Laura-Alexandra Smith

Laura-Alexandra Smith is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Project Development for Science Connects.

BSc (Hons) Food, Nutrition and Health, 2014

What does your current job involve?

My current role is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)Project Development for Science Connects.

I am part of a team who deliver the STEM Ambassador program in the west of Scotland. STEM Ambassadors are volunteers from academia and industry. My role is very varied; I develop trainings for the STEM Ambassadors and ensure they are prepared before going out to schools.

I engage with multinational companies to encourage them to become part of the STEM Ambassador scheme, and help teachers with their yearly STEM engagement plans.

I have been very fortunate to work closely with lobbyist organizations, attend conferences and decision-making meetings at a parliamentary level.

As well as my day-to-day job, over the last few years I have been interviewed for a Radio 4 program on faddy diets as the fact-checking expert. I have also been sent to France with the British Council to teach school pupils how to do science presentations in English.

Since leaving Abertay, describe your journey to your current job?

I started working with Science Connects part-time at the end of my fourth year and went on to work full time after graduating. My role has changed over the years depending on the needs of the contract. This has allowed me to grow and take ownership of my career development.

How did your Abertay degree help you get where you are? 

As part of my third year I undertook a placement. The placement scheme was invaluable and helped me advance as I gained real life experience working for ten weeks to compliment my degree.

During my placement, I worked as a Health and Wellbeing Development Officer at a local authority based at Education HQ.

This gave me a real sense of how local authorities engage with communities and how education is delivered on an authority-wide level.

I had the opportunity to interact with elected members of the local authority, Education Scotland, Sports Scotland the NHS Community Healthcare Partnership, and others. I was expected to behave and deliver deadlines, like any employee, and because of that I never felt like 'just a student!'

The placement scheme was invaluable and helped me advance as I gained real life experience working for ten weeks to compliment my degree.
Laura-Alexandra Smith | Science Connects | STEM Project Development

Who had the most impact on your Abertay experience?

 The biggest impact from my Abertay experience has to be the friends I made on my course. It was truly amazing meeting like-minded individuals who are now friends for life.

Also as someone with Spatial Dysgraphia, the support I received from the student center was unparalleled.

What are your lasting memories of Abertay/Dundee?

My most memorable moment was when a fellow student and I set up the Food Science and Nutrition Society. The week before Christmas, a colleague and I walked around Abertay collecting money to donate to the Dundee Food Bank, which was run in tandem with the food donation box in the union. Due to the generosity of the staff and students we raised £300 for the food bank in just a few hours.

Why do you think encouraging STEM to younger people is so important? 

The Industrial Strategy produced by BEIS highlights the skill shortages we face in the UK over the next few years. Because of this it is important we continue to promote STEM roles as an appealing option. There has been some fantastic research produced from King's College London on Science Capital.

Science Capitalcan be defined as sum of all the science-related knowledge, attitudes, experiences and resources that an individual builds up through their life.

It is my opinion is we need to contextualize what STEM and STEM jobs actually are in a modern context to everyone, not just young people.

What advice would you give to students?

Ensure you are able to do some volunteering, or something complementary along side your studies.

I have been a STEM Ambassador since third year of university, and it has helped me to gain confidence and develop my "soft skills" alongside my academic studies.

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