Girls into STEM – New York Style (Year 2)


Note: Year 3 of the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures Programme is just about to be launched. Watch our Sciences Glow Yammer feed and Twitter feed @EdScotSciences to avoid missing out!

Blog by Stephanie Leitch

I was inspired to apply for the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures’ New York Academy of Sciences programme by an article I read on the Education Scotland website. Having completed a very enjoyable research programme, through Nuffield last summer, I was keen to continue to build on my STEM academic studies through such a prestigious programme as 1000 girls. While never expecting to be accepted, I submitted my application with my fingers crossed. I was delighted when I received my acceptance email from the organisers at the New York Academy of Science a few weeks later. Shortly after, I was allocated an online mentor to guide me through the four modules of work.

As I plan to study medicine after the summer, it was very appropriate that my mentor Rachel Nelson has direct experience of that field. Rachel is currently working and in up State New York on her Biomedical sciences PhD and plans to attend medical school in Tennessee when she completes her studies. Our shared love of medicine and country music made it easy for us to get along and Rachel was able to give me valuable advice and support in completing the modules of the programme.

Girls who complete the 1000 girls, 1000 Futures programme are invited to attend a three day Global Summit, hosted by the New York Academy of Science (NYAS). This conference is held in New York World Trade Centre 7 and unites students from various programmes facilitated by NYAS. Fortunately, I was able to combine a family holiday with attending the conference, to give me this fantastic opportunity. The biggest challenge actually proved to be overcoming the heat! While taking the subway downtown in the morning from 63rd Street to lower Manhattan sounds extremely glamorous, doing it in temperatures of over 100 degrees is anything but! However, spending three days listening to world class speakers, in the company of students from around the world in the prestigious setting of the World Trade Centre was an amazing climax to a wonderful trip.

The summit is a mixture of practical exercises and inspiring speeches from members of the NYAS. On the first day we listened to a keynote speech from Dr. Heidi Kleinbach-Sauter Senior Vice President at PepsiCo’s Global R&D. We also attended a workshop, teaching us how to tell our STEM stories and present ourselves as credible leaders by presenting to small groups.

On the second day I was given the opportunity to attend a field trip, related to a STEM subject. I chose the Air and Nautical museum, down on the lower east side of Manhattan. This proved to be a fascinating experience where we were shown round this world class facility. The highlight of the whole event came when I was asked to participate as a panel member answering questions from around 100 younger people on my chosen route into science. While this was initially nerve wracking it turned into a fun and enjoyable experience which has greatly boosted my confidence in presenting to large groups, though I’m not entirely sure they understood my Scottish accent!

The whole conference culminated in an awards ceremony in which students from the Junior Academy of Science, Next Scholar and 1000 girls were recognized for their contribution to the online platforms and science related challenges throughout the year.

While 1000 girls is open to students from around the world I was delighted to find that there were three other Scottish girls (Alice Ridely, Zoe Porter, Hannah Strang) in attendance, though surprisingly no one from England! We became good friends during the three days, taking the opportunity to socialize at the informal get-togethers, at the end of each day.

Successful completion of the 1000 girls, 1000 futures programme makes me eligible to apply for junior membership of the New York Academy of Science which I intend to do over the next few weeks. I owe a massive debt of thanks to the organisers of the 1000 girls programme who made all of this possible and hope to be able to repay them by becoming a mentor in my own right.

As for my future, it’s a case of swapping the NYC subway for the Airdrie to Queen Street ‘express’ in September, to study medicine at Glasgow University, though guaranteed it won’t quite hit the 100 degrees!

Stephanie Leitch

North Lanarkshire

For further resources, research and guidance on improving gender balance in STEM visit Education Scotland’s dedicated page on the National Improvement Hub.

Author: I. Menzies

Senior Education Officer for Sciences, Education Scotland

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