Heather Williams


We have talked about ScienceGrrl and discovered how this network of enthusiastic and inspirational women scientists is working to promote their passion for science. But who inspired them and what are their stories? The Reaction will feature some of the people involved in this interesting project, starting with Heather Williams, founder and Director of ScienceGrrl.

Heather, how did you get into science?
I did enjoy enjoyed science at schools, but when I was 16 I did a work experience with a friend of my father who was medical physicist, and that was what really made me realise what I wanted to be. I could see the science applied in practice, and I was fascinated with medical imaging and Nuclear Medicine imaging in particular. I saw the role the physicists play in medicine and how their work affects the patient. So, I became one of those annoying people who know what they want to do at 16!

And you became a medical physicist yourself…
I did, I still work on Nuclear Medicine imaging. I am now employed by the NHS and I provide scientific support to the Nuclear Medicine Centre at Central Manchester University Hospitals. I specialise in Positron Emission Tomography, which was the subject of my PhD. Basically my job deals with non-invasive and painless way of diagnosing a variety of diseases; I work to make sure the imaging equipment is safe for patients and reliable for doctors.

What do you do to inspire the next generation of scientists?
I have overseen work experience placements in the hospital, I am a STEM Ambassador and I have been involved in many career events. The most rewarding experience is when you talk to young people about how exciting science is and you witness what I call the ‘light bulb’ moment, when they realise what they can one day want to do it for living. So even before ScienceGrrl, I have been involved with science communication activities. Talking about my life as a scientist is what I like best after being one!

And now Science Grrl…
Everything started in reaction to the teaser video to the EC campaign ‘Science:it’s a girl thing!’ We all thought that was not the way to approach the issue: that video merely replaced one stereotype (of scientists) with another (of women). We wanted to show real people that do real science. And we ended up creating the ScienceGrrl 2013 Calendar.

Which month are you in calendar?
May. The picture was taken by Naomi Goggin in the PETCT Suite of the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre, University of Manchester, surrounded by people representing the expertise needed for research using medical imaging. A real scientist doing her real work. In the photo with me there are Hamied Haroon, postdoctoral reserach associate at the University of Manchester; Karen Fuller, medical physicis and radiation Protection Adviser in hospitals around South Yorkshire, Sarah Skeoch, medical doctor and PhD candidate in translational medicine at the University of Manchester;and Dame Professor Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of University of Manchester and President of the Society of Biology.

photo credit ScienceGrrl/Naomi Goggin

ScienceGrrl May2013

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