Talk: Why study STEM?

Wednesday 25th January 2023

On Tuesday 17th January, Leonora Clift came to the College to give a talk about some of the interesting places STEM can take you, with some focus on encouraging more girls at Marlborough into STEM.

Leonora has had a very varied career and has an inspiring life story: after coming to the UK as a refugee from Kosovo aged 12, she worked weekends and then full time to support her family. In her mid-20s, once her English improved, Leonora went to university to study Engineering. Using this degree, she worked in the army for nine years as a geospatial engineer, including with the special forces, and as a civilian in many projects ranging from government work to the renewable sector. All this whilst training to be an Olympic weightlifter!

We were privileged to hear about a few of the projects that Leonora worked on during her career. For example, how lasers can be used to produce a 3D map of an enemy site, which soldiers can use to familiarise themselves with the battleground. Another completely different project was one which mapped out the areas most at risk from an eruption on a volcanic island using lava flow patterns and proximity and ease of access to emergency shelters. It was really refreshing to hear applications of STEM in sometimes unexpected fields, and hopefully this may have inspired some members of the audience to pursue STEM at A level, and even university.

Leonora mentioned her experience as a woman in a male dominated field, and reassured pupils that for the vast majority of her career this has not affected her progress, although at times has been challenging, especially as a female engineer in the army. She also encouraged the boys in the audience to be supportive and aware of any discrimination which may occur, using the example of Marie Curie and her co-researcher and husband, Pierre Curie.

After talking about her experiences as a refugee seeking asylum in the UK, and what she didn’t realise at the time were extremely challenging circumstances, Leonora left us with an important message for any Marlburian, not just one interested in STEM. She told us to make sure we really appreciate the school we are at and make the most of the amazing opportunities that come with it. We tend to get sucked into the busy schedule of school and not appreciate how lucky we are, and to be reminded of this by such an inspiring woman who has achieved so much was a great way to end the talk.

Review by Charlotte G

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