going to be good also for the man. So I think that the message here should not be like we are doing this because it’s good for the women. It’s good for everybody. Mercedes spoke about scales. I mean, if you enlarge the pool, and you have more people participating into the pool, of course, I mean, you have more possibility of being successful. I think that, you know, by excluding automatically and making discriminations and excluding some part of the population, we actually are doing bad to ourself, because in a way, and this is the message that we have to give to everybody. So why should we limit the pool when we can include everybody? And automatically I know that many, many I can see some of my colleagues or male colleagues or allies. I mean, they want to be on board they are they feel about being positive and supportive. And I think that we have to be very open. And that’s the only way we can do I think it’s automatic. Actually, they will come on board. They are already on board.


Yeah, but we’ve got lots of allies. Yes. And you’re all allies, yours. Oh


will not ask for a show of hands. Okay, I’m going to ask you to maybe find out a little bit more about you as just regular people, because whilst we’ve heard about some of your amazing achievements, I think the other thing we need to remember is that we are just regular people. Right? So let’s let’s hear from you something about something in your life that you’re you’re really proud of. Whether whether it’s something scientific something just in your, your regular life, or, you know, in your career. Let’s let’s have some insight. I’m looking at you Deborah, just happened to be in my life.


Thank you. Can I do want to reach quickly Of course, you can say okay, so I think I always say I do have the best job in the world and probably have people arguing on that one, but yeah, I mean, it’s amazing. Isn’t that translation of, of science into potentially impacting patients who need it. So having, you know, proudest moment is when you get into fairly advanced clinical trials with something that you’ve invented or developed. And even if it’s in a clinical trial, you see even one patient benefit from it lasts. That’s pretty amazing. And it makes all the bad days really worth it. So incredibly proud and on behalf of the team, but never biotics as well, of what we’ve done in that regard. Oh, personal life. I think there’s a few people in the audience that know me very well, I think probably, I love history, as I’ve said, and I do live in very old houses. And every time I move, I say, I’ll never do another one. But I think it’s also a bit of a legacy in kind of restoring the properties that I’ve had. And just thinking, well, that’s another nice stamp as you move forward. So I love that I’m proud of what I’ve done. And also probably looking after my horses, that’s my therapy. So having all the quines seemingly living forever, in great shape as well. So bit of a weird insight into my non scientific life.


So if I need some DIY, perfect.


Yeah, so I think in terms of professionally, I think is just looking at nurturing talent and how good your students do. And I think it’s something that makes me very proud is when I write an email, to one of my former students now graduate, and asking them to provide the letter of support for my proposal, right, that kind of that really makes, you know, these a student really made it right. And they they write really good letters as well. Right. So So I think is that moment where you realise the impact of what you’re doing, it just translates well beyond your really direct environment. So I think that’s really very proud. Yes, but they do write great letters as well. So for proposals, so I definitely recommend that. I think on a personal side, I think is when, when it has nothing to do with my job. And I’m just the mother of right. And I think that’s really just because women journey in academia, you know, is really important in terms of getting your papers and, and your projects and everything. And then suddenly, all of that disappears, and you’re just a mother off. And I have three of those mother of by the way. And so it’s really that unique moment where you completely can dissociate, what is your profession, and really do the things because you want to have the next generation of children and young people to do well and half a half a planet than that. And I say this when I was asked what is your motto on Sol. And probably other people have said this as well is I want to leave a planet that leads the way I found it. And I say that because I’m a mother. And I want to leave that for my children. And then by extend, what happens is that my job allows me to do that. So it’s just a wonderful, you know, and I get paid for that as well. Right? So. So it’s really the same as you’re saying, right? It’s really that that opportunity that we have had to make a contribution and doing it in a way that you are actually fulfilling yourself professionally and personally.


Wonderful. Thank you.


Right? Oh, let’s let me start personally. I think that one of the things, which I’m most proud of is that I learned to play piano in old age very badly. But nevertheless, I learned and it was always something that I wanted to do in my life because I love music. I love classical music, and I couldn’t play so I decided in our late age to start to to learn, play very badly, but it doesn’t matter. It makes me feeling proud that at least I can do it. And professionally Well, I think that of course, all the academics have a little bit of what Mercedes was saying, you know, to see, to nurture the talent and to teach is one of the biggest achievement. I mean, not in chemical engineering, when you’re showing in front of a class for the first time and they don’t know anything about chemical engineering. You give them the fundament and I think you feel proud when they finally understand it. But I think probably one of the things that I’m very proud of is a little piece of it’s a methodology to look at some chemical reactions actually in which makes a process much more efficient. And then it has been adopted by companies and that does bring us brought to some real results in terms of impact. because it was adopted by the company, and the company could see the the the results in terms of making it more effective. consuming less energy. So So I think that that’s the thing that professionally I’m more proud of. So like I said, very basic stuff, but that probably make myself proud.


Human making you, you know, thank you. And so, coming last you sit there and think, yeah, yes, I can tick all those boxes, I’m happy. But with everything, and I agree with what everybody said, I’m going to be much more selfish, though, and much more into me, and just say the thing I’m most proud of is when I got a CBE, because I got it for my EDI work. And for what I’ve done, and you know, I put a lot of effort into that. And so to have people put me forward for that just made me feel so proud and so happy that people had understood what I was about. So that’s for me, professionally. I mean, we can all I can come up with all the experiments and things. But what makes me happiest was that, and personally, I’m with you, Mercedes is my children. I have two children. And now my grandmother, I’m not old, I’m allowed to be a grandmother now. And when I started, I said, you know, when I was doing things, I wanted to make it better for my daughter, I didn’t want my daughter to have to work through what I’d worked through. Now, I have to say, I want my granddaughter not to have to do because, you know, it’s it is going slowly. So I’ve had to move skip generations. And let’s hope I don’t have to, let’s hope I’m still here. But you know, let’s hope I’m not having to say my great granddaughter, but but my grandchildren now I’ve got twins, and they’re hilarious. They’re five. And I met them from school, which is why I was late today to come here. But you’ve got to get your priorities, you know, I have managed to do both, but my children and my grandchildren.


Thank you. Okay, I’m gonna turn over to the audience shortly. But before we do, I just want to ask each of you one more thing. Okay, so I know, what was it gonna be? What’s an only one place? For me TV, what one piece of advice you want, you would want to give a young person who’s starting out in science, no, just one.


Believe in yourself.


Okay. Do all the things that you like, because otherwise you have to you will be miserable all your life, I was, I am lucky, because I have a job that I enjoy. If you have a job that you don’t enjoy, you don’t, you will be miserable. So do science, but only if you really like it and try to like it, but do what you like in science.


Very good advice. Mercedes,


it was actually very similar to have said, this may be slightly different angle for me. So I’d be true to yourself in whatever you do whatever you decide to do, because if you’re gonna, if you’re gonna excel in whatever you do, but you do it in a way that is not true to who you really are, you’re just not gonna be happy. So think whatever career, whatever path, whatever it is that makes you happy, be true to yourself. And I think then everything else will just fall into place. Although sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna do because everything else has been done for a very long time in a very different way. And we are thinking about doing this data, not maybe the way they have been done, but it does pay off. It doesn’t seem like that every day, sometimes, but it’s just truth to yourself. would then in reflection, you realise I don’t have regrets? Because I did it in a way that it was true to the way I believe and the way I think.


See is tough now, isn’t it? I mean, how do you follow that? Oh, I think I’ll do sort of a two for one. Ad degree, absolutely. With all of that, and you do have to enjoy and it’s about enjoying the journey necessarily. Because I think in science, you may never reach the destination. You think you’re going to try to get to the main name, never even be a destination. Absolutely trust that gut instinct, the voice in yourself in a good way, not in a need help way. And even if the naysayers say you can’t Do it you know, yes. Listen. Test may be what you want to do off people. But absolutely as Mercedes said, It’s believing in yourself staying true to yourself as well. And enjoying that journey, because science can be a long haul, even the kind of academic path to getting where you need to, to be. And enjoy the journey. Definitely whatever destination you get to.


Fantastic, thank you, I think, write that down. Although you’re probably not likely to forget it. Right. At this point, I would like to invite you the audience to ask our panellists some questions. So excellent. Handled straightaway. So Hannah’s got a microphone there. So if you if you if you want to say your, your, who you are, and ask away,


yeah, sure. My name is Rachel Arthur, I run an organisation called Boom saloon, which is not in the fields of either science or academia. But that kind of shapes my question which I will try and word somewhat succinctly, I was just wondering, as an outsider, how you all feel that the likes of the fields of science and academia are doing in terms of how they bridge the gap with the wider world, because there’s someone who sits and exists and works outside of that sphere, we spent quite a lot of time knocking on doors and having conversations, and I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I find it somewhat frustrating that feels like there’s so much knowledge and insight that sits in these silos that can feel quite inaccessible. So I just wondered if you had any comments on that? Or ideally, any tips on how we might bridge those gaps? If you think that is a fair way of looking at things?


Aren’t I glad I’m not on the panel? Okay, who wants to kick us off?


Well, happy to start off, I think, I mean, it’s just the Royal Society, it’s events like this, I think it’s absolutely upon us. And I’m speaking as someone who I guess, a career spanned academia, and kind of science in the private sector, you know, there’s a duty to communicate that and to make the information that, you know, we’re generating, accessible, obviously, where it is relevant to the public, and it’s interesting, and it can be helpful. So completely agree. And as academic scientists, you know, we obviously publish, we share things amongst our peers, but completely agree, you know, we have to do that to the general public lay audiences. And I think it’s, it’s a critical part of what we do, and to not do that, as you say, in kind of silos and generating stuff that could be of interest in the value and not making that accessible or communicating it. So I suppose it’s just the mechanisms other than organisations like, you know, the RSC, how that can be done better, and not just Googling things, obviously.


Well, I think that there is an issue about the fact that in academia, unfortunately, since the reward these publishing in learned journals are peer reviewed, we tend to publish in journals that are not accessible to everybody. And I don’t want to criticise my employers or our employers in generals, but I believe that you know, there is something fundamentally wrong in in academia that the reward comes about the hamachi have published and how much money have brought and and that is the researcher, exercise framework, so called ref, where, of course, I mean, you have to publish so many papers, you have to bring so much money, the more you bring, the more you are good, I think that this is really we are not doing the service that we should do to the to that money actually, because that is taxpayers money. And I think that word importantly, we should encourage more communication of what we do in a in a in a language which can be accessible to everybody. And that is something which we don’t do, or at least we do very little. And when we do it, we do on our free time. I write out things that probably some of my colleagues believes that is just rubbish. Because it’s a little bit philosophical. But But I knew it in the evenings, I do it at the weekend, because because during the day, I have to do other things, otherwise, my boss is not going to be happy. So I believe that it’s the system that should change, we can communicate the RSC is doing great about this. But I think that we have to realise that other things needs to be rewarded. And we have to make what we do more accessible. Having said that, we have to publish also in, in in journals that are peer reviewed, because otherwise science doesn’t advance. But I think that the results and aspect of being more communicating what we do in a very simple way, I mean, I made you the example about the silos which are close to your Canvas, I mean, you can relate to everyday life, you don’t need to be very specific, I don’t need to explain to you what is really that’s going on to make you understanding that that’s an important issue there.


So I think you raise an interesting and valid point. And it’s one that’s been kicked around for a long time. Now. I have watched with interest though, within academia, how we’ve had to break out of silos, and we work in teams now. And it’s no longer sufficient to work in sight, you have to bring your social scientists on board, you have to make sure that that you are getting the message across and that people understand what it is you’re trying to do and what they can contribute to doing that. So I think we are trying to do that. And to be able to do that we have to look much broader than the discipline in which we work. And I think that is what’s happening. But there are also places that there’s enterprises such as interphase, that are out there that are there to help businesses connect to academia. So there are, there are institutions, there are bodies out there that that will help to connect the two together. But it’s always about knowing who to speak to. And it’s it is about knowing the person and knowing the bodies that you can go and speak to speak to about things. And I know that we’ve got Google, which is our old friend that we can just dial into and get that. But nothing beats the personal introduction, does it? And so it’s meeting people, I think it’s you helping us to help you. You know, I think that’s important as well, don’t just say, I don’t know, I mean, I think we have an honest, but I think everybody else has an honest as well, to make sure that we can connect as much as possible, because there’s a lot of clever people out there. And there’s a lot of people with a lot of ideas and a lot of kit, and a lot of stuff to be able to help you with. And we’re looking for that, that we’re looking for people to help as well, you know. So I think it’s a two way street. And keep it open and keep it keep the dialogue going.


Yes, I think a couple of fair points for me, and I think, generally across the sector is becoming more and more awareness around our civic role, and our civic role around the communities where we are and how we engage with them. So I think that’s coming more is not completely cracked the problem, let’s say, and hopefully I don’t get into any headlines by using those sorts of words, Leslie, but I think it’s our civic role. I think that something has to be much more at the forefront of the activities that we do. And then I think building also with what Leslie was saying, I think what we need this space is for that dialogue, I think we need to embed that dialogue. And if I think about the research that we do now in some of the projects within my team, this is not about developing a technology, this is about having a social licence to operate the technology, and that social licence to operate that technology, you have to embed it into your research in day one. Otherwise, you’re gonna have a useful, useless product. So I think it has to be a lot more of the dialogue. And I think as you said, Leslie, we have to come more together is how do we create those spaces, that universities actually saw their purpose as civic, their civic role, but also we need to have that community coming forward and help us in terms of that civic role. So I think it’s a bit both sides that where we need to live.


Thank you can tell her the vessel very willing people who appear on the stage that maybe you want to have a chat to in a bit more detail? Okay. Oh, okay. The hands are shooting up now. So I think the first one I spotted was was right at the back.


Hi, my name is Camila. And I wonder what would you say are the factors or the ingredients that enables you to get To the place you are right now in your career, you are already successful. But I wonder if were like external factors or positions that you made. Thank you.


Who wants to go, Leslie?


Ingredients get there sounds like a cookery book. And so part of me wants to say bloody mindedness. But, you know, I’m not I’m afraid that has to play. I think it’s looking for the opportunities. So, you know, go and look for opportunities, go and see what’s out there. Don’t be afraid to say yes. We’re always said all you’ve got to learn how to say no, but I think it’s equally important to say yes, and to absolutely embrace what it is you the opportunity, that’s, you know, that’s there, go and take it, go and see. I mean, you know, I’ve changed direction many times. And I would always say to, to anybody, just make sure you don’t slam the door behind you. Because then if your opportunity doesn’t work out, and actually you can usually make it work out. But if it doesn’t, there’s always somewhere else you can go. So that would be my observation, from my own. My own experiences is what I’ve tried to live by. And yeah, I think it’s been quite a success, successful way to be so but that will be my combination.


I think we can agree, it’s definitely been a success.


I think maybe from from my side, a SAM, when I was in a school or high school, or even in university, I never plan that I would be a professor one day. I think it was more in terms of what I wanted to do. But I didn’t have clear what my career path was going to be. And I think is, we tend to have too much of this career path seem to be one direction. And going back to what you were saying before. It’s not really a One Direction. And it’s not the latter. There are so many different ways and so many diversions in the journey that you take the eventually you get to your destination. But to get to your destination, I’ve taken quite different path from Leslie, I’ve been working on both sides of the pond in a couple of very different institutions as well, a large and medium and, and I think is for me what it has been it’s about probably similar to what you were saying though, Leslie, it’s about when those opportunities were presented. And I took them most of the time. So if I felt I want to buy is just went for them. And I think it’s a word that keeps many times saying Oh, somebody was lucky right sometimes, so somebody so and so was lucky. Well, for me luck is when opportunity meets preparation, then is when lack strikes. And I think is when that opportunity comes, if you are prepared to take it, then is when luck comes on board. But I think it just make judgments whatever happens in your life and, and going back to what we’re saying our personal life, I’ve been taken decisions, very different decisions through my career. Because some cases I didn’t want to travel because I have children. In other cases, now I can travel or maybe I don’t want to do certain things. So it’s really about those decisions that are right for the moment you are in your life, and that will change. But as that’s fine, you just have to be happy with that.


Absolutely, I think you don’t over plan, because you never know what the plan really is. And if you try and stick to a plan that you might create now, you’re not going to be able to say yes to those opportunities and then benefit from them. So I think for me, you know, I mentioned that I did a biochemistry degree I did the broadest degree, I could think of I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. And even stepping back a little bit. I knew I wanted to do something in biomedical research. And I found my way at each step and things kind of funnelled down to the point that, you know, I knew I loved immunology and I finally found the field that I wanted to work in, never expected to work in the US. But again, the opportunity to do my first postdoc came up I think my PhD supervisor certainly lost the bet that he’d never see me again, because the shopping in California would be too good. did come back. But to Belgium, you know, never expected to do that. But an opportunity came up and I learned molecular biology, you know, and I thought well, that’s fantastic. That was never on my radar. It was never in the plan. But I said yes because that was a great thing to do. And that led me to an academic post at the route Because I knew one of the governors of the institute because that was still in my field of research happened to be at a conference were soon to be colleagues at the route in Aberdeen, where everything falls into place, if you sort of keep that open mind, have that sense of direction of travel. But yeah, don’t over plan, seize those opportunities. And in a few decades, you look back and think, wow, you know, I didn’t plan to get here, but it feels as if I always should have got to where I am now. And because be tenacious,


I want to be a little bit more of an engineer here, boring, I want to give you the right recipe. Challenging, okay, start with something that you like, and that invest in that thing, become an expert in that area. Because I think that what we are seeing today is that people go live to be there, and they’re in there. And they are not really expert in an area when you are becoming an expert in an area just enlarge or your horizon. As you I didn’t want to say that. But of course, one of the most proud thing I didn’t want to look selfish was when I became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, my peers thought, She’s a good engineer, but they know me for particle technology. It’s what have done at the beginning of my career, now I can work I can work in different areas, and take the opportunities, like that’s been said, when they arise and say yes, like Leslie said, but also there is, I used to call it luck and being at the right place, at the right time. But it’s also saying yes, which makes you being at the right time in the right place. But my my advice is that, trust yourself, and think that have confidence in yourself. And if you like what to do, you will, you will succeed or have a have, I don’t like to call it mentor, but have somebody who can give you a an advice and see things from a different perspective, speak to somebody, you can be a critical friend, that critical friend doesn’t need to tell you all you say, Oh, you’re doing great, but just needs to be critical tell you when telling you when you have not done things. And another thing don’t have a role model. There are many role models love there, I have one role model for one thing and other role model for another thing, don’t look just one person. I never thought like Mercedes to become an academic. I wanted to work in a real industry, chemical industry. And then I went to do my first my lab, finally a research project. And I want to become like my professor. It was male. And but I want just to become like him I want to teach like he was doing. I didn’t want to become like him. Like he was drinking. He was smoking. It was it was loud. I didn’t want to I didn’t it was not my role model for that things. But he was my role model for the way he was teaching. And the way he was in making people wanting to do that stuff, the way he treated students, I had that role model, I have another role model for somebody for another thing. So don’t crystallise yourself on one role model.


So I think I think we’re hearing, networking, mentoring, saying yes. And you bake, being yourself, the kind of ingredient ingredients of all the things you need in your protocol, if we’re thinking scientifically. So thank you. Okay, next question. Okay, so I’ve got 1123. So let’s start at the front just to make take the purple t shirt, people walk a bit, and then we’ll go to the middle and then we’ll come to this side. Okay.


Thank you. It’s as remodels from Glasgow University. What a lovely session and proud of our prestigious awards and really, really setting the example in tone. I just wanted to ask about your experiences in terms of any hurdles or obstructions which you have encountered to reach to this final stage and especially the two ladies from can I say not the indigenous population Have you had any, you know, controversial or discriminatory attitudes towards yourself or whichever not maybe allowed you to achieve what you wanted in your careers? Thank you.


For me, the first barrier were my parents, because they didn’t want to make me do chemical engineering. They want me to study mathematics. So I had to convince them or but I had to have a fight and do what I wanted to do. And, of course, I mean, okay, let me be absolutely honest. If you were asking me this question about 10 years ago, I will say, No, I have not encountered any discrimination. But then, when I now reflect on my past, everything that I see, and that reinterpret some of the things that I’ve I have, that I had, actually, they were discrimination. But I didn’t want to think that there were discrimination because I didn’t want to be told that they were doing something so bad to me. At the end of the day, I’m here in the UK, because I was discriminated. Because, essentially, in the place where I work was before I was clearly told that there was a man that had to get the promotion before me, despite the had less publications than me. So it is an at the end. At the time, I thought it’s only because that Professor likes that person better than me, they are friends. And they didn’t think that there was a discrimination. It was a discrimination, of course, but but I think that when not you are younger, you don’t want to see that, like discrimination. I didn’t want to see that. And that was wrong. So I think that it’s very good that now people speak up. And yes, there have been many discrimination. But I think the best thing to do is just you now you can speak up and say that there is a discrimination, my times you couldn’t, but just find another way to achieve what you want to do. Unfortunately, in my case, I had to leave the country. But like I said, that was at the right time at the right time, at the right place in the right place. So it gave me I had many more opportunities. So every time that there is something like, you know, I wanted to work in a field and they didn’t take the opportunities there. So I turned it around the barrier in terms of opportunities.


So I suppose another Ellie one, not not parents, but sorry, Leslie chemistry teacher. I know, I know, a male chemistry teacher, who actually said, you’re not up to doing three sciences. And you know, point made before, they may not have actually been my strongest subjects academically, but I was prepared to put the work in and I knew at some stage, I wanted a career in science. So yeah, I kind of rebelled and went to the head of year and turn that around, but yeah, to be. And that was him, overhearing me having a discussion with my peers, not even me seeking career advice, explicitly from him. So that was quite interesting. So I moved on from there. And then I guess, the barriers since you’re back to the point I made before strangely, for me moving into business, not gender, but age and the fact that I’m a scientist, how could I want to kind of continue to lead the company, you know, surely I’ll step back to somebody who has the business experience and let them do it. So that was a real surprise. And that certainly changed over the last 20 years. But I’d say those, those were my two barriers, one was a fairly defined one and the other has just been a, an environment that certainly has improved. But yeah.


There’s no greater motivation than being told you can’t, is there. In the interest of times, we’ve only got a few moments left, I’m going to move on to the question in the middle. So if we could have the blue jacket


so I work in academia and in computer science, and I suppose it’s a bit what you were touching on about not realising discrimination or not realising things like this. One of my huge problems is imposter syndrome, and lack of confidence and I think that’s something that I never wanted to recognise it but I think it is something that’s more prevalent in the female population, especially when it’s old boys networks and things. I was wondering if you had any advice on firstly, I guess how to recognise that perhaps you are You have impostor syndrome, because for me, I didn’t put myself into jobs for tech and things because I thought, Oh, I didn’t have every single one of the criteria. And I found out my male colleagues were just like, well, who cares? I can learn that on the job. And I guess like, for me to learn that attitude was was quite difficult. So have you had any advice for that? And yeah, just how to recognise that perhaps maybe you do have a bit of impostor syndrome.


So I think the counterpart to the imposter syndrome is fake it till you make it. Right. So it’s this week. So those two you take? And I think is said that the way I view and the way has helped me is that because you are different, because it’s of gender or background, or whatever else defines you as being different, you’re actually bring into them something that they do not have? And is how do you get that message that sometimes it’s really what is the the complex or the complexity here is really, because whatever different characteristics you are, you are bringing a value that currently they don’t have that currency, nothing, that’s for me whether it has helped me rather than thinking, you know, the two opposite extremes of ice will not be here, I am an impostor to what we see in many other colleagues sometimes that they fake it till they make it right. I think it’s finding that common ground, where you are, again, true to yourself, as I said before, and you are bringing that you’re bringing them a currency that they don’t have. And if they don’t get it, they will get it eventually, they may not get it the first time around, but they probably realise that they will at the last when they let you go. And I think that’s important. We just help each other and get that message in.


Well, I suffer from imposter syndrome, I think probably most of us here do. And that in itself, should, you must take that way with you, you must realise that most people do suffer it at one point or another, if not all the time. And so stop thinking that you’re unique. You’re the only person that has this, you’re not okay. I, I, when I was much younger, that I can still remember. But when I was younger, and I was asked to sit on a quite a prestigious committee that was looking at doesn’t matter what we’re looking at, but anyway, it was there was me was one of the women and the rest were all men much older than me and grey haired. And boy, did I feel an imposter sitting in that meeting. And I realised, though that either I could let it get to me, and I wouldn’t contribute. And that somebody, you know, I would have been put on this committee. So what I forced myself to do was in the first five minutes of these were regular meetings of these meetings was I forced myself to ask a question or make a comment. And having done that, I found a weak just came right off me. I enjoyed being at that meeting, then because I’ve made my, you know, admin contributed. And so I knew how to do it. And from then on, I tried to always do that is to contribute as quickly and as soon as you can, and stop that imposter syndrome getting to you, so that it shuts you up so that you don’t see anything, and then you just come out at the end of the meeting feeling even worse than when you went in. So that would be my tip that I learned from about myself fairly quickly. And it worked for me. I think it’s finding what works for you. But please realise that we all feel it.


You’re absolutely right. You should have seen me when I got the email inviting me to chair this. Still, thank you. I think we’ve literally got time for your question. And


hi, I’m Rona, and I’m at Broughton High School, just in salt bridge. And I’m an S five and I’m doing chemistry and biology at the moment is quite difficult. I think the thing I want to ask or kind of ask for advice for is I find it really difficult like picturing like the different like atoms and DNA and stuff. Just because I can’t like see it. I can’t picture it. It’s not like geography where there’s hills and stuff. But I find it’s so injured. Interesting, but I just don’t understand how it’s real. Kind of so I guess yeah, what could help me with that? It’s


like looking back at myself. Yeah, geography is just so good. flipping easier on they


I think that the theory is hard. Definitely. And if chemistry or biology, any kind of science subjects or something you want to pursue, you’ll start to do more and more practical things. So more and more experiments, which you don’t really do a lot of Ns five, or six even. So it’s when you get to university, if you want to do university or even college, and once you start doing the practical experiments, and this is where the lightbulb went on for me, it makes sense. And even though you can’t see them, you seeing how they’re interacting. And you seeing a consequence of those atoms interacting, or what’s happening to that DNA. And it will just click. So it’s difficult because when you’re not doing the practical side of it, I completely hear you, it’s quite tough. So don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Because as you say, these are things that you know, you can’t see, we know that they’re there. And you’re not really going to get to see them interacting as yet, but it will click once you start doing the practical side of things, it certainly for me anyway, it started to make sense. And I loved it from then on. I think that’s why I struggled when I said Yeah, history geography much easier. But as soon as I got into the lab and started doing things practically and actually do the experiments, loved it, and it made much more sense.


Well, not say anything about DNA. So I don’t think I can really help about that. But I think that you know, even in engineering, sometimes there are things that you don’t see. And I think that they, it’s just start trying to, if you like it, try to understand what is the part that you like it and how it fits into the story. And then at one point, you will, it will click in. But I think it’s just, it’s just matter of understanding how things interact with each other. And the most important thing, I think that if you want to look at DNA, per se, probably it’s not going to, to make life easier, but probably look at what DNA is in relation to other things. And that probably you start to understand what is the purpose of that. But like I said, I don’t know anything about that.


I would just say to you talk to people discuss it, you know, verbally, you’ve spoken if you’ve enunciated if posed your question beautifully. So just pose those questions to yourself, but to your teachers, to your friends, just ask them, ask them how they visualise it, because they may have come up with, you know, talk to various people. There’s no one way of visualising anything, you know, it’s up to you how you how you do it. And it’s you’ve got to find that way. And the only way you can do that you can read your books, of course you can you can watch films, you can watch videos, you can do that. But the best way is to speak to people, just your your great, go and speak to people about it, you know, and you’ll find out the answer. That’s how you’re gonna get the answer, in my opinion.


I think that’s a pretty wonderful piece of advice, actually. So please do and, again. Listen, folks, I’m afraid we have come to the end of our time together, although it certainly doesn’t feel like it at all. So I want to thank you very much for coming. And I obviously want to thank my fellow panellists.


Please remember, there are still more curious events that you can take part in. So safe journey home. Thank you so much for coming tonight. And we look forward to seeing you again. Well done. Thank you.