Studying Natural Sciences and being a woman in STEM at Bath

Posted in: Choosing a course, Faculty of Science, Placements, Uncategorized, Undergraduate

Hi! My name is Kesia and I am just finishing my second year studying Natural Sciences at Bath with a Biology major and Chemistry minor.

Why Bath?

I started looking at universities very early on in year 12 because I knew it would take me ages to make any decision. I knew that biology, especially the human side of it, was what I loved most. However, going through sixth form made me realise how much I also loved maths. I started looking into degrees that would let me do both and found Natural Sciences. As one of the most indecisive people I know, I loved the idea of carrying on with all of my A-level subjects but getting to specialise as I learnt more about what I preferred.

Now I had my degree choice sorted, I had to narrow down uni choices. I focused mainly on the specific parts of each subject that I would be able to do. In terms of module choices, Bath had everything I wanted: I could study only my favourite parts of each subject; It was a smaller city and felt comfortable but still had convenient transport links to bigger places like London and Bristol; it’s a campus uni so everything I needed was all in one place; and it definitely helped that it’s a beautiful city. My only other requirement was a gymnastics group and Bath has been perfect for this; I’ve even been on committee for it this year!

As you can see, my choice came down to very personal preferences and Bath ticked all the boxes for me. In a course that is as variable across universities as natural sciences is, the only advice I can give to people choosing where to spend their next few years is to really think about the things that will be most important to you. You’re going to be living and spending your time in the same place studying your subject for years. You have to make sure that it is somewhere you’ll enjoy being.

Being a woman in STEM

We’re told all throughout school that we need more women in STEM so, when we come to uni, we expect that we’ll be in the minority. However, I found that, in my lectures, the split between women and men is usually around 50/50. The uni even has a women in STEM society that hosts socials throughout the year and gives a sense of community to all the women studying sciences, maths, and engineering subjects. As much as the ratio is getting better in my experience, I know that physics, maths, and engineering are still lacking in the proportion of women studying them. There is also still a lack of female lecturers and professors in all STEM subjects. We are slowly improving but there is always more that can be done, especially in convincing young women that they are capable of studying these subjects and working in these industries. Having female lecturers and tutors has made such a big difference, hearing about their journeys in academia and how they have had to work against the system in order to have both a family and their own career despite being mothers gives me so much hope for the future. Giving up your career to have children is so well-ingrained in societal expectations for women and further reduces the number of women in high-up positions in academia and companies. However, the university makes it clear that it is working to change this. It has an onsite nursery for children below school age of all staff members and students and many female lecturers across the university. Despite the current problems that women face in STEM, the uni has been so helpful in making me feel that, no matter what I decide to do in the future, I will be able to do all I want in life without having to give up the career that I am working for.

Finding a placement

Bath is famous for our placement years. The majority of students in almost every course will undertake a placement in their third year and we are supported with preparing for them from the second we start first year. We submit our CVs for feedback at the end of first year and can start applying as early as the September before our second year starts. Placements are advertised to us through a single website that is updated daily and we have constant access to 1:1 support from a placements officer for cover letters, mock interviews, and psychometric tests. I started applying in October and was lucky enough to have secured my placement by the beginning of December. I’m starting it in July and will be working in a research lab that is investigating cell polarity in early embryos by monitoring the movement of membrane proteins using very high-resolution microscopes and analysing this using computational algorithms. Even though I got my placement quite early on, I know people who have secured placements all throughout the year and there are still new ones being advertised in May. Generally speaking, everyone who wants a placement will get one by the end of the year.

Having studied here for two years now, I can confidently say that it has been everything I’d hoped for. I have changed both my major and minor since being here (I told you I’m indecisive) and considered every possible combination of modules to take in my final year, both of which were very much helped by the flexibility of the course and the willingness of all the staff to help you figure out how to study exactly what you want to study. On top of studying, I have made amazing friends inside and outside Natsci, I went to the chemistry society ball and helped to plan socials for gymnastics all year round. I’m already looking forward to final year!

Posted in: Choosing a course, Faculty of Science, Placements, Uncategorized, Undergraduate


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