Inspiring young people to explore the wonders of science is vital if we are to grow the next generation of great minds that will take the world forwards. As a fledgling member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Ella White, a science and technology technician at Gosfield School in Halstead, is keen to make sure that chemistry gets the attention it deserves.
“To be truly honest, I got into chemistry by accident really,” explains Ella. “I was that kid who was constantly saying, ‘I want to be a doctor.’ But when it came down to it and I was applying for university, I didn’t get any offers. Realising I couldn’t do medicine, I ended up going through clearing and was on the phone to Queen Mary’s University. They had a place on their chemistry course. I loved chemistry at A level, so I went for it. And I’m so glad I did!
“Chemistry is seen as a difficult subject but actually it’s very logical and methodical. I like that it just makes sense. I was also lucky enough to have some incredible teachers along the way. They motivated me to take it further.”
Ella then went on to Imperial College London where she completed a Master’s degree in catalysis chemistry and engineering. But it wasn’t until just after she graduated in late 2019 that she was inspired to join the Royal Society of Chemistry.
“I knew I wanted to go on and do a PhD but I decided to take a gap year first and think carefully about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. It was also a great chance to get some practical job experience. While searching for a role, I stumbled across the RSC website. I knew of the organisation previously because I had friends that were members. When I saw all of the work that they do in terms of outreach – something I’d been involved with at university and really enjoyed – that’s what really drew me in. I jumped at the chance to join.
“I did a couple of great events with the RSC as a STEM ambassador, but sadly all the ones I’ve wanted to volunteer for recently have been postponed due to Covid-19. But public engagement is something I’m passionate about and want to pursue further in the future with the RSC. When children see chemistry experiments in real life it gets them excited about science, that’s the key."
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The job hunt turned out to be a successful one when Ella found her perfect role as a technician at a local school, helping give pupils the hands-on experience that she is so passionate about.
“You have to do a million things in one day, making sure the students have everything they need for their experiments. It’s a great job! I especially like working with the team there, they’re a fantastic group of teachers. Plus, I get to do what I love every day – the hands-on chemistry, doing the reactions.
“Practical science is so important for students in terms of engaging them with science and getting them interested from an early age. A two hour lesson of theory can be quite exhausting and it’s difficult to keep the attention of the class. A practical breaks things up, it’s fun and interesting. They can apply the theory and see how it works in real life.
“The school goes up to sixth form and as I’m fresh out of uni it’s great to be able to speak to the students about my experiences. I hope I can inspire them just like my teachers did for me!”
In order to strengthen her qualifications further, Ella recently applied to become a Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) with the RSC, an independent recognition of professional excellence in the field.
“One of the PhD students I used to speak to at university brought the award to my attention and after looking into it some more I realised that it would be really useful to me. The application process was really good, very easy to follow.
“Becoming an RSciTech is a brilliant recognition of the on-the-job experience and skills I’ve gained, even though I’m a first time technician. It shows how dedicated I am to the role.”
It’s early days for Ella’s career in chemistry and she has a lot she wants to achieve in the future. “My current role has reinforced my passion for outreach. I want to continue my work as a RSC STEM ambassador so that I can help out a lot more once we can have face-to-face events again.
“I know I’ll definitely be making use of the career support that the RSC offers for interview practice and CV writing. After my PhD I would love to do something in industry. I honestly love being in a lab, I’ve missed it so much during lockdown. Sustainability is a massive interest of mine, I’d like to develop greener fuels and alternatives to plastics, that’s the dream.”