Lauren Taylor

PhD student in inorganic synthesis, University of Manchester in the School of Chemistry


Number one is that you are good enough and no matter what your background is, and you can do and achieve anything.

What do you do?

The description of my role varies depending on the individual I am in conversation with. If I am talking to someone with a non-scientific background, I describe myself as a researcher at the University, explaining that I make things in a lab and maybe expand on the characterisation processes. When speaking to other scientists I would describe in more detail, usually explaining that I synthesise supramolecular cages, specifically focussing on coordination chemistry with transition metals.

Why did you choose this field?

I have always enjoyed science but I would often find myself in trouble at school. This almost led to a decision by the school to prevent me from taking up double science as an option, with poor behaviour as the reason. I enjoyed science and was also really good at it, and so it was decided I would be allowed to pursue double science at GCSE level following a number of intense meetings.

This was an important moment in my life and served as the wake-up call I needed to stop messing around. Till this day I am extremely grateful that the decision was made in my favour. I had finally found something that I liked, something that I could pursue and work towards. From that moment on I knew I had to change my behaviour and be less defiant.

At GCSE level, biology was my strongest science subject but in college my passion and preference shifted to chemistry. I chose to stick with chemistry which I am extremely glad for. Throughout school and college I am lucky to have had a total of six chemistry teachers all of whom were amazing. I am also very lucky to have had good relationships with each one which made me enjoy the subject a lot more. I hadn't realised until I was older just what impact a good teacher can have on you, on how you feel about a subject which in turn shapes and helps to determine your outcome. This does not mean teachers who are good at teaching, but teachers that are understanding, open and relatable who - like mine - sincerely care about you, your education and your future.

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

Coming from a very working-class background and being educated in a state school that wasn’t particularly great, and with some of my behaviour at school I did not think I would make it into university. I was lucky because I was very good at chemistry, got on really well with my chemistry teachers and had a high level of respect for them. My chemistry teacher in high school didn’t hesitate to tell me when I was in the wrong, and I really respected him for the way he went about it which helped me focus and encouraged me to be a better student and person in general.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love being a scientist because you can never stop learning. There will never be a point where the learning ends, even if you are an expert in your field there is always more to discover. I look forward to the days when your research actually works, and I also enjoy being around the people I work with.

Best advice for next generation?

Number one is that you are good enough and no matter what your background is, and you can do and achieve anything. At one point I got an E in a chemistry exam and that was when I realised I wasn’t fulfilling my potential and was holding myself back. Being a woman in STEM is so important now and for the future.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

My favourite app is Instagram because I can follow my friends to see their photos but can also follow accounts that just post things I want to see like specific art I like or travelling photos or even science pictures.

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