Blog posts

Ji Young Yoon, Mechanical Workshop Technician, Department of Bioengineering 

“Only 12% of women take up engineering roles in the UK, and the number is smaller for mechanical engineering.”

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial 

The workshop is where I belong. As a Mechanical Workshop Technician, I provide mechanical engineering consultancy, design and manufacture services and support teaching for students and staff. I look after the mechanics labs in the department, produce prototypes for research, perform mechanical testing and provide training for students so they can make projects work. It’s very much a student-facing role. The best part of my job is trying to transfer whatever I know to students. It’s rewarding to see them learning through real experience. 

When I was working in the US in the private sector, I volunteered with school students in the summers introducing them to STEM subjects, and I offered internships for university students with autism to help them prepare for graduation and finding a job. This volunteering experience made me think I might be interested in working in the education sector. 

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Ata Rahman, Digital Marketing Officer, Academic Services

 “So many people still think you can’t be brown and gay”

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial 

I’m gay and one of the hardest things for me growing up was that I was stuck in a world where both sides of my identity, the Pakistani and the gay sides, don’t tend to like each other. When I came out, I expected backlash from the South Asian community, particularly from the religious Muslim community. What was disappointing and really shocking to me was the amount of racism within the LGBT+ community. 

When I first came out and started going out in Soho in London, I was turned away from many places. This happened for about seven or eight years after I came out when I was 18. I was shocked by the number of people who would come up to me and tell me that I didn’t belong there or who would basically assume that I was there to blow up the club. I would say that there is still a significant amount of prejudice towards people of colour within the LGBT+ community – it’s a serious problem. I know that more and more steps are being taken to tackle it, but I think we still have a long way to go. 

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Ayşe Zeynep Kamış, Undergraduate, Department of Bioengineering 

“I’ve been empowered to be proud of my sexual identity because of Imperial.”

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial 

As well as my Turkish culture, being bisexual is also an important part of my identity. I came out after I moved to London to study at Imperial. I’ve been empowered to be proud of my sexual identity because of Imperial. In Turkey, it was always assumed that I was heterosexual. It was never an option to be anything else. You are an outlier if you’re openly gay in Turkey unless you are in a safe community.  

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Dr Diana Varaden, Research Associate, Environmental Research Group, School of Public Health

“I strive to identify how best we can communicate air pollution as a health risk to the public”

After I completed my MSc in environmental technology at Imperial, I started a job as an air quality consultant, working on projects involving monitoring and modelling air quality. Through my educational background and work experience, I was able to recognise the sources and magnitude of the air pollution problem in our city and its impact on human health.  

However, I couldn’t help but wonder how the public could understand the importance of tackling the air pollution problem if they could not see it! The opening sentence of my personal statement when applying for my PhD studentship eight years ago was – ‘Air pollution, the invisible killer, needs to be unmasked! How can we do it?’ Finding the answer to this question was and still is the focus of my research.  

My research largely involves working with members of the public, enabling them to be an active part of the research process, and helping them to design, implement and interpret their own air quality monitoring projects. I am interested in interdisciplinary work bridging natural science, social and health disciplines and in identifying the benefits of involving lay individuals in the research process.  (more…)

Fatima Sheriff, Taught Postgraduate, Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication 

“My advice to women in quiz is to not be intimidated by the male-dominated space, just learn what you love, do what you do best, and you’ll fit right in.”

Having studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sheffield, I did work experience at the Wellcome Trust and The Royal Society before getting onto the Science Communication Master’s course at Imperial.  

My course is what it says on the tin: a humanities course exploring all the ways science can be communicated to the public. We start with a foundation of ethics and media studies, then look into its applications. The highlights for me have been a placement at the British Science Festival and doing academic modules in museums and documentaries. For the latter, I got to write about one of my favourite filmmakers, Agnès Varda, which was a joyous essay experience (not a combination you hear very often).  

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Dr Michael Paraskos, Evening Class Manager, Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication 

“Adult education is not just about giving the general public a second chance to study, it’s also about exposing Imperial’s own students and staff to new experiences” 

I am the manager for adult education in the Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication at Imperial, and I also teach art history in the Centre. As a manager I select what evening classes we offer and I’m also involved in the promotion and organisation of the classes. As an art historian, I teach everything from medieval architecture to modern art, but my own academic research focuses on twentieth-century British art.  (more…)

Lauren Burton, Front of House Coordinator, Commercial and Investment Activities Group

“A building can only run as smoothly as its staff, and thankfully hard work is recognised in my position.”  

I was lucky enough to join Imperial not long after finishing College. In the 11 years since I’ve been here, I’ve worked in pretty much all the buildings across South Ken, Hammersmith and White City.  

I’ve been the Front of House Co-ordinator for the I-HUB for the past six years. I do a little bit of everything for the building and its members. Visitors, members and guests are my main priority, but you can also catch me patching internet and phone lines or giving a tour to prospective tenants. 

Time flies on an ever-evolving construction site…I can’t believe how much the White City Campus has changed since we opened in 2016 and aside from the noise, roadworks and diversions we’ve endured, it’s turned out to be quite a nice place to come to work! Having Westfield down the road though is dangerous after pay day. 

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Phebe Ekregbesi, Research Technician, National Heart and Lung Institute

“There’s such a welcoming group of people with a healthy attitude to lunch –and the idea that breaking bread builds communities.”

I completed a BSc in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bath in 2018. This included a placement at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where I published a paper. That experience was pivotal in deciding to be an immunologist. 

In 2019, I joined Imperial as a research technician. I mainly characterise immune cells in different diseases, and also now contribute to imaging within the Inflammation Repair and Development (IRD) Section. 

Outside of the laboratory, I volunteer with organisations promoting STEM fields to underrepresented groups, including mentoring young girls and non-binary people through the Stemettes and celebrating Black voices with the Black in Immuno Hub. 

Since 2021, I have been the technician for the Lloyd laboratory where I teach users how to operate some imaging equipment, assist members with their experiments, and offer wider technical support and some general laboratory administration.  (more…)

Rachael Hayes, Product Engineer, Information and Communication Technologies   

“Knowing I’m making a difference to students is the best part of my job.”

After graduating, my first job was in training design within the defence sector. This was a million miles away from what I imagined I’d be doing, but I found I had a real skill for online learning.  

I joined Imperial in 2018 and I’m currently a Product Engineer within the student lifecycle. Day-to-day I support and improve existing e-learning systems and implement new ones. I speak to staff and students about issues they are having with a system, or ideas they have to improve it. I love how varied my job is and that I can keep learning. 

The pandemic had a big impact on my role, and lockdown presented an exciting challenge. I’m really proud of the work my team and I have done which enabled a relatively smooth transition to online-only learning. We faced some unique challenges, such as converting learning materials to be accessible in places where it’s not easy to log on to Blackboard and Panopto, running exams online, and helping ed-tech teams to run re-designed virtual lectures and seminars.  

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Dr Tilly Collins, Senior Teaching Fellow, Centre for Environmental Policy 

“I publish on a wide range of topics as well as being passionate about training and supporting new generations of sustainability scientists.”

As a teenager I thought I would become a fashion designer, which was a distinct improvement from wanting to be a horse. But after studying at Chelsea School of Art and ten years working in event design and management, I changed direction completely, went to agricultural college and moved into arboriculture, entomology and ecological science.  

This diverse background and my voracious curiosity has led to a multidisciplinary path and I publish on a wide range of topics as well as being passionate about training and supporting new generations of sustainability scientists.   

The variety of roles I hold leads to real variation in tasks and some days find me concentrating on teaching, whilst other days are a juggle of meetings, advice, research and writing. I also chat a lot and have an unsung role as ‘departmental glue’ mediated via informal channels.  

My advocacy for edible insects often leads to media appearances as do my designs for urban air pollution mitigation. Alongside Caroline Howe, I lead research into Sustainable Viticulture Futures – a recent research growth area within the Centre for Environmental Policy’s Transdisciplinary Centre for Nature & People. With climate change, rural land uses are adapting, the area under grapevines is changing, and this creates a huge opportunity for improving sustainability of practice in social, economic and ecological dimensions. Four members of the ‘wine group’ recently presented their work at the British Ecological Society’s Ecology Across Borders conference to substantial international interest.  

When not at Imperial, I am very social. I garden, provide advice on urban ecology and care for my three teenage children. 22 million people have now watched a TikTok made by one of my teens (Blue Gray) of ‘Dyeing Mum’s hair purple’ and I remain perplexed. The slow and wobbly return to an adapted new-normal and more face-to-face interactions is very welcome.