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Latest articles from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Dr. Chloe Robinson and I’m currently the project manager and postdoctoral fellow for the STREAM project, based at the University of Guelph in Canada. My work is a fantastic combination of science communication and DNA metabarcoding research. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I have always known that I wanted to work with animals and nature but I was never sure exactly what. I took a broad undergraduate degree (BSc Zoology) and an equally broad masters (MSc Environmental Biology) so I didn’t limit myself as to what I could go on to pursue as my career. I happened to give population genetics a try for my masters thesis and totally fell in love with DNA-based research. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? My true, non-cliché answer to this is… everything! I utterly love my job - the combination of working with the general public to collect data (in my case samples from a river), writing blogs for multiple platforms including the Methods in Ecology and Evolution journal and getting into the nitty gritty of DNA data analyses makes each and every day different and interesting. Ultimately, I love the variability of my job. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? So, during my PhD, I had a really rough time with anxiety, depression and imposter syndrome. Through this stressful, difficult time, I learnt how important it was to schedule in some time every day to do something I love (that isn’t work), to give a healthy outlet to that stress and doubt. This is when I decided to take up zumba and even now as a postdoc I am still doing zumba nearly every evening of the week - many a bad day has been danced out using zumba! 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? Hands down my role model has always been Dr. Ingrid Visser. As a pre-teen, I discovered Ingrid through my obsession with killer whales (orca) and she has truly been a huge inspiration to me. Her dedication, hard work and passion in the face of adversity inspired me and also seeing a woman conducting groundbreaking research in a field dominated by men was what encouraged me to pursue my dreams of working in ecology. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? The main piece of advice I would give my younger self would be to take a break - I most definitely burnt myself out towards the end of secondary school and during my PhD and didn’t have very much focus on looking after myself. I would say that careers in science (and yes, your career starts even in school) are a marathon not a sprint, and to go the distance you need to pace yourself and that means taking care of your mind and body. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Find yourself a role model; research them, read their papers/work and contact them if you can. Set yourself small, achievable goals along the way of where you want to end up; this will help motivate you and help stave off any imposter syndrome. Do what you love and if in doubt stay broad; finding what sets your soul on fire doesn’t happen overnight, so along the way keep your choices relatively broad so you can experience different concepts along the way. 8. How do you measure your success? As a postdoc, I should answer this question with ‘the number of papers I publish’, however personally I measure my success as how many people I can reach and positively impact with my research/results/science communication. I feel that successfully communicating complex scientific concepts to the public is so important for understanding and trust between researchers and communities. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? You can read more of my work on my personal website www.batacea.com and at the STREAM website www.STREAM-DNA.com . 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Yes indeed. My twitter is @cvrobinson92 and LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-robinson-phd-151879b7
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Elodie Chabrol, I was a researcher but I do science communication freelance now. I got my PhD in neuroscience in Paris and then moved to London for 2 postdocs, at University College London on the sciatic nerve repair and the 2nd postdoc on a new gene therapy against Epilepsy. My job now as a science communicator is to help science to be explained to the public correctly My specialties are science on Social media, oral presentations and managing big international events. a big part of my work (and my heart) is with the Pint of Science festival http://pintofscience.com/ I founded the French branch that I direct and I also direct the international component (the development, organisation and the communication) The principle of the festival? Get researchers in pubs to share their work with the public in a relaxed way, all the events simultaneously in May during 3 nights (in 2019 it was almost 3000 events in 3 nights in 400 cities!). I love my current job I got to do really amazing things like talking at great events and on national radio but also things like going to a Rocket launch and writing a book (in progress). 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? A mix of both, I always asked questions when I was a kid, especially “why”, so science was the perfect fit for me. I arrived in research because I wanted to teach and people advised me to do a PhD for that. My first day in the lab was a revelation, I loved everything about it. The way of thinking but also the experiments, I’ve always loved manual activities and I found some experiments relaxing even sometimes some kind of meditation when it’s a precise work to do. I also always loved talking to people and communication, so this job now is the perfect one for me. I realised after a few years in research that I love science communication so much that I should do that full time. It’s a big change but for the better for sure. And I was lucky I started Pint of Science while I was still a researcher and kept both “jobs” for almost 5 years; I could really try my new job literary for years before deciding to jump full time in science communication! The change wasn’t scary at all. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I love the energy of the people I work with and their passion. And also working on Pint of Science is amazing. We started as a small festival in 3 cities and this year it will be in 29 countries and probably around 600 cities. Having such an amazing project to organise is enough to get you out of bed any kind of day! Outside of Pint of Science I work for really cool clients and amazing projects so it’s easy to be motivated. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? When I’m in doubt I work even more, because I have to convince myself and others it will be OK. Starting Pint of science in France wasn’t easy. People were not believing in it at all because it was new and coming from UK (not a French thing), they always asked me “how do you know it will work?” and my answer was always the same: “because I’m going to make it work”. I think if you work with passion you share that around, people want to follow you and it’s quite contagious. When I have a peak of stress I drink a good cup of tea, put my favourite music up and sing as loud as I can! And also a very important moment for me every year: go on holidays “unplugged” with no signal and no social media for at least a week, usually I go hiking in the mountains! That break is always amazing for my brain. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I don’t have one role model but several from my days in the lab, the though women that managed to get a permanent researcher position and open their labs and the ones that are professors now. From my science communication point of view now all the great communicators. I love the people that can take you anywhere in their talks, that’s truly an art to be able to talk that well. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? Everything will be fine, and if you fail it will be a great lesson. I know it’s cliché advice but sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that in life you have multiple chances at being happy and successful and if something doesn’t work out chances are it was not supposed to and your heart might be better at something else even if at that time it feels like your world is falling apart.  7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Do what you enjoy no matter what people tell you, if you work with passion things will work so much better. If you fail, it’s OK to try again, it’s how we learn; No one manages from the first time, but they don’t always share those stories. Find peers that you can talk to and share struggles and happy moments with. 8. How do you measure your success? Success is hard to measure and a really personal thing I think, everyone has a different way to measure it.I measure my success now on how my work changes thing for people or make them happy and also how much I love doing it or not. When I get testimonials of Pint of Science attendees, speakers or teams that had a great time it’s the best for me. You also can find success in failure, if something didn’t work but you can learn why it didn’t, to make sure you are better next time that’s a successful fail! In science, I use to have a lot of those and they help you go forward step by step! 9. Where can we find out more about your work? elodiechabrol.com  and of course https://pintofscience.com/ 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Of course! Come and say Hi on twitter @elocha19 or LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/elodiechabrol/
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? I am Dr. Michelle Oyen, an Associate Professor of Engineering at East Carolina University. I teach engineering classes (mechanical, materials, biomedical) and do research on tissue engineering, biomaterials, and pregnancy. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? This is a “winding road” story! I decided when I was quite young (around 10 years old) that I wanted to be an engineer; like many young women who end up in STEM, this was in part due to strong parental encouragement. Although my father was not himself an engineer or scientist, he worked at a technical company on the business side and set me up with mentors from a young age. I went to Michigan State University to study engineering, thinking that I would get my bachelor’s degree and then maybe an MBA and go into technical management. But I started to do research as an undergrad, and that led to a fellowship application for grad school. It was at that point that I decided to shift gears slightly away from materials engineering into biomedical engineering. I started graduate school but it was not a straightforward path, and I even quit for a while and worked in industry before going back to finish my PhD. After finishing my PhD and a year as a postdoc in Virginia, from 2006-2018 I was in the equivalent position of a junior professor (their titles were “lecturer” then “reader”) at Cambridge University over in the UK. They were setting up their bioengineering program from scratch and I was one of the faculty members that helped set it up, including setting up new laboratories and teaching new classes. I really enjoyed the experience of living and working in another country, although it was at times really difficult. I came back to the US in 2018 when Brexit meant that things were changing a lot for researchers in the UK. I have been a professor in the US at East Carolina University (Engineering Dept.) since August of 2018. I never set out to be a professor, but I ended up pursuing this option because I love research and I really love working with students, teaching and mentoring them in the classroom, in small groups, and one-on-one. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? It is one of those clichés that have a grain of truth in them, that I love the idea of using engineering to help people. I am part of a small but growing community of researchers who have been using engineering techniques to study problems in pregnancy and childbirth, a vastly understudied subject. It’s not that I’m not interested in whiz-bang technology, I’m definitely a gadget person and I read all the tech news, but at the end of the day I love the fact that bioengineering has the very practical outcome of helping people with sometimes challenging medical problems—we approach problems in medicine with a different perspective from clinicians. Most people think of pregnancy as something that goes right most of the time, but actually it is an extremely complex process with many potential pitfalls. Some of them are obviously related to engineering, like premature birth that happens when the amniotic sac ruptures prior to full term gestation—that’s a physical fracture mechanics problem that we have been studying. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I have a group of friends who are also professors and who started their first jobs in this funny academic world around the same time as I started mine at Cambridge. We tend to plan to be at the same research conferences to catch up and even design research projects that we can do to collaborate together even though we’re not at the same university. It’s always best to have work-related people around you that are your real-life friends too. Living in Europe also taught me the value of vacations—it really does help to take a real break a few times a year, no smartphone, no laptop, and to read a few old-fashioned books! 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? My historical role model is Lillian Gilbreth, the first female electee to the National Academy of Engineering ( https://www.nae.edu/30684/Lillian-M-Gilbreth ). She is a fascinating historical character as well as a truly groundbreaking woman in STEM, and engineering in particular. More recently, I’ve admired astronaut Mae Jemison, the General Motors CEO Mary Barra, and recent Nobel laureate Frances Arnold, all of whom have an engineering background. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? Things seem like disasters sometimes when they are not really life-or-death situations, because I have that type A personality that takes everything really seriously. So I would tell my young self to check whether something really was a life-or-death situation, and if not, to chill out a little! 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Speak up and don’t be shy! It’s easy to be a wallflower when you’re the only woman in the room. Do what YOU want to do with your life, not what other people tell you that you SHOULD want to do. Find a support network of peers that you can talk with honestly about both the good and the challenges of your career and your work-life balance. 8. How do you measure your success? In STEM academia, this is relatively easy as everything we do is quantified: number of papers published, number of research students supervised, classes taught, teaching scores, etc. So for better or for worse, most of what I do gets quantified in some way. This is both gratifying and motivating—it’s fun to see progress as numbers build up over the years, but also humbling to compare yourself to the true STEM “rock stars” out there! 9. Where can we find out more about your work? My website http://oyenlab.org is never updated as often as I’d like, but I tweet a lot at @michelleoyen about my research interests, issues to do with women in STEM, and global migration challenges for 21st century scientists, amongst other topics. 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Twitter @michelleoyen LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-oyen-577389a/?originalSubdomain=uk Website: http://www.oyenlab.org/
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Dr. Marley Caballero Van Dyke, I have a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology with an emphasis in Medical Mycology. I’m currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at Northern Arizona University in Bridget Barker’s laboratory. My research currently focuses on Coccidioides, the fungal organism that causes Valley Fever. This fungal organism is a Biosafety Level 3 organism which means it requires high containment research and more personal protective equipment is required while conducting research (see picture below). My work focuses on understanding host pathogenesis across species of Coccidioides. My goal is to have my own laboratory where I can focus on developing a broad-spectrum vaccine against multiple fungal pathogens and mentor the next generation of scientists. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? My undergraduate studies started at a community college in my hometown Waco, TX. I knew I wanted to do something in the sciences; however, I changed my major many times from radiology to physics/physicist. I had an amazing biology instructor, Professor Stephanie Randell, at McLennan Community College. She introduced me to the book The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. I knew from then on I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to do research on infectious diseases. No one in my family was a scientist so I had to figure out my path on my own. I moved to Houston for my Bachelor of Science degree and attended the University of Houston - Clear Lake. The major reason I attended this school was cost. It was one of the cheapest universities to get a Bachelor of Science in Texas. During my undergraduate studies, I got to experience my first hands-on research experience in Galveston, TX at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) as a SURP, summer undergraduate research program, student. Over the summer, I got to study Chagas disease and I fell in love with research. After my Bachelor of Science degree, I furthered my training in infectious disease research by participating in an extremely competitive program, the PREP, Post-Baccalaureate Research and Education Program, at UTMB. This was a year long program and my project focused on the susceptibility of mouse macrophages and dendritic cells to infection with La Crosse Virus. This experience solidified my choice to continue infectious disease research and obtain my PhD. I got my PhD at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) where I found my love of medical mycology in the laboratory of Floyd Womley Jr. My project focused on the potential to develop a broad-spectrum vaccine against Cryptococcus. It took me 5.5 years to complete my PhD and I decided to stay in the medical mycology field for my current post doctoral studies. Now I’m studying the fungal organism Coccidioides in Flagstaff, Arizona at Northern Arizona University. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I’m constantly learning something new and improving my skill set. Every day poses a new challenge and I never get bored. Little is known about the fungal organism I work on and every new piece of data I finish is truly new information in the field. Also, my current mentor Bridget Barker truly gives me creative freedom and I enjoy our projects and our discussions about not only science but life. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I try my best to work 8-5pm Monday through Friday. I take evenings off to relax and spend time with my family. I love playing video games, watching a movie (Big Star Wars fan), or reading a fiction book. Each of these help me take my mind completely away from science and help my mind refresh. Additionally, I have a 3 year old daughter named Attlee and I love taking her to a local park so we both can refresh and enjoy the outdoors. Recent Story: I just recently submitted a grant while also getting an oral presentation ready to present in front of the whole department, and finish experiments before winter break. I took those three really hard and intense weeks one day at a time and I learned to say “no” to other request so I could focus on my tasks at hand. I always prioritize and focus on one or two items a day. For example, I would write from 8am-12pm, take a lunch, then head to the lab from 1-5pm. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I never had just one main role model. I’ve had many role models in my life along the way. When I was little, I was very interested in space. I really looked up to Albert Einstein. As I grew older, I started reading Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku. Then, after reading The Hot Zone I really looked up to the scientists in the book particularly C.J. Peters. I didn’t hear too much about women scientists growing up but nowadays new role models are coming to light in entertainment such as the movie Hidden Figures (Katherine Johnson) and Twitter. I follow many women scientists in my field as well as other fields that I look up to. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I would go back to my 2nd-3rd year PhD and tell myself to keep pushing forward. All the failed experiments will eventually work out. Your writing skills get better as you keep writing. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to apply for things you don’t think you qualify for. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? My top number 1 tip: always apply for multiple opportunities. You never know which one will take you towards your future career path. I didn’t get into graduate school the first time but did get into a one year post-baccalaureate fellowship and I loved every minute of it. Also, I didn’t think I wanted to do mycology research but after doing a lab rotation I knew it was the right fit for me. Tip 2: It’s ok to say “I don’t know.” It is impossible to know everything. Don’t pretend to know everything. Tip 3: Be yourself. Academia may take you to many cities and you meet many people. Always be yourself. 8. How do you measure your success? I used to think my success was only about the amount of knowledge I knew. Rather, I’ve realized my success can be measured by the way I utilize my current knowledge to answer scientific questions, create new scientific questions, troubleshoot experiments, and create/design new experiments. Each of these are vital to writing scientific papers and getting grants. Which is the typical measure of success in the sciences. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? Here is my google scholar page with all my papers:  https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&authuser=1&user=QvRcg_sAAAAJ If there is a paper someone is interested in reading and they don’t have access, send me an email: Marley.Van-Dyke@nau.edu . 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? My Twitter handle: FantasticYeasts https://twitter.com/FantasticYeasts Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marleyz28
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? Hello there! My name is Stephanie Bazeley and I work as a programmer for Team Junkfish, an independent game developer company based in Dundee, Scotland.  2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? To be completely honest I almost went to study veterinary science but an open day at Abertay University made me change my mind! I always liked playing the odd video game, but had never thought of it as a career path until that moment. I met some amazing people during the 4 year course and we went on to start our very own games company after graduation; it was an awful lot of hard work but very much worth it!!  3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Getting to work with an amazing and inspiring team on something truly unique and fun.  4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Making games can be very stressful but it is so rewarding. When the team gets down, I like to read out a positive review or email a fan has sent us thanking us for making great games or just telling us how excited they are for our next game. Comments and reviews like that make all the hard work worth it! :)  My own personal cure for stress is a nice cup of tea and bubbly bath followed by a good movie with friends.  5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? Amy Hennig!! She is truly amazing and has been 1 of my biggest inspirations for quite some time. Her work is astounding and every talk she has done has been extremely helpful and motivational - thank you, Amy!  6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? Every programmer will use Google or some search engine for help. You can’t be expected to remember everything, so don’t worry over that.  7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what you are truly passionate about If you are struggling, there is help everywhere, especially online, so reach out as there are plenty of amazing people out there who are willing to help you out No one knows everything, it is impossible, so don’t feel intimidated!    8.  How do you measure your success? Success is always hard to measure as it is different from person to person, but I personally like to measure it by how happy I currently am, how much I am enjoying what I'm working on, and the happiness I get from seeing people play the games I have developed. When they say really nice things or notice all the small details and hard work that went into creating them - it is an amazing feeling. If 1 person noticed and enjoyed it, that counts as a success to me! :)  9.  Where can we find out more about your work? You can see all the cool things I have worked on via the Team Junkfish website or Twitter:  https://www.teamjunkfish.com/  https://twitter.com/TeamJunkfish   10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?   Always happy to help and answer any questions anyone might have! :) I am mostly social on my Twitter, find me at:  https://twitter.com/StephersJF
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? I’m Dr Dani Barrington. I teach and research on topics related to sanitation and health (think toilets and menstruation). I work with organisations all over the world, including other universities, governments, social enterprises and NGOs. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I always wanted to do something “useful” with my life, to make the world a little bit better in some small way. I studied Environmental Engineering and Chemistry as an undergraduate student, followed by a PhD in Environmental Engineering. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Believing that something I do might improve someone’s life in a big or small way. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Chocolate and my dog! 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I have many. Mostly they are happy people who I see doing kickass things at work whilst also balancing their time with their family. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? Don’t sweat the small stuff. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Do what interests you Take every opportunity Realise that haters gonna hate, so shake it off... 8. How do you measure your success? By my happiness 9. Where can we find out more about your work? Via the “Publications” section of my LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danibarrington/ (this includes blog posts and videos, not just academic papers) 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Twitter: @Dani_Barrington
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