Dr Melanie Windridge – Plasma Scientist

On 4th May, I spent the day with L’Oréal Paris and Education & Employers at the The Royal Society meeting some inspiring women in science. It was the launch of a national campaign that will see many more female scientists visiting children in primary schools across the country.

Dr Melanie Windridge In the morning I took part in a ‘What’s My Line Activity?’ where a panel of six volunteers (including me!) were asked questions by the children as they tried to guess each volunteer’s job role.

These activities help young children see first-hand how science can lead to a vast range of exciting opportunities, by giving them the chance to hear from women working in roles which use science. By showcasing our exciting and varied working lives, we can help children understand that science is more than just a lab coat.

I get involved with things like this because I believe that education is so important, but that children need to want to learn to achieve their potential.  Showing them the opportunities out there, how things that they study relate to their everyday lives, and allowing them to meet people who have fulfilling and fascinating jobs can only increase their curiosity and desire to learn.

It’s not just about science either.  I think that being informed about the world and its possibilities in the workplace is essential for students making decisions about their future.  That’s why it is important for adults to go into schools to talk about their jobs, whatever they might be.  There are so many different roles out there, and different ways of living one’s life, that when the students leave school they will still be striking out into the unknown, but at least we can give them glimpses that will impart a sense of direction.

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When I was at school I never knew what I wanted to “be” when I grew up.  Fortunately I was able to just follow my interests and see where they took me.  I always loved physics at school, so first I went to Bristol University to study physics and did summer work experience placements in academia.  After a couple of gap years travelling I embarked upon a PhD in fusion energy because I was inspired by solving the energy problem and combatting climate change.  My interest in the bigger picture got me into communicating our work, and now I work as Communications Consultant for fusion start-up Tokamak Energy, and pursue side-line interests of writing books and giving talks – my special interest is combining science with outdoor adventure.

At school, I would never have guessed what I would be doing now, but I was lucky enough to be given insight into things that caught my interest and imagination.  Now we can all help give insight to others coming up behind us.

Sign up at www.inspiringthefuture.org to volunteer an hour a year to help inspire the next generation, and encourage colleagues, friends, relatives, neighbours etc to do the same.

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By Steve Iredale

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