STEM brings together individuals from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths to collaborate on innovative projects that will help solve some of the biggest problems facing our society. STEM professionals pose questions and push boundaries but without a diverse STEM community, the same questions are asked over and over and the outcomes of a project may only benefit certain groups.
We want the next generation of STEM professionals to be more diverse that the one before. Read about our fantastic student societies oSTEM, BEaMS and WISE and check out the links to external organisations working hard to improve representation in STEM for future generations.
oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at the University of Birmingham is a society dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ students who either study or have an interest in STEM subjects. We welcome undergraduates and postgraduates from across the University and organise a range of events. We run LGBTQ+ speaker events throughout the year as well as our annual conference: STEM, LGBTQ and You. At the conference, we invite a range of LGBTQ+ speakers to talk about their experiences, advice, and insights as a member of the LGBTQ+ community involved in STEM. Our social events include weekly coffee socials, weekly quizzes, and watch parties!
oSTEM provides the opportunity to meet and connect with like-minded LGBTQ+ students in STEM. oSTEM at the University of Birmingham is just one chapter of the wider oSTEM organisation, a non-profit professional association for LGBTQ+ people in the STEM community with chapters all across the US, Canada and the UK.
Read about some of our members
Nia- 2nd Year Mathematics and Philosophy
As a bisexual woman, I have often felt like I don't belong in STEM. I found that maths classes and exams in school weren't normally designed for people who thought like me; there was such an emphasis on speed, and merely learning how to answer exam questions without a full and well rounded understanding of the topic we were studying.
Without reassurance and encouragement from an excellent maths teacher I had in sixth form, I very much doubt I would have had the confidence to pursue maths at university. Now, a year and a half later, I can confidently say that studying maths at university was absolutely the right decision for me. I have loved it so far and I really want to encourage anyone reading this that you absolutely can pursue STEM subjects in university and beyond, regardless of your background or identity.
While studying maths at university, I have had some amazing opportunities to connect with others who, like me, may not feel like the typical STEM student. I joined oSTEM in my first year of university, and within it I have made some amazing friends and found a real sense of community. I am currently the outreach officer for the University of Birmingham oSTEM chapter, and so far it has been such a rewarding experience. For example, I've had the opportunity to help organise oSTEM's annual conference: 'STEM, LGBTQ and You'.
I think that diversity in STEM is so important. Every field benefits immeasurably from having a diverse range of voices, and this is particularly important in STEM as the effect of its historical lack of diversity still impacts the field to this day.
Diversity in STEM is important to me personally because I don't want anyone to be discouraged from pursuing something they are passionate about for fear of not fitting in. It is my hope that if students who perhaps don't fit the stereotypical profile of a STEM student, see that there are people in STEM like them, they will be encouraged to continue with STEM in higher education without such apprehension.
No one should ever feel that STEM is inaccessible to them!
Jessica- 3rd Year Physics and Astrophysics
Hi! I’m Jessica (she/her) and I’m an out and proud transgender woman and queer. I came out while at university, and while this was a scary process, there is always massive support from staff, other students and the guild. Even seeing small things has made a big difference to how I feel included in university, such as people including pronouns in their Zoom display names.
Diversity in STEM (and everywhere else) is hugely important to me. It shows people like me that there are others like me out there, striving for and achieving the same things I’m aiming for, and that it is possible. In a less aspirational context, there is still generally risk to me in public interacting with new people who may turn hateful. When I know that other queer or transgender people are around, it gives me an extra level of comfort to speak up, ask questions and interact with academia. There are still circles I interact with where I’m really the only transgender person (that I know of), so I try to be as proudly trans as I can in these so others know it’s ok and safe to be themselves.
My degree covers a wide range of geoscience topics but I have a current love of magma and structural geology. My favourite part of studying at Birmingham would definitely be the lab work. We have a well equipped lab where we first years get to identify minerals and take cute pictures of what we’re studying under the microscopes. University can be a way more accommodating place than you might expect. During her very first session, one of my module leads had her pronouns as part of her name on Zoom. She explained how she did it to support transgender and nonbinary students so they felt more comfortable stating their preferred pronouns. A few weeks later, I felt safe to come out and change my pronouns.
I have joined multiple societies which helps me feel more connected to other students, especially my fellow LGBTQ+ students. oSTEM hosted an amazing networking event where I got to listen to inspiring LGBTQ+ professionals give talks on their experiences on a fun conference-hosting platform. At university, you have the opportunity to be bold and make the world reflect you.
Diversity in STEM is important. We need open acknowledgement of queer learners and professionals to make STEM more welcoming to the future generations. Being LGBTQ+ in STEM can feel daunting but there is no better feeling than finding others in STEM just like you.
Find out more about oSTEM on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram. You can also contact them by email using: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about the wider oSTEM organisation on their website.
BEaMS is a student society at the University of Birmingham, here to represent Black, Ethnic and Minority Scientists. We're here to create a network of BME students across the different schools and provide a safe space for scientists of colour. We also aim to provide support, improve the BME student experience, and advocate for equality and diversity in the sciences.
The society regularly hosts employability workshops to give minority students the opportunity to interact, engage, network and receive instrumental advice from successful professionals in the industry. We also organise several events such as games nights, movie nights and fun socials to keep our members engaged.
We have also been vital in connecting EPS students to different opportunities including a mentorship opportunity with senior employees from Rolls Royce. Over the last 2 years, we have won the Diversity and Inclusion Award and the Outstanding Event Award at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Award Ceremony. The Outstanding Event Award was won for the Equal in STEM event in collaboration with WISE and oSTEM.
Read about some of our members
Laura- 4th Year Mathematics with Study in Continental Europe
Laura is the BEaMS Outreach Officer for the academic year 2020/2021. Laura was originally involved in the start-up of the BEaMS society in 2018 and on her return to UoB, after completing her year abroad, she was passionate to continue to support BEaMS on their mission to better the experience and opportunities for ethnic minority scientists studying at the university. Laura has been a key member of BEaMS this year and acts as the main point of contact between the School of Mathematics and the BEaMS society.
Following a meeting between BEaMS and Generating Genius, Laura applied for and obtained a position on the Black Women into Tech programme ran by Generating Genius. The programme provided her with insights into possible future career paths, mentorship opportunities and also, opportunities to apply for graduate roles and internships. After being shortlisted by Generating Genius to apply for and thus attend the Empowering Black Futures: Consultancy Taster 2.0 with Accenture, Laura was invited to an assessment centre and went on to secure a graduate role with Accenture as a Consulting Analyst.
As well as her work within BEaMS, Laura is the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the School of Mathematics and is actively trying to help the school to create a more inclusive environment for all students studying mathematics. This academic year she ran the MathsXBEaMS event which was a huge success and has inspired the School of Maths to host similar events in the future. Laura is continuously looking for new and innovative ways to make university a fun and positively life-changing opportunity for all.
Omar- 2nd Year Computer Science
As a tech-savvy child, Omar was always reading about any new technologies being invented, so he logically started to program at the age of 14. Eventually, he chose to follow a degree in Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. He is currently developing a social network/safety app that aims to help people meet and get home safe.
Omar joined BEaMS in September 2019, as a committee member, he helped organise events such as Dinner with BEaMs and the Psychometric Test Workshop. This year, he’s the social media officer so handles all social media and event marketing.
Foday- 3rd Year Chemical Engineering
Foday is is the Co-President of BEaMS who has led by example and inspired others to do more. After successfully filling the role as Vice-President, he was thrust into a demanding but fulfilling position to continue increasing student engagement levels and drive the need for diverse and inclusive events within the EPS community. Foday has been instrumental in developing new networking initiatives to expand the BEaMS alumni and industrial connections.
Foday has been able to balance his commitments and worked tirelessly during the pandemic. He has been the battery fuelling the spirits of members and an excellent role model, who’ve shown resilience to provide inclusive and diverse events to engage new members.
Learn more about BEaMS on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter (@Beams_uob) or Instagram (beams_uob) to find out more.
WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) is a student led society based at the University of Birmingham. With the aim of promoting and supporting women in STEM, the society strives to create an inclusive environment that's filled with equal opportunities for all. WISE is dedicated to providing outreach to those that want it and takes pride in our award-winning scheme based in the local area. Before COVID-19, WISE worked in multiple schools with our incredible volunteers, providing extracurricular science activities. The society believes ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and aims to provide a diverse set of role-models to inspire the next generation of women in STEM.
Read about their members
Paige- 4th Year Physics and Astronomy
I have always had a great interest in space, most of which was fuelled by my own research due to the lack of taught astronomy material. However, I never thought it held any true career opportunities. During my first year of college, I realised that astrophysics was a degree that I could complete and that the space sector was an important industry filled with a vast number of job prospects. Physics is an immense subject area and the space sector is even bigger - there’s something for everyone and the sense of community and teamwork is extraordinary. I haven’t looked back!
The STEM community is a huge, interdisciplinary field and people from all backgrounds are needed to contribute to the conversation. Without diversity, new discoveries and research cannot be made. A major part of all STEM subjects is the ability to discuss new areas and bounce ideas off other people - this is not helpful or constructive if every person is exactly the same.
Any advice for people interested in STEM?
Talk to your teachers, ask questions, chat to your friends, follow STEM accounts on social media - surround yourself with like minded people and enjoy the social side of science! Many people think that STEM subjects are filled with endless hours of studying and lab work and often forget that there’s a whole group of people that you can join. It’s a fantastic space to grow as a person and meet new friends, as well as learning about a subject that you’re interested in!
Zayna- 2nd Year Materials Science and Engineering
My favourite school subjects were maths and physics because I loved problem solving and was always up for a challenge. Also, physics was so interesting! It was the only lesson where I got to learn about such a wide range of things, from stars bigger than the earth to the infinitesimal particles that constitute matter. From there, materials science and engineering was a natural choice as it was the perfect blend of theory and practice: I could continue to learn about the abstract, theoretical concepts that underpin the universe, as well as use my problem-solving skills to tackle real life issues in the world today.
Diversity of people breeds diversity of thought. STEM is a discipline that relies on people and teamwork: advancements in scientific research, for example, are a result of multiple academics combining their various expertise and perspectives to produce an innovative solution. So, I think more diversity, particularly the progression of females in STEM, is essential in generating new, creative ways of thinking to continue to push the boundaries of research in science and technology. WISE’s outreach programme allowed me to connect with and inspire younger female pupils to pursue STEM at higher education, which was really rewarding!
Any advice for people interested in STEM?
In terms of pursuing STEM at higher education, my biggest advice is research! Visit university open days and chat to current students to get an insider’s view on the course and daily life – this will give you a deep understanding and will yield answers you just can’t find on Google! For those interested in STEM as a career, I’d really recommend the University’s Careers Network. I’ve subscribed to their mailing list, so I’m always the first to hear of any relevant work experience opportunities, which are so important in helping you land your desired job!
Ayokunmi- 1st Year Mathematics and Computer Science
I chose to study a STEM subject as I have always been drawn to them as I had amazing teachers in secondary school who encouraged me to pursue STEM. I knew I wanted to study mathematics past A level but I also wanted to do something in tech as I enjoy coding.
STEM is so broad; I’m on the T(technology) and M(mathematics) part of it and that in itself is very broad - the career prospects you get from having a STEM degree is also a good bonus!
Diversity in everything is essential and STEM is no different. I think the impact of representation and what it does for the younger generation is often overlooked. We need voices from a variety of people as we all have different experiences - my experience as a black woman and how STEM relates to me would be entirely different from that of someone from a different race and/or gender. There is no way we can move forward if everyone is the same, we would just end up building an echo chamber and create things that only work for a certain group of people. I want black girls to know that there is space for us in STEM! If STEM is something you are genuinely interested in, go for it!
Any advice for people interested in STEM?
Go to insight days and taster courses to see what area of STEM you are interested in. Look for people that are interested in STEM as well and talk to them - this could range from people on social media to your friends. I know it seems scary and hard, but you will be taught these things - it was all foreign to us too until we learnt!
To keep up to date with WISE visit their website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
As part of their award-winning outreach work, WISE has created an Experiment at Home Laboratory Book for students to learn more about different areas of STEM and work through some tasks.
WISE Virtual Outreach Booklet – Accessible online version (DOCX – 1899KB)
WISE Virtual Outreach Booklet – Downloadable version (PDF – 3290KB)
Contact WISE via their website to find out more about their outreach work and how they could work with you or your school.
We run outreach events on campus for girls to attend to inspire them to study STEM subjects at A-Level and beyond. Our Forge Your Future event for Year 10 girls takes place in April and we also run Girls in STEM in September for Year 9 girls. For more information on these events please contact the Outreach & Schools Liaison Officer.
There are many external organisations working hard to create a more diverse STEM community, visit their websites to learn more about the work they do: