This month, we're highlighting some inspirational women in STEM! To start, we're sharing an interview we did with on of our favorite STEM Ambassadors, Emilia Angelillio. We've been following along with her journey on Instagram for a while now and are always fascinated and inspired by her experiments!
Can you share a little bit about your background and what you do for a living?
I have completed my studies in Italy where I gained a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Microbiology and Virology. Then I worked as a medical microbiologist for many years.
Then, some years ago I have changed my career and today I am a Registered Science Technician and I work in a school in Cambridge, Sancton Wood School.
I am in sole charge of 4 labs, 2 prep rooms, and a storage room, and I support Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. My job is to organise practical lessons of those subjects and demonstrations in the labs. That means that I am responsible for the preparation of the equipment and the reagents needed for the practical lessons, making sure that everything is ready for the lesson, that the experiment works well and there are no health and safety concerns.
I also assist the teachers during the practical sessions and when needed I demonstrate experiments for the classroom.
I am also a STEM ambassador. I strongly believe that practical science should be taught in primary school, therefore I work very closely with primary teachers. In fact, I organise workshops and STEM clubs for our prep and pre-prep school and for local primary schools.
I have an Instagram science page (@emilia.science) that now has more than 19k followers, where I post videos and pictures of the experiments and the activities I do with the kids as I strongly believe that social media can be an excellent way to promote science among the kids. I also use my science page to promote the role of technicians and to promote the role of women in STEM and values such as equality and diversity in science.
What are some of your favorite experiments?
I love the spectacular demonstrations; it is amazing to look at how excited the kids get!! My favourites are the ones involving fire like methane bubbles, flour explosion, cannon fire, etc. I like also the very colourful ones like for example the flame test.
I also love to do simple experiments with primary school children, they are so enthusiastic! One of my favourite ones is making a potion with them. Every time it is so nice to see them getting so excited and screaming and laughing so much!
What’s something fascinating about your field?
I started as a medical microbiologist working in the microbiology department in hospitals. I really loved my work and I loved to analyse human samples to see if they got an infection and which bacteria were responsible for it. It was fascinating to see in real life all the bugs you usually see in the books!
Later when I decided to change my career, I was really happy to start working in education. I hope I can inspire with my job the next generation of scientists.
Working with the kids is amazing: I think there is nothing more rewarding than looking at the enthusiasm and amazement in their eyes. Being a STEM Ambassador, I have also the possibility to work with primary school students. That is really fun! We have such a great time together, children at that age are so curious, inquisitive, and enthusiastic about science.
What inspired you to get into STEM?
I wanted to wear a lab coat and be in the lab since I was small. I was fascinated to use the little microscope we had at home and spent ages observing things that were impossible to see with naked eyes. Also, I wanted to analyse human samples to help sick people to get better.
Who are the STEM leaders that you look up to?
I have met many people that have inspired me in my life and my career. Teachers, colleagues, mentors have all taught me many valuable things and passed me the love and passion for science. If we think about famous people, there are so many inspiring scientists I could mention. Among them all, I will mention the amazing Italian woman scientist and Nobel prize, Rita Levi Montalcini. Besides the great contribution to science she has made, I admire her strength, her passion, her resilience. A great example and a strong female character that we all need to look up to.
What advice do you have for kids interested in STEM?
We need to teach the new generation to fight against stereotypes and prejudice and to believe in themselves. I would say, first, that you don’t need to be Einstein to do science, believe in yourself and in your dreams. Set up some goals and work hard and with a lot of passion to achieve them. Also, learn to discipline yourself. Learn to sit at the desk and study not in order to pass the test but for the love of knowledge. Remember knowledge is power. Finally, be very resilient. Even when you feel you are not accomplishing anything, remember learning is a very slow process, it takes patience and passion. Never give up!!
Above all, remember that nobody can't tell you what you can or can’t do.
Follow along with Emilia on Instagram for fun science activities and lessons!