In this blog, we spoke to MSci Chemistry alumna Jane Smith, who talks about her time studying and working at Queen Mary University of London.
Jane joined Queen Mary as an undergraduate student in 2011 and has done a great job in her role as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Science and Engineering at the University since she graduated in 2016.
How was your undergraduate experience at Queen Mary?
It was really positive. There were a lot of people from different backgrounds and countries on my course so I made a lot of friends from the UK and across the globe. I was originally studying a BSc in Chemistry but after the first two years, I decided to change my programme to the MSci. I also completed a Year in Industry at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) during my time studying at Queen Mary. I worked for GSK in Stevenage, synthesising late-stage drug candidates for lab trials
How did you get involved in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at Queen Mary?
It took me a little while to decide what I wanted to do after I graduated. I had been studying and working in Chemistry for five years and wanted to try something new. I saw that there was a graduate scheme at Queen Mary, broken down into six-month placements working in different departments at the University across a two-year period. I applied just before my final year exams and was successful, so I started working at Queen Mary in October 2016. The first two placements were selected for me but for the second year, I was able to choose areas within the University that interested me.
I met the EDI team in the HR department and became really excited about the work they were doing. I decided to do my last placement on the scheme with the EDI team and led on the institutional Stonewall application, reviewing the support and services available for Queen Mary’s LGBTQ+ community. I really enjoyed the role so when I saw the EDI Officer job opportunity in Science and Engineering, I applied for the position. It was a good fit as I already had experience of the work as well as knowledge of the University and higher education.
What do you enjoy about working in EDI?
I’m from a relatively poor area in the north of England, from a single-parent family, so I’ve had these barriers that can potentially stop people from getting on in life. But I received quite a lot of help to get to where I am. I won an academic scholarship to do the International Baccalaureate (IB) at a boarding school, which gave me such a boost. I was lucky enough to get help with my education fees, so I want to give something back to others who need help to access education.
I’ve also had such a great experience at Queen Mary and the diversity of the student body really enriched my experience here, so this is something that I’m keen to support. During my time as a student, I received support from the Queen Mary Annual Fund and the Student Hardship Fund. So I’ve seen first hand the support this University provides for students and it’s important that any barriers are removed for others to receive this support. I’ve also seen the positive changes EDI has on staff too – we currently have a female Head of Chemistry and both Co-Directors of the MSc in Chemical Research are women. Seeing these changes, you really feel like you’re helping people.
What are your plans for the future?
I have been working non-stop from the moment I graduated so I’m going to enjoy a year of travel in New Zealand and I hope to come back and work at Queen Mary in EDI again. While I’m out in New Zealand, I will also look for opportunities to do some work shadowing within local universities to see what issues they might be experiencing in equality and diversity.
Learn more about equality, diversity and inclusion at Queen Mary