Dr. Sarah Beardsley

Introductions – STFC and iWiS


Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Space Scientist and TV Presenter

Reaching for the Stars – The Power of a Crazy Dream

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist and science communicator. She studied at Imperial College London, where she obtained her degree in Physics and her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. She has spent her career making novel, bespoke instrumentation in both the industrial and academic environments.

To further share her passion for science, Maggie founded “Science Innovation Ltd”. Through this she conducts public engagement activities, sharing her love of space. To date Maggie directly spoken to over 350,000 people around the world. As well as public speaking. She is an author and TV presenter and co-hosts the world’s longest-running science television program “The Sky at Night”.


Dr. Zara Randriamanakoto, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, South African Astronomical Observatory

Beating the odds while reaching for the stars

My academic journey saw its major turning point when I enrolled as a BSc Honours in Space Science at the University of Cape Town. Both challenges and opportunities helped me shape my professional career, beating the odds to become a trailblazer in my research field.

Unfortunately, not all women in STEM that are based in Madagascar have such a similar exciting journey. Malagasy women are unfortunately underrepresented in STEM fields where they constitute only 30% of STEM graduates. Thanks to Ikala STEM, a women-led non-profit organization whose mission is to empower the next generation of Malagasy Women in STEM, around 350 women scientists across four continents work together to inspire and provide role models to the future generation.

Originally from Madagascar, Zara Randriamanakoto is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the South African Astronomical Observatory after having successfully conducted a three-year postdctoral research fellowship at the Astronomy department of the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She received her PhD in Astronomy from the same university. Her research interests focus on multi-wavelength observations of young massive star clusters and the search of dying radio galaxies.

Zara was recently awarded the prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO 2020 FWIS Sub-Saharan Africa Young Talent Prize and the Mail & Guardian 2021 search for the Top 200 Young South Africans. She is also the co-founder and communication officer of Ikala STEM. It is a nonprofit organization that connects together about 350 women scientists across four continents to inspire and support Malagasy girls and women to consider a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Zara is also the Early Career Representative Officer and Board member of the relaunched African Astronomical Society (AfAS) which is the primary panafrican organization representing professional astronomers from across the continent.




Dr. Maryam Rab, Director REMU South Asia, British Council

STEM Education in Pakistan – Moving away from pigeonholes

Countries throughout the world have struggled to engage women in STEM subjects. There is a global realisation that science, technology, and innovation are central for a more sustainable and prosperous future. In many countries in South Asia, and in the UK, women’s participation in higher education has equalled or surpassed men’s in recent years. However, this trend is not reflected in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. Women are therefore less likely to pursue careers in STEM subjects – arguably this creates an endless cycle as there is therefore a dearth of role models for young women interested in science, technology, engineering, and maths.

This session will narrate the lived experience of social science researcher, focusing on Pakistan. It is broadly divided into three sections – One reflects on the women and girls’ access to education in Pakistan – covering basic education, higher education and STEM education. The purpose is to give an understanding to the audience about the on-ground situation in Pakistan.

The second section will focus on my doctoral research focussing on Women in Science in Higher Education as academics. Sharing the narrative from the life stories of women professors in Pakistan with the focus on women’s perspective on struggle, support and success in their careers.
The third section will be an insight on way forward based on two pieces of research which British Council in Pakistan conducted – ‘Female Participation in STEM Subjects’ and ‘The university research system in Pakistan’. Both the studies look at the whole spectrum from education to employment in the sector.

Dr. Maryam Rab has worked in the public service sector in Pakistan for over 20 years in different capacities. Her experience varies from teaching to research and management in higher education. She has a master’s degree in Education Management from King’s College London and has done her Doctorate in Education from the Institute of Education, UCL, London UK.

Dr. Rab was a member of the four-person team which established the Fatima Jinnah University- the first ever women’s university in Pakistan. Here, she held different portfolios and her last position was of Registrar
of the University. She is a certified trainer and mentor for women in higher education leadership and management. She has been actively engaged as a campaigner for women empowerment in South Asia. Her expertise is in international collaborations and partnerships in higher education, programme management. Her research focus is education, inclusion, women and leadership. Dr. Rab has also published research focusing on experiences of international students, women as role models and other related areas.

Since 2013, Dr Maryam Rab has been leading a thought leadership unit at the British Council, Pakistan where she led research in the areas of disability, aging, diaspora, creative industries, English, skills and youth, women in science and higher education. Her portfolio was expanded to South Asia in 2020, and she led on global youth study project on Climate Action covering 23 countries, the recommendations will be shared with leaders at the CoP26. Dr Rab’s believes that ‘real feminism is making other women’s life better’.


Dr. Alessandra Marino, Senior Fellow, The Open University

Space on Earth: new directions, opportunities and challenges

This paper deals with some of the challenges of working in space research in the current conjuncture, when the news about space is saturated with billionaires’ spaceflights and narratives of escaping Earth’s crises. I suggest that alternative views of space may surface when we consider our planet’s dependency from space in terms of cosmic ecologies as well as technologies. Can a feminist lens to science studies, which focuses on critiquing scientific objectivity and value neutrality and highlights the relevance of thinking about positionality and interlocking oppressions, contribute to change the conversation around access to and use of space?

Zooming onto my work on terrestrial applications of space technologies, I present how my own journey has shaped my approach towards partnerships, ethics and the objectives of research in space. With reference to the rising interest in the use of space technologies for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I argue that social and ecological justice could better frame what is at stake in terms of using new tools to care for the many worlds that make up our planet.

I currently work as Research Fellow in International Development within AstrobiologyOU. My interest is in critical Development Studies and issues of justice, equality and ethics. In my role, I look at how postcolonial and decolonial studies can contribute to current debates on knowledge production within space science and to decolonising astrobiology research methods. My research also explores how space technologies are used in International Development programmes funded by different Space Agencies to understand how effective they are at changing people’s lives. This strand of research utilises and adapts the theory of ‘Inclusive Innovation’. I have been a Co-PI of the UKSA-funded project DETECT (2020-2021) and am involved in other projects on space research and policy.

I hold a PhD in Postcolonial and Cultural Studies awarded by the University of Naples, L’Orientale (Italy); my doctoral work looked at appropriations and adaptations of Shakespeare in India and led to the publication of the edited volume Shakespeare in India (Editoria e Spettacolo, 2012). In my postdoctoral research, I continued working on the relationship between literary productions and politics in the ERC-funded project ‘Citizenship after Orientalism’ led by Engin Isin.

My monograph Acts of Angry writing (Wayne State University Press, 2015) is based on fieldwork in tribal areas in Northern India. It looks at the limits of theorising political subjectivity within citizenship studies and demonstrates how big infrastructural projects, like the Sardar Sarovar mega-dam, and the constraints of the postcolonial legal systems have marginalised Indigenous communities. More broadly, I have published on gender, citizenship, and visual arts.


Ms. Claire Malone, Particle Physicist, University of Cambridge

From missing particles to missing physicists

My passion to understand the world around me led me to (in the next few months) complete a PhD as part of the high energy physics group at the University of Cambridge. As the root of my interest is in understanding the behaviour of the fundamental particles that comprise our universe, I am analysing data from the LHC at CERN to complete our understanding of the universe in terms of its basic building blocks.

Throughout my career, I have had to devise techniques of studying to negotiate the fact that I cannot use a pen/keyboard directly due to my physical disability, cerebral palsy. For example, when studying for my astrophysics examination, I made notes by “typing” in latex using a keyboard controlled by my eye movements. I therefore believe that we need to make science as accessible as possible to as diverse a range of people as possible.

This is possibly the best route we have to be able to find solutions to the biggest problems that we face today – being able to benefit from a broad range of different insights. I am therefore passionate about communicating my enthusiasm for physics to as wide an audience as conceivable as well as advocating for the inclusion of groups that are typically under-represented in STEM subjects.

I would like to share with you my passion for understanding the behaviour of the fundamental building blocks of our universe – particles. I would also like to take this opportunity to examine the environment in physics for minorities such as people with disabilities and women.

Reflecting on my experiences conducting research at CERN as well as at UK universities, I comment on the possible steps that could be taken to make the STEM environment welcoming and inclusive to everyone, regardless of their background. I suggest that one of the most effective ways to achieve this is to make STEM an engaging and exciting environment for children.



11:40 – Keynote Speaker

Prof. Catherine Heymans, Astronomer Royal, Scotland

A journey through the dark side of our Universe

Join the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Professor Catherine Heymans, for a journey through the dark side of our Universe. Catherine will explore the latest discoveries on invisible dark matter and mysterious dark energy, showing why she believes these entities will only be explained with new fundamental physics. As a passionate science communicator, Catherine will also share her top tips for making scientific research accessible and understandable for everyone.

Catherine Heymans is the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Edinburgh and Director of the GCCL Institute at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. She specialises in observing the dark side of our Universe using deep sky observations to test whether we need to go beyond Einstein with our current theory of gravity. Catherine has co-authored over 200 articles in scientific journals and written the popular science book “The Dark Universe”.

Catherine shares her research with the public, both virtually through a Massive Open Online Course `AstroTech’ which has attracted over 40,000 students worldwide, and in person through a wide range of events including Art, Music and Science Festivals. In recognition of her work she was awarded the 2017 Darwin Lectureship from the Royal Astronomical Society and the 2018 Max-Planck Humboldt Research Award.


Dr. Rain Irshad, Head of SPRINT programme, University of Leicester

Bringing Mars Home

Bringing Mars Home: Mars has been a source of fascination to Space Scientists and Astronomers for thousands of years. There have been approximately 50 missions to Mars and only half of these have been successful. This is a sign of how difficult it is to get there. Yet we continue to strive for the red planet.

What is it that continues to draw mankind to Mars? What are the challenges that make it so difficult and why are we now spending billions of dollars attempting to bring pieces of Mars back home to Earth?

Rain is Head of the national Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT) programme. She is based at the University of Leicester, where she is taking a sabbatical from her role as Head of the Space Engineering and Technology Division at STFC. Rain will be delivering the second wave of the SPRINT programme and helping to ensure the long-term sustainability of the programme by developing high value research and innovation partnerships.

With an academic background in Physics and research experience in the development and testing of spaceflight hardware for planetary science, Rain has worked in the space sector for 18 years. She has been instrumental in establishing space research and testing facilities in the UK, including the Harwell Robotics & Autonomy Facility (for the validation & verification of robotic space technology) and the ESA Sample Analogue Curation Facility (providing international teams with research samples) at Harwell.

Rain has many years of experience in partnering with SMEs and universities on innovation projects for space and for terrestrial applications, including the use of space robotics in Agritech. She has also worked with NGOs in international collaborations to leverage space technology for the Mine Action sector.

As well as being involved in technical programmes at STFC, Rain has experience of working across a number of STFC Directorates at a strategic level, including the Business and Innovations Directorate and the Strategy Planning and Communications Directorate.

In addition, this year, she beame the ED&I Trustee for the charity: Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support.