Working in STEM, whether it be in academia or industry, is an exciting but challenging career choice. A report from the University and College Union found in 2016-17 academic year there were only 25 Black female professors in the UK compared to 14,000 White men. Disabled academic staff members reported feeling “intense isolation” within the university environments, whilst 89% of LGBTQ+ students felt there was a need for peer support in university.

These descriptors – gender, ethnicity, sexuality – may be used to build parts of our personal identities, but they should not be the basis for inequity, discrimination, or poor mental health. With 86% of PhD students in the UK reporting feeling some level of anxiety (2019), changes need to be made to create a community and environment in STEM that is as diverse as our areas of research.

At SULSA, we want everyone in Life Sciences to feel seen and represented, and to build a more diverse community than we currently have. With this in mind, we present Breaking Barriers in STEM: Through the Looking Glass, an action-orientated event to explore where the issues lie and identify actions to take forward to tackle these.

The event is in two parts, for the first we have four exceptional early career panellists, who will give an account of their career path to date, and some of the experiences and challenges they have had working in STEM. This aims to bring an awareness of challenges faced by specific groups within our community. After a short lunch break, we will work in breakout groups to discuss 4 key topics and possible solutions. We aim to come away from the event with a set of valuable actions that SULSA and partners can take forward.

Program for the day

12.00 - 12.05 Overview of the day

12.05 - 12.10 Introduction by Richard Lochhead, MSP

12.10 - 12.20 Lara Lameni

12.20 - 12.30 Diana Githwe

12.30 - 12.40 Apple Chew Yen Peng

12.40 - 12.50 Speaker tbc

12.50 - 13.30 Questions to the panel

13.30 - 14.00 Lunch and Networking break

14.00 - 14.45 Breakout sessions start

14.45 - 15.30 Feedback from breakouts and final remarks

About the panellists

Lara Lameni: 2nd year PhD student at the University of Bristol, Arctic survey STEM ambassador and featured on Bristol’s BME Powerlist in 2018 for her work organising diversity in STEM events.

Diana Githwe: 1st year PhD student at Newcastle University and author of Abundance of Melanin blog.

Apple Chew Yen Peng: 2nd year PhD student at University of Edinburgh and editor-in-chief of Edinburgh University Science Magazine.


For more information and to register your place, please visit here.