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How Do We Get More Girls Into Science Careers?

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On International Women's Day 2013 I was delighted to be part of the Science Museum's High Performance Festival, a three-day celebration of scientists and engineers who are pushing the boundaries in their individual areas.

During my education and career as a scientist I have been lucky enough to be inspired and mentored by a number of fantastic female role models, and strongly believe this is a key enabler in encouraging the next generation of female scientists and engineers.

This is particularly important at a time where a lack of skilled workers to drive the science and engineering industries forward could risk the loss of innovation and participation in this area by UK companies.

As part of the festival I gave a series of talks about my experience and career. My primary goal was to act as a "myth-buster", highlighting the diversity of science and engineering careers available, and challenging any views that careers in this area are boring, difficult or masculine.

Following my undergraduate degree and PhD in Chemistry, I joined Shell as a fuels and lubricants scientist. During my career I have been lucky enough to hold what I consider to be "the coolest job in Shell", specifically, Shell's Technology Manager for Ferrari, responsible for managing the technical partnership with the Formula One team, Scuderia Ferrari.

Formula One represents the pinnacle of cutting-edge automotive engineering, and I was responsible for developing the next generation of fuels and lubricants products designed to deliver maximum performance and protection in this environment.

For me, one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of a career in science and technology is the opportunity to see products and applications that you have developed, being used in the real-world. I will never forget being present at the Silverstone Formula One GP in 2011, watching Fernando Alonso win for Ferrari, knowing the key role my team played in making that possible.

Another important myth to bust is that a career in science and engineering means being tied to a lab wearing a white coat. I have been lucky enough to travel around the world multiple times with Shell's Formula One trackside laboratory, providing technical support at the race-track through our fuels and lubricants analysis.

In January of this year, I moved to a new role within Shell, as a Technology Manager in our Passenger Car Motor Oil area, which gives me the opportunity to apply the learnings Shell takes through our work with Ferrari in Formula One into our commercial products. The automotive industry is currently going through an exciting and challenging time, with increasing focus on new technologies and fuel efficiency.

One of the things that I love about my job is being able to work in this globally important area, contributing, even if in just a very small way, to driving this area forward.

I am grateful to the Science Museum for giving me the opportunity to talk about my positive experiences of a science career on International Women's Day, and I certainly came away from the High Performance festival feeling energized and excited about the future. My advice to young people, especially women, considering a career in science and engineering is: go for it, there are many exciting opportunities available!

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