I’ve always loved being creative, figuring out how things work, solving problems and making things happen for the good of someone else. I studied both engineering and acting and have always been lucky to have jobs that help me to do all of those things! I am now the Interim Director of Science for Society with Science Foundation Ireland. I feel so lucky to spend everyday working with and for a company that supports people, especially scientists and engineers, to discover, test and create solutions to the challenges that we face in society.
Has your opinion of STEM changed since you were a teenager?
Yes. I only thought about what I needed to study and what job I would have at the end of college. I thought I would study engineering and be an engineer. I never realised that engineering was just the starting block for my career, that studying engineering would open lots of doors for me where I don’t work as an engineer but use that way of thinking everyday in my job.
In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?
The Nerd Phenomenon – this drives me crazy. I have always worked with scientists and engineers, and they are people! In other words they are too diverse and different to be just conveniently placed in the ‘Nerd’ category. They like different things, some like art, some like music, some like computer games. It would be great to stop pidgeon-holing everyone working in STEM into one category, there are too many of us!
Do you believe that there is enough being done to encourage girls to study STEM and pursue STEM careers?
I think there is so much more being done today than ever before, but it needs to continue until we make actual changes happen in certain STEM fields. I was lucky to be born into a family where so many of the girls studied engineering, and so did the boys. It just wasn’t unusual. I really believe in the theory that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and continuing to give visibility of women working in STEM to young people will help both girls and boys see STEM careers as relevant to everyone not just one gender.
What kind of other experts do you work with on a day to day basis?
I get to work with scientists, engineers, event organisers, TV producers, policymakers – you name it. It’s a really interesting part of my job. The common thread between everyone is their passion, and ability to be creative.
Is your current job, and the work of the wider team, making a difference in the world?
The people I help support are trying to create new ways to decarbonise our planet, to feed future populations, to provide cures and treatments for disease, the list is endless. I also help to involve Irish citizens, and young people in particular, in STEM and inspire them. The fact that I believe so strongly that this work is making a difference in the world is one of the main reasons I love my job.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year in your current position?
To keep learning new things, and always facing new challenges.
If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?
Don’t ever put yourself in a box or limit yourself. Put yourself forward for new experiences and be open to learning new things and facing new challenges. Don’t let the fear of something going wrong stop you, it’s learning from what does go wrong that makes you a wiser person! I wish someone had told me that what I study in college, or my first job, or my second job, was just a starting point for the next adventure, rather than this is what I’ll be doing forever. This is how my career has moved, changing direction every few years into new areas each time.
Name one thing on your bucket list.
To play the piano well (I’ve only just started!) and to perform in “Taming of the Shrew”.
What television series are you currently watching?
The Haunting of Hill House, scary but addictive!
What living person do you most admire, and why?
I admire a number of people in my life, including my parents who have always taught me to think for myself and always be able to look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day! I really admire Mary Robinson for shining a light on the inequality that the effects of climate change will have, where the impact will be greater on poorer populations in the world even though they are less responsible for warming the planet. I really admire her integrity and fairness.