Advice

Women and Space

“Science” is the term encompassing the study of our natural and physical world; its structures and behaviours.  A “scientist” is an intellectual with expert knowledge of a particular branch of science.  From the intense study of the human body we gain knowledge of disease and are then able to construct medicines.  By observing the nature of the stars in the sky we are able to assemble a broader perception of the universe in which we live.   Science is the foundation of our society; the knowledge, health, sources of entertainment and standard of living we have today has been built upon centuries of scientific study and discovery.  It is for this reason, I find it incredibly perplexing that science and scientists have not been immune to discrimination.   

In school, we discuss Newton, Einstein and Pythagoras.  At university, I have considered Fermat, Euler and Euclid.  With this education, it wouldn’t be outrageous to believe that female scientists accomplished very little.  However, this is definitely not the case.  The list of influential women within science is, actually, a rather extensive one; but I would like to focus on one in particular. 

Katherine Johnson, an African American physicist and mathematician, made substantial contributions to the US’ aeronautics and space programmes at NASA in the 1950s and 60s.  From a young age, Katherine was a gifted mathematician with a passion to succeed.  Her early career consisted of teaching jobs; as work within mathematics for an African American woman were few and far between.  In 1953, Katherine was offered a job at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, which she accepted and so started her career within the early NASA team. 

For five years, Katherine worked in an office labelled “Coloured Computers”.   The women who worked within that office were required to do all of their daily activities completely segregated from the white men.  Regardless of how important their work was, these women were unable to put their names on reports they had contributed to.  Katherine herself said that women needed to be “assertive and aggressive” in order to be recognised; which, she was.

When NASA disbanded the “computing pool” in 1958, Katherine worked as an Aerospace Technologist until her retirement.  A women, who was once unable to use the same bathroom as her scientist colleagues, was now a vital part of an important team.  She calculated the trajectory for the first American man in space, she calculated the launch window for the 1961 Mercury Mission, she plotted back up navigational charts and was asked personally to verify the numbers for John Glen’s orbit around the Earth.  Katherine helped calculate trajectories for the 1969 Apollo mission; as well as helping to establish confidence in new technologies with her work with digital computers.

Katherine Johnson is just one example of many under-appreciated women working in NASA at the time; and is just one of thousands of under-appreciated women contributors to science.  Despite increasing rates of women studying mathematics and science at universities; the percentage of women within STEM careers is still extremely low.  It is vital to celebrate and learn about women who were not only major contributors to science; but had to overcome all kinds of social barriers to do so.  

What do rocks, pebbles an empty jar and sand have in common with prioritising?

Many of us, especially students, are faced with multiple tasks that need to be completed every day. So how do I make sure I get all the important stuff done while still having time to carry out my hobbies? Let’s solve this problem, using an analogy you might have heard of.

Below you can see a list of things I need to complete, as well as what I would like to do for the day:

Important tasks (rocks):
1. Attend lectures
2. Write lecture notes on tissue mechanics.
3. Email lecturer about problem with answering exam question.
4. Write blog for Widening Participation student ambassador work.

Less important tasks (pebbles):
1. Top up my bus card.
2. Renew my borrowed library book.

Leisure/Fun (sand):
1. Watch my favourite TV show.
2. Go out with friends.

The challenge is how to fit all these items (rocks, pebbles and sand) in one jar. The jar represents the amount of time you have in a day.

Image 1: Rocks, pebbles, sand and empty jar to start off the day with.

Image 1: Rocks, pebbles, sand and empty jar to start off the day with.

 

Image 2: Trying to complete the least important tasks and hobbies first, mean I cannot complete all the important tasks (Rocks) in a day (Jar).

Image 2: Putting off the important tasks means I cannot complete them all in a day.

 

 

Image 3: If I complete all the important tasks first, followed by the less important ones and hobbies, I can fit everything I need to do into one day.

Image 3: If I complete all the important tasks first, followed by the less important ones and hobbies, I can fit everything I need to do into one day.

Remember that this rock, jar, pebble and sand analogy is not the only way to organise completing your tasks, and should be considered as a “tool” if required. I have used this technique throughout my time at university, and have had a lot of success with it. It is definitely worth giving it a go if you haven’t tried it out already!

The Ultimate Goal

After two years of decision making, months of revising, weeks of planning, hours of driving and lugging the far too many suitcases I brought up five flights of stairs; I had finally made it.  For me, university always felt like the ultimate goal; a route out of a small town; a way to learn things that genuinely interest me rather than being dictated an enforced curriculum.   However, within a week this euphoric independence already began to wear off.  I was not as prepared for University as I initially thought.

 

Before attending university, I was a little unsure of how exactly I would be taught.  I was so used to my school timetable; I had a good relationship with all my teachers, knew all my classmates well and was completely comfortable with the course.   However, with a little time I got used to the new university system I found myself in.  I use lectures to soak up as much information as possible; each one of my lecturers offers invaluable insight into Mathematics and, even if I don’t understand all of it yet, I write as much down as I can.  During my tutorials, which usually only contain 20 to 30 students, I ask any questions I need to and discuss any topic I feel necessary in order to get myself as comfortable with the material as possible.

 

Despite all of the academic support available, a substantial amount of independent learning and self-discipline is often required in order to do well.  Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoy this part of university.  As well as attending everything that is required, there are often extra lectures and events put on by the university that explore different aspects of the subject and offer an insight you won’t obtain anywhere else.   In addition, even though there isn’t usually specific ‘required reading’ for a first-year mathematician, there are so many resources available to deepen your knowledge in general.  If a particular theorem, idea or field of mathematics sparks an interest during a lecture or whilst completing a piece of work I can research that specific item at the library and possibly use it to further my studies.  Mathematics can be a rather intense degree, but I personally find that the more engaged with it I become, the easier the work load is to manage.

 

When deciding what course to apply for I read a brief overview of module options and a snippet of their content.  In reality, the courses are much more in depth and detailed than I could ever imagine.  In the first semester, we pushed our A Level knowledge further in Calculus 1, we tackled Mathematical Structures where number systems and proofs were discussed, we were introduced to the world of Probability where we built on our knowledge of expected values and random variables, and we were exposed to procedures and plots in Computing.   Within the first week I found myself researching Fermat’s Last Theorem for an assignment and getting far too carried away with what was supposed to be a “small summary.”   After five months at QMUL, I can positively say that I have not “made it.”  Being here isn’t in fact the ultimate goal, but it is assisting me in discovering what my “ultimate goal” actually is; whether its working in finance or scientific research or something completely different and unexpected; I am excited to keep studying and find out.

 

Why my second year is better than the first

You usually hear people tell you how much harder second year of university is compared to first. Your first year “practically doesn’t count” so “don’t take it too seriously”. There’s no lie; workload is heavier this year and counts for more towards your final grade. But overall, my second year is going way better than my first. Why?

 

Firstly, I’ve familiarised myself with workload. I know how much to expect, when to expect it, and how to deal with it. Though my work is harder this year, I know not to neglect it too long and how to get it all done. This way, I do well in school and also have time to enjoy my life.

 

Secondly, I love my degree subject more. Maybe because I’m living in the era of Brexit and Trump-onomics where Economics is in the heart of every hot topic right now, I’ve really learned to appreciate my studies and everything that it will have to offer me in the future. My goals are more clear, I know what I love and don’t enjoy as much, and I get more involved in Economics events.
Lastly and most importantly, I’m settled. When you first move to a new place, especially as one as daunting as London, every day can be nerve-wracking and you can even find yourself quite lonely for a while. Don’t worry – this is completely normal and you WILL find your place. You will find who your friends are, your favourite hangout spots, places to eat, a good balance between work and social life, etc. It’s a natural way the universe works. You can’t force it and you can’t resist it – you will eventually become a citizen of London.

Building Kingdoms, Chasing Dreams

Happy new year to all of you! 2016 has been a rather interesting year for all of us, but I believe 2017 would be a better year for all of us if we act upon our dreams and our goals, and be motivated and passionate about our ambitions. I too, have personal dreams and goals – both short term and long term – and by living each day driven by the will to become better, we experience circumstances that acts as stepping-stones that bring us closer to our aspirations. In my own opinion, our education is one of these stepping-stones. There are in fact numerous simple things that you can do now that will contribute achieving greatly in university or even after. Here are some things that I personally do:

 

  • 1. Manage my time, by having a calendar beside my study table and on it are upcoming events or deadlines.

 

  • 2. Keeping my room always organised, and not only when I feel like cleaning up!

 

  • 3. Set up a ‘goals and to-do’ list, as if making SMART goals, but less strict with the time limit, for example, ‘Go to Bermondsey and eat Padang food’ and ‘patch my jeans,’ as you can see in the picture below!

 

img_6464-1

Above all these, I believe that there is one thing that will motivate you, drive you, keep you fuelled up and burning with passion – your purpose. Finding your purpose liberates you from work that you may see as burdens now. Finding your purpose is not at all easy and can be time-consuming. It is a slow process, but it is an investment. I am also still in the process of discovering myself. I wouldn’t say that I have found my purpose, but it seems to me that I would love to become an inspiration to others, and this idea of becoming an inspiration has encouraged me more than ever before. Other than that, pushing yourself beyond your own limits and being a life-long learner are just as vital.

At Queen Mary, how are you doing? Are you pushing yourself in understanding the materials in the lectures, or do you have a more apathetic attitude towards learning? Remember, again, education plays a major role in achieving your dreams. Most importantly, keep in mind that “your mind has to arrive at the destination before your life does.” Let us all not just create new year’s resolutions, but act on it! #hustle2k17

Is reading a thing only girls do?

You may think of reading as something you do intuitively, but for some people, it is not a skill that comes naturally. Many males in particular are known to be unmotivated when it comes to reading according to news outlets such as the Guardian and BBC, and subsequently have poorer reading skills compared to females.
I am currently taking part on a new Widening Participation programme here at QMUL, called “Boys, Books and Blogging”, where I will be working with year 10 male students to read and discuss two books that have been selected for them. Below you can see the title of the two books I am currently discussing with the students:

tuesdays-with-morrie

Book 1: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

 

Book 2: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Book 2: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The sessions with the students will last 7 weeks, where I aim to encourage the boys to become more interested in reading and read more in general. The boys will also be discussing their approaches, attitudes and time management in regards to reading, and will write blog entries about their experience on the programme. They will also be going to see “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” at the theatre in December. These blogs will be published on the Widening Participation QMUL website. Here are some pictures that were taken this week:

Quiet reading time with some of the year 10 students

Image 1: Quiet reading time with some of the year 10 students.

 

Image 2: Great to see the boys engaging in the blog writing!

Student summarizing his thoughts so far on the book he selected.

Image 3: Student summarizing his thoughts so far on the book he’s reading. Brilliant !

Another student writing up his blog

Image 4: Another student writing up his blog !

Being part of this programme reminds me of when I was in year 10, where I also was not fond of reading. I discovered that reading what interests me most (whether that be football, robots, food and other topics), is much better than not reading at all. If you look at me now, I can’t get enough of reading and always find time to read especially on the bus journey to university. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Reading is a powerful tool, and one in which everyone must have a great grasp of in order to reach their full potential in life. Without reading, you are bound to come across problems as simple as reading a job application for a job you want. Don’t let that person be you!

Part-time Work

Like a lot of university students, I work part-time. Not only is it great to have a bit of extra spending money on top of my maintenance loan, I think working part time is a really good way to gain professional experience. Also, since I started working, I believe I got better with organising my time. I have to fit work around my studies, and the only way to do this is to manage my time efficiently. Time management is a key skill and I believe it will come in handy in the future, after university.

Nevertheless, always remember: your degree comes first. I would recommend that you find work that’s quite flexible so your education is not compromised in any way. Whatever you do, don’t overcommit at work because then you wouldn’t have enough time for studying and assignments, and might feel overwhelmed. You need to look after yourself first and foremost. You may want to work less during term time and work more during the holidays. This summer I made the monumental mistake of not working. I told myself: ‘I have finished my first year at university so I deserve a break’. I was bored after a week. By the time this realisation hit me, all jobs were gone. I think the best thing to do is apply as early and as widely as possible.

My friend, Dina and I at Campus Tour Training. We run Campus Tours so prospective students can get a better idea about what a university campus looks like.

My friend, Dina and I at Campus Tour Training. We run Campus Tours so prospective students can get a better idea about what a university campus looks like.

I have to admit, I have heard some horror stories from my friends about horrible bosses and rude customers, but fortunately for me, I have never experienced such distressing things. I have had admin jobs before – I am not going to bore you by writing about the exciting world of photocopying! My favourite jobs, by far, are my current roles as an Ambassador for the School of English and Drama (SED), and a Widening Participation Student Ambassador. I have gained a lot of transferable skills from being an Ambassador. It has increased my confidence, improved my communications skills and helped to make me a better team player. I have talked about my job as a SED Ambassador before in this blog, so I will tell you a bit more about Widening Participation.

My fellow Student Ambassadors - Dina and Hanya

My fellow Student Ambassadors – Dina and Hanya

Most, in fact I think it is all, universities in the UK have a Widening Participation Department. Statistically, if you: are someone whose parents did not attend Higher Education; are eligible for free school meals; have parents who are from non-professional occupations; have a disability; are a young carer; are estranged from your family, or have lived, or are currently living, in local authority care, you are less likely to apply to university. The aim of Widening Participation is to address this, and encourage young people from these social backgrounds to consider attending university.

My job as a Student Ambassador is to engage and interact with school students, and to provide an insight into university life. For instance, this summer, I helped run the Year 9 Humanities Summer School at Queen Mary. This was one of my favourite projects! A group of students from our local schools got to spend a week as a university student, attending lectures, workshops, and a theatre trip. My task was to supervise them throughout the day, as well as to take part in Q&A sessions – answering questions about student life. We run lots of events throughout the year, I am going to include a link to the Widening Participation website below so you can check out what we are all about.

Widening Participation at Queen Mary: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/teachers/wp/index.html

 

 

 

From ‘fresherhood’ to adulthood

Who could have thought that the transition from a first year to a second year would bring about such dramatic changes ? It’s true that leaving student accommodation to live with the people that have become your spiritual siblings during freshers’ week is a huge sign of evolution, but it’s something more than that- I actually grew up.

I got a hang of how to study…and kind of enjoy it now

Yes, I am not a lost sheep anymore. I am confident, the time management skills got unbelievably strong after the chaos of first year’s exams and I do not panic anymore when hearing the word mid-term; it’s more of a ‘bring it on’ attitude rather than a ‘how am I going to do this’ mentality. It could be that the amplitude and workload of first year got me one step closer to managing responsibilities like an adult- or I just can’t find the time to freak out.

No more parties every other day

It seems unbelievable, but it’s not. I gradually got tired of being tired. Spending the night with a couple of quality people turns out to be a lot more fun than going out in fancy clubs (from where it took 3 hours to get back home, because I wasn’t lucky enough to enjoy the perks of night tube in my first year) and realizing that this lifestyle is just too expensive and not as fun if it becomes a habit. I decided to go out when it’s really worth it and for the rest of the time treat myself with nice, chill evenings with the people that matter- and some Drapers from time to time.

I started to consider what I want to be when I grow up, besides happy

First year was incredibly fun, with all of its chaotic moments and constant freshers’ events, the only thing I had to stress about was how to make friends and how to get good grades at the same time. Now, however, life confronts me with the ultimate question “What do I want to be?”. The stress is off the charts with this one; it requires a thorough research, probably more than 3rd years do for their dissertation.
As an Economics student it’s really hard, since everyone expects us to become investment bankers (a.k.a to give up on our lives the moment we graduate). I want something else for myself, I want adventure, travel, human interaction, pressure and space to evolve- believe me, finding the job to give you all of this is hard. Internships are, apparently, the key to figuring yourself out, so now I’m in the crazy process of applying all over, in the hope that my path will be enlightened.

Friends come and even more friends go

I left home, came to uni, met many new people, found friends, everything went smoothly. That’s all first years want-lots of friends and lots of parties (completely fair). As the year went by I started to put things in balance and become aware of what is truly important: having someone to be there for you at 2 am when I am sick and not 20 ‘someones’ to go out with during the night and not talk to during the day. I understood that I need healthy relationships for me to be a healthy person.

First year has been so eventful and filled with memories, but one year is more than enough. It’s time to focus on myself and what makes me grow as a person, because, unfortunately, those late nights in Soho were no help in discovering what it is that makes me an accomplished person.

What are university timetables like for students?

As I begin to settle into my third year, as with the previous years, my weekly timetable begins to take shape. During the first week of term, I was provided with a timetable which includes when and where my lectures will be taking place. This timetable will be used throughout both semesters of my degree course – a semester is part of an “academic term period” which here at QMUL consists of 12 weeks of classes. In addition, QMUL categorize their semesters as “Semester 1”, “Semester 2” and “Semester 3”. Below I have given an example of what my timetable looks like for semester 1, and information on how to read timetables in general.

personal timetable

Image 1: My personal timetable for the subjects I study. (Note: Click on image for clearer view)

 

How to read timetable 1

Image 2: These are the official QMUL guidelines for how to read your timetable. (Note: Click on image for clearer view)

As you can see, my timetable includes a mixture of IT labs (labs based on specialist computer software) and lectures. I don’t have any seminars for my course, but for many students, this would typically involve getting into groups with your class mates, and discussing in detail, questions set by the lecturer about what was mentioned during lectures. It is also worth noting that in week 7 of each semester, there is a period known as reading week. This is where there is no teaching and it gives students the chance to catch up with their understanding of the course material so far. Finally from image 1, the blank spaces on the timetable indicates free time. Here it is expected students use this time for independent study around the course material.

Next semester I will be getting a new timetable which will have different modules from my first semester. If you want to check out the current general calendar for students at QMUL check out this link. It is also worth being aware that each student’s timetable will be different depending on the course they are studying. They will therefore have lectures at different times, as well as days where they have no lectures.

 

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