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Emma markham

Innovation & skills manager, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council 

 

And - STEM ambassador

You are far more impressive than you might think.

What do you do?

My role involves assessing current biological research to identify excellent science with global impact, which we can invest government funding to address strategic challenges. I’m also responsible for encouraging business and research collaboration to help industries become more innovative. Currently my area of responsibility is aquaculture and farmed animals, with a particular focus on animal welfare and endemic disease.

Why did you choose this field?

The moment I realised I wanted to work in science was during my A-Levels and I started learning genetics and something just clicked, I realised that it made sense and that I could do it.

I have worked in a variety of areas within biology, everything from cancer research and genetics to virology and clinical trials, and worked in academia, industry, non-profit, start-ups, and government. I quickly realised that I enjoy a wide range of science and so a specific field was less important to me. Roles I have most enjoyed are supportive science roles, where you are directly helping the scientist and research rather than actually carrying out the science yourself. I love my current role because I can help fund the most exciting and important research and directly see the impact this has.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

"I wasn't very academic at school, so I never imagined becoming a scientist."

I honestly believed that you needed to be a genius to study at university, because I never knew anyone with a degree. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that you just need to find a topic you are interested in and work hard at it and you will find success. Grades are important but they are not everything, especially when you start working, as skills and work experience are just as valuable. I also wish I had learned more outside of school or from other sources like online or books, because at school my enjoyment of a subject was heavily influenced by the teacher and their teaching style, and at the time I didn’t realise there was other ways to learn. I now read lots of non-fiction books about a wide range of topics in science, I just wish I had discovered them sooner!

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love learning new things and sharing that knowledge with other people. I have always been curious about the world around me and figuring out how things work, so I was naturally drawn to science. I feel so lucky to work in science and love coming to work every day, knowing I’m making a difference, helping people and supporting research which will make the world a better place.

Best advice for the next generation

Believe in yourself. All types of people can be scientists and so there is a place for you in STEM if you want. Don’t worry if you don’t have the top grades, if your spelling is bad or if you don’t want to go to university, because you can still be a scientist if you are passionate or curious about a topic. You can do an apprenticeship or training in work, distance learning or just fieldwork. You can be in a supportive science role or work alongside scientists if you don’t want to be a lead scientist. I would also say to doubt yourself less. Many universities and employers are flexible in their required grades and qualifications, so I would encourage you to apply even if you think you won’t be accepted, because you are far more impressive than you might think.

Inspo quote

Doubt yourself less - it is okay to ask for help and you can achieve your goals.