Inspiring Black students in SPS

SPS students tell us about how attending the “Black role models in STEM event” has impacted them

Last month four students from SPS attended “Black Role Models in STEM” – an evening of short talks from inspiring speakers at University College London. The event was designed to celebrate Black Role Models in STEM, and increase the visibility of and strengthen the connection between Black undergraduate scientists and mathematicians.

Thanks to funding from the University’s Student Success Project, SPS was able to send four undergraduate students. Here they tell us more about what they learnt from the event. You can also read more about the content covered by the speakers in an additional blog post here.

Dessia Mendy, stage 2 Chemistry student:

“At first, I was worried about having to network. I am a shy person and in addition to that English is not my first language, therefore, I tend to minimize my exchanges with strangers when I must interact in English. Not only did I see this event as a good opportunity to be inspired by all those great speakers; it was also an opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and interact with them.

“Overall, the event was very inspiring. Not only did Prof Carla, Luke Davis, Dr.Amna Shaddad, and Dr. Nira Chamberlain motivate me to aim high and believe in myself and my dreams; the conversations I had with different attendees were all very encouraging as well. The different messages were even more powerful because they came from people just like me; black.

“A key takeaway was that I, as a female black student, shouldn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of what I’m achieving or plan to achieve. As Dr.Nira said, we need to remember that we don’t need anyone’s permission to be successful in what we do. Another key message by Dr.Amna Shaddad was that connections are everything, and that we shouldn’t rely on our merit only.

“Speaking of connections, I feel like attending this event was a big step for me when it comes to networking; as I have always been worried about doing that. After this event, I definitely feel like it is time for me to create a linkedin, and try harder to maximize my interactions instead of minimizing them.

My key message to other students in SPS/STEM subjects as a result of the event, would be that we need to look out for more information when it comes to scholarships or any other opportunities that we could take advantage of as black students.

“Also, like Dr.Nira told me when I confessed to him that I used to be scared of studying Chemistry: “Fear is not always a bad thing, you need to be able to get past it whilst not being complacent. If I wasn’t scared when facing new challenges, I wouldn’t be a mathematician anymore.” Aim high, believe in yourself, and trust the process.”

Stefania Boremetti, stage 2 Chemistry student:

“This was one of the best events I have been to; to see all of that black excellence made me feel included and not alone. It was amazing to hear stories from people that have been through what I have with racism and colourism and still go out on top.

All the speakers were amazing, and all transferred onto us a sense of energy and motivation to do better and not to listen to what anyone else says about who you can become. My key takeaway from the event is that no one can tell you who or what you are going to be.

“The speaker I connected with the most was Prof Carla Faria, she is afrobeiges and a physicist. She is specialised on theoretical strong-field laser-matter interaction, she has 80 publications, as well as being invited as a speaker in number of events and collaborations with a number of notable people.

“Do not waste your time, let’s stop hurting each other and let’s start to uplift one another. And as Dr Nira said “You can be the first but make sure you are not the last”

Danielle Edwards, stage 1 Forensic Science student:

“I believe my confidence will increase and I’ll have the courage to pursue what I want/. In addition, I will empathise with people who will struggle due to their race.

A key takeaway was that I, as a female black student, shouldn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of what I’m achieving or plan to achieve.

“Based on what I heard at the event, I will always remind people to continue to achieve anything they want. Always remind people that they don’t need anyone’s permissions to be whatever they want.”

Simon M G Oyegoke, stage 1 Forensic Science student:

“I feel a bit more optimistic leaving the event. To quote one of the guests speakers, Dr Nira Chamberlain who said something along the lines of “being the first in a community to do something is special, but to make sure you are not the last is the real achievement.” In essence, I want to emulate the success of others.”