Reports: #AWIS2017

AWIS received funding from the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO to invite a group of high school students to attend the #AWIS2017 conference in Auckland and Shadow a scientist for the day. The reports below are from the students who attended. The students also wrote profiles of the scientists they shadowed, which can be viewed in our profile section.

Margaret Chea, Auckland Girls Grammar School
Attending the 2017 AWIS Conference allowed me to meet, listen to, and interact with different women in science and provided me insight on the different areas there are of science that women occupy and the different research that some of these women do. Hearing different scientists talk about the type of research that they do and just about how they got into science has since then influenced the way I feel about science as a career. I have always been interested in studying psychology in university which can either be studied as a BA or BSc. I always thought that maybe I should go into studying a BA instead of a BSc because I felt that science wasn’t something that I’m good at. And I found it empowering listening to a few different women talk about their personal experience studying in a male-dominated subject and made me think that I should feel more confident in science which was previously a big struggle for me to feel confident about. Now that I have had more exposure to the range of science careers out there I plan to continue studying science well into my tertiary studies and perhaps explore the different science courses that are available in universities. I also had the opportunity to shadow a scientist for the day- Jennifer Price, a freshwater ecologist. I was given insight on what she does with her job and the different projects that she has been on out in the field which has influenced me to think of also exploring the different jobs out there that are real ‘hands on’ and enables me to go out into the field because I thought that it sounded really exciting being able to work on and partake in such.

Rida Basharat, Manurewa High School
Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to be a part of Association of women in science conference 2017 and the shadow a scientist program on July 13th without any cost thanks to UNESCO. The conference commenced with a keynote address by Jane Parker and Mazim Taskin regarding a survey they conducted in New Zealand. This was focused particularly at the issues for women in science in which women shared their thoughts about their career, what they aspire to be in future and what helps and holds back their progress. This was followed by 3 sessions, out of which I selected looking into past. This session was mainly based around Archeology at Ahauahu Island, Radio carbon dating and then Lara Shephard from Te Papa Museum informed us about mind blowing science used in identification of a specie using genetics. It was a new thing I learnt and it highlighted the wide variety of Careers in science for me. It was then followed by delicious lunch and dessert, yum! Now the next session, ‘Behavior and cognition’ was one of my favorite, it consisted of remarkable talks regarding their research by Kristal Cain, Alison Wade and Andrea Kwakowsky from the university of Auckland. Firstly, Kritian Cain a Biologist discussed her findings regarding how humming birds communicate in strange and wonderful ways with us. She also focused particularly on different traits i.e. aggression which are thought to be more in males, were often quite common in females as well. This was followed by Alison Wade her research was based on the behavior and conservation of primates, which gave me an introduction of Anthropology, a science field I was unaware of. Lastly, Andrea Kwakowsky discussed her research with the aim of developing new therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s disease which also had some shocking facts about this disease. After this session we had afternoon tea. The Last sessions was extremely inspiring and was based on exploring the reasons behind the creation of AWIS and the change of role of women in science over the past 3 decades and the changes women in Science will like to see. This was presented by Cather Simpson, Chair: Jean Fleming and Alexia Hillbertidou from girl boss. The reason it was so inspiring is that often we fail to know about the role models, especially women we have in our society. Not only did this conference gave me the opportunity to meet amazing women in science it also opened up several doors for me, especially in terms of the various fields that I never considered. It was an opportunity that I am glad to not have missed.

Dania Shafiq, Manurewa High School
I was very fortunate to be able to be selected to not only participate in the Association for women in science conference but also be a part of shadow a scientist programme on the 13th of July. I was able to attend the conference totally free of cost thanks to UNESCO. The conference started with a keynote address by Jane Parker and Mazim Taskin from Massey University they talked about the issues for women in science and presented a survey carried out in NZ in which women shared their thoughts about their career, what they aspire to be next and what helps and hinders their progress. After this there were 3 different sessions looking into the past, museums and Work life balance. I decided to attend the work life balance I took this workshop as a study life workshop by interpreting the advice to suit my student life. In this workshop Elaine Rush from AUT, Clarie Postlethwaite from the university of Auckland and Jill Stanley share their success stories and gave lots of tips to maintain a balanced life. This was followed by lunch and desert. The next set of workshops were Behaviour and cognition, curious minds and citizen science and mentoring. I attended the Behaviour and cognition this workshop was very informative. In the workshop Kristal Cain, Alison Wade and Andrea Kwakowsky from the university of Auckland each shared their research. The first research was by Kristal Cain and was about how humming birds communicate in strange and wonderful ways. The second research was by Alison Wade her research was based on the behaviour and conservation of primates. The last research was presented by Andrea Kwakowsky who researched about developing new therapeutic strategies for Alzheimers disease. This was followed by afternoon tea. The last presentation was based on exploring the reasons behind the creation of AWIS and the change of role of women in science over the past 30 years and how the future women in science view the current landscape and the changes they will like to see. This was presented by Cather Simpson, Chair: Jean Fleming and Alexia Hillbertidou from girl boss. Overall the conference was a great experience and has resulted in me thinking that if medical does not work out for me then becoming a scientist will be my second option

Patrisha Bertulfo, Auckland Girls Grammar School
The AWIS conference was a truly stimulating and inspiring experience. Being surrounded by intelligent and accomplished women who have succeeded in various aspects of their lives has nourished me with knowledge and encouragement after attending. The main theme for the conference was looking science in the past and how it has developed and assisted the development of the present an even future. Each speaker was captivating with sermons on; how technology such as the STRMix™ has helped forensic scientist find specific data from evidence more accurately allowing them to correctly identify the owner of the DNA, to discussing the gender discrimination of women in science. I’ve learnt such a spectrum of information on science that is rarely ever spoken about in high school. It has peaked my interests in areas that I have never been exposed to like anthropology, drone imagery and bioengineering. The conference has broadened by awareness of science career pathways as before I felt restricted in career and degree options. After speaking to many intellectual women in science I have learnt to follow always follow my interest and not fall into other’s pressures. Every woman I talked to followed their dream and studied things they loved in University and now they’ve achieved many of their goals in life as experienced scientists in their field. I feel a sense of responsibility to learn more to find my exact passion in science to pursue, after being so influenced by the amazing women. A quote that left a deep impression on me was from Siouxse Wiles who said in a panel discussion that; “leadership is being the change you want to see in the world” whether it be on a small or large scale. I feel so empowered and confident in making choices for my future after being exposed to a breadth of choices.

Daphne Benitez, Auckland Girls Grammar School
The Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS) 2017 conference was very interesting as we learnt a lot not only about other science fields, but also women’s thoughts about their present and future positions who were from different industries. As an aspiring psychologist (particularly in the field of psychotherapy), I liked the ‘Behaviour and Cognition’ session, especially Kristal Cain, from University of Auckland, who spoke about her research on the sex difference in the traits of songbirds. I aspire to be a psychologist not only to understand the human mind and behaviour, but to also clear misconceptions about humans. There are many who work on doing this already, as there are plentiful articles, documentaries, and spokespersons in the media. Kristal Cain’s seminar helped me to realise that there are many animals which also need help to clear misconceptions for the benefit of their survival. Though there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done, we’ve already heard about the misconception about sharks, gorillas, and multiple dog species such as Staffies and German Shepherds. However, there are still so many animals which have yet to be understood, therefore though I prefer human brain and cognition, there is a new found interest for me in the animal world.

Sophia Cheyenne Lasam, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School
In the middle of July this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Association of Women In The Sciences Conference in Heritage Hotel for two days. On the first day, I was able to listen to Elaine Rush, Claire Postlehwaite, and Jill Stanley as they talked us through how they balance work and life. Stanley even emphasised the importance of “saying no, sometimes”. In my next session, I listened to Nicholas Malone and Jean Fleming. Malone told us that “to understand what it is to be, we have to understand what it is to be human”. Fleming also advised us “to thine own self be true” and to “be gentle with yourself and others”. On the second day, I had deeper conversations with the women in the conference as they talked us through the misfortunes they have experienced in their daily workspaces. It was very eye-opening and it allowed me to further see the “leaky pipeline” in our system. We were able to raise questions and suggestions on how to “fix” the system and how to further empower women in the work force.

The conference gave me the opportunity to listen and mingle with different and successful women in the Science. It also helped me thoroughly consider Science as a career. I was very unsure of taking Engineering as a career path. However, from the conference, I learned that we are never stuck in career path. Some of these women have changed career paths after being in a different one for a long time. This conference, not only helped me further consider Science as a career, but also gave me confidence that I can choose to change my career if my first one does not work out for me. It is also very empowering to attend the conference with those bright and successful women because as Siouxsie Wiles said, “we amplify each other’s voices”.