Amy’s disability hasn’t prevented her from studying chemistry at university, writing a blog, and setting up her own charity.
Amy’s interest in science started in a hair salon. Her mother worked as a hairdresser, and the bottles of chemicals and beauty products that could change the structure and colour of her clients’ hair piqued her interest. Amy’s mother encouraged her, and when Amy was six she got her first chemistry set – even though she was too young to use it!
When Amy started school, her love of science came with her. Unfortunately, the symptoms of a medical condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome began to appear, which made the use of her hands more difficult. Amy was forced to miss large periods of school due to her poor health and frequent surgery, and despite tutoring to help her keep up she fell behind the other students in her year and received little support from her teachers.
Despite her difficult time at school, Amy managed to achieve good grades in her GCSEs, and began her A-levels. However, she found sixth form even more difficult:
“During my A-levels, when I began to struggle due to illness and the unsteady foundations from my lost school years, my teachers would not find the time to help me. When I tried to find them in the corridor (while I was on crutches) they would walk the other way and walk faster when they saw me.”
Amy left her school, and after a short time out of education she went to a different sixth form college where she took A-levels in all three sciences. At her new school she was able to rekindle her enjoyment of science, and chemistry was her favourite subject thanks to an inspiring teacher.
After completing her A-levels, Amy has moved on to the University of Greenwich to complete a degree in chemistry. Unlike at school, Amy feels that her university gives her the support that she needs due to her disability:
“Being a disabled student myself, I have found that the treatment I have received from my institution has been excellent; I have always been fully supported with my choices and given as many options as I can when it comes to facing particular challenges with my illness.”
Now in her final year, Amy is planning to continue with research after she graduates by studying for a PhD in medicinal chemistry, then to become a chemistry teacher.
Alongside her academic work, Amy has also set up her own charity with the aim of encouraging more women to study science. Called GlamSci, its aim is to encourage more young women to study science and technology. It’s a subject that Amy feels very passionate about after her own experiences at school, where she was told that pure science “wasn’t for girls”. Through her charity, Amy offers gives talks to support young girls interested in science and tips on university applications for A-level students, as well as live demonstrations to capture the imagination. Amy also hosts a blog on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s online chemistry community MyRSC, where she talks about her experiences as a chemistry student and the issues surrounding women and disabled people in science.
For Amy’s success in overcoming the barriers to her own progress, and her work to remove barriers to others, she was named London’s Adult Learner of the Year in 2014. For more information about the award, click on the link below.
Words by Stephen McCarthy
Images courtesy Amy King
Published July 2014