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Alumni profile - Jasneet Taak

Accelerate is a student-led outreach STEM initiative, primarily focusing on educating BAME students (although not limited to this demographic) who are pursuing STEM based degrees and related career paths. Our educational platform encompasses useful tips and advice, updating students on career opportunities and mentoring the leaders of tomorrow.

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Why did you study Physics at Queen Mary? What sparked your interest in this specific degree? I’d like to credit my amazing A-level Physics teacher, Mr Robertson, for initially sparking my interest in Physics! He taught me that as long as you put the work in, everything is accomplishable. I decided to study at Queen Mary as it is a research-intensive Russell Group university with great links to the working world. Also, as Queen Mary has a very broad Physics department, I had a great range of optional modules to pick from, and therefore had the option to specialise from an early age!

What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable? I really liked the numerical and inquisitive aspects of the degree, respectively stemming from its Mathematical concepts and explanations of the creation of the universe. I wasn’t the strongest at lab experiments during A-levels and so I thought I’d continue to struggle with these experiments at university. However, with the help of the lab technicians, the module became one of my favourites. From constantly being taught set proofs and theories, I really enjoyed the variation labs brought as this was one of the few times I was able to figure things out for myself through trial and error.

Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary in particular? As well as Queen Mary’s good reputation and the broad scope of the Physics department, I really liked the diversity of the university. Having a good proportion of students from different ethnic backgrounds meant you were always learning about a different culture! Queen Mary is also home to a variety of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, which I really appreciated. It was really nice to be a part of a community that wasn’t discriminatory and instead prided itself on its academic excellence!

Can you describe your path since graduating from Queen Mary in 2019? I decided I wanted to gain some work experience (and money!) after my undergraduate degree, so I took a year out of education. I started off working as a Researcher in the Shock Physics department at Imperial College London where I wrote a Python code for a post-doctorate thesis. After two months I went on to work as an AI Research Intern at one of the top five global defence companies in the world. Here I produced AI commission reports, coded programs and machine learning algorithms, and represented the company at events, such as Imperial College London’s networking event. I also took part in BAME initiatives during my time at the company and headed STEM events for secondary school children where I taught topics including Morse code and classical cyphers. Having a keen interest in helping BAME students get into STEM career paths, I ended up co-founding an educational platform called Accelerate with the aim to bridge the diversity gap and increase inclusion! I am currently solely working on this initiative until I start my Master’s in the Physics department at Imperial College London in a few weeks.

Huge congratulations on co-founding an educational platform called Accelerate; what does this platform aim to do? Thank you! Accelerate is a student-led outreach STEM initiative, primarily focusing on educating BAME students (although not limited to this demographic) who are pursuing STEM based degrees and related career paths. Our educational platform encompasses useful tips and advice, updating students on career opportunities and mentoring the leaders of tomorrow. It targets A-Level students applying for university, as well as university students and graduates, looking to improve employability and land an internship or full-time job. For more information please check out our Instagram page, @acceleratementoring, where you can find links to our website!

How has Accelerate been received so far and what are your future aspirations for the educational platform? Just over a month after launching, Accelerate has made a notable impact. The scheme has been featured in podcasts, promoted by UCL societies and endorsed by departments including the Physics department at Imperial College London! Our biggest aim is to improve the representation of BAME students in universities and diversify the workforce. We therefore hope Accelerate will help achieve a connection with as many students as possible to help offer advice and guidance during their all-important early years. We aim to create a supportive and inclusive community of mentors and mentees, which is especially important given the current climate. In terms of future aspirations, we hope to expand our outreach and connect with more schools, universities and companies for better exposure. We would also like to hold talks and workshops at institutions, however that sadly depends on COVID!

How did your time and study at Queen Mary help your career and development? I was pleasantly surprised at the level of academia within the university. From the get-go it was clear to see the students at Queen Mary were ambitious and hungry for success. This is what undoubtably fuelled my enthusiasm to do well – I had a very motivating circle around me, particularly in third year, who always encouraged me to be the best version of myself. Seeing my hard work pay off, made me determined to keep on trying just as hard. Therefore, Queen Mary has really helped me put into practise what my A-level Physics teacher told me all those years ago – as long as you put the work in, everything is accomplishable. Understanding this phrase has been vital in my career development, where I tend not to shy away from obstacles as much as I used to. Instead I plan how to break down these barriers and so far this ideology has worked in my favour!

Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering their career options? I have always followed the two sayings ‘you never know until you try’ and ‘you can always make time for the things you want’. Often, we shy away from challenges because the mountain seems too big to climb. But by continuously working on your ambitions you will get there in the end as hard work always pays off. Don't be scared to reach out to others - there will always be someone who will think you are a great candidate and help guide you. Furthermore, don’t be put off by the opinions of others – if you want to pursue a certain field or degree you should! Just because others may doubt you does not mean you should doubt yourself. Instead of focusing on what they’re saying, use this energy to work hard and prove people wrong. 

What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? As well as gaining a Physics degree, I have made friends for life. I used to live in the ‘Scape’ accommodation across from the Mile End Queen Mary campus and I will always remember inviting friends over and having the time of our lives. From climbing onto the roof of the 8th floor of the accommodation so we could watch the New Year’s fireworks, to spending countless nights awake until the early hours of the morning, I will always cherish these memories! Another memorable moment was when I finally graduated as I got to celebrate three years of very hard work, which thankfully paid off! I will never forget how proud and excited I was that day, as despite all my setbacks I made it through and got to graduate.

Do you have a favourite spot on campus? The Physics building is undoubtably my favourite location on campus. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions here – from receiving assignment grades, venting to my academic tutor or even playing cards in The Hive, it was definitely our go-to place!

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Officer, Nicole Brownfield. If you would like to get in touch with Jasneet Taak or engage them in your work, please contact Nicole at n.brownfield@qmul.ac.uk