Skip to main content

Inspiring a new generation of scientists

Posted by: , and , Posted on: - Categories: Events
Image of three females in APHA t-shirts at an APHA information stand with the British Science Week logo
8-17 March 2024 is British Science Week

APHA Weybridge are running some open days for science students from local colleges during British Science Week and will be engaging in more STEM events and careers fairs through 2024.

At the Animal and Plant Health Agency, we have a vibrant STEM programme and over 40 STEM Ambassadors who regularly engage with young people around the UK. In this blog, we hear from APHA STEM ambassadors, Nichola Stamper, Estella Gonzalez-Fernandez and Amy Parkes-Withers, on why inspiring the next generation of scientists is so rewarding and what it means to them.

Nichola Stamper, Regional Laboratory Manager

I became a STEM ambassador in May 2023 and my first opportunity to engage came about when I was approached by Myerscough College for a tour of APHA’s Regional Laboratory in Penrith. I hosted a group of Level 2 General Farm Worker Apprenticeship students to tell them more about APHA and our work at Penrith Veterinary Investigation Centre. The students were extremely interested, asking lots of questions, and learned about job roles in our lab.

Image of three APHA members of staff standing in an APHA gazebo on grass
Nichola Stamper (right) with two colleagues at Westmorland Show

More recently, I offered my support to a local secondary school, Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith, by taking part in a Year 11 mock interview day. I am involved with recruitment in my main job as Laboratory Manager of Penrith Regional Lab, so was very keen to help students to develop their interview skills and promote APHA as a future employer. It was a bit daunting walking into the school’s main hall, with lots of small desks in rows – I had a flash back to my own exam days! I really enjoyed the day: I was so impressed with all the students I interviewed, and they were confident and open to feedback. The experience was very rewarding, and I hope I have helped the students to develop key skills which will aid them in future careers.

Image of school pupils at small desks across from adults in a school hall
Giving Year 11 students at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School some job interview experience!

I am only eight months into my STEM ambassador journey but can honestly say it has been so fulfilling, I love seeing people, especially children, engaged with science. I look forward to developing my skills and continuing to promote STEM and APHA.

Estella Gonzalez-Fernandez, Virology Higher Scientific Officer (Vector-borne Diseases Group)

After participating in various events as a STEM Ambassador, including careers fairs, open days, and online activities, I finally decided to go ahead and volunteer for an in-person talk. This opportunity arose at Farnborough Sixth Form College during their Science Week in January.

My presentation focused on vector-borne diseases and the impact of global change in their transmission. I provided an overview of these diseases, highlighting the involvement of insects and other arthropods. We explored some examples illustrating the impact of climate change and global trade on the epidemiology of these diseases. I also talked about what we do at APHA to investigate and find answers so that we can understand the epidemiology of these diseases and the potential impact they could have in the UK, so we are better prepared to safeguard UK biosecurity.

Initially nervous about whether I could captivate a teenage audience, I was pleasantly surprised by their keen interest in the subject. The question-and-answer session following the presentation was particularly engaging.

Overall, the experience was very rewarding. I aspire to inspire students to explore this field further and consider pursuing careers in science. Moreover, it encouraged my confidence and provided valuable insights for improving future presentations. I look forward to applying this experience in future talks.

Amy Parkes-Withers, Quantitative Ecologist, Wildlife Management Centre

When I started my current role as a Quantitative Ecologist in the Wildlife team at APHA, I was excited to see the STEM Ambassador programme was something I could continue to be involved in as I had enjoyed my previous experience with the scheme.

I recently did my first event in a local secondary school, taking part in a speed networking morning. For this activity, all volunteers, colleges, and employers were placed on a desk in a classroom and pupils came around in small groups to ask us questions. All groups of pupils visited each desk for five minutes, and there were a lot of different questions they wanted answers to in that short amount of time.

Being able to speak to the pupils in small groups meant almost every student asked a question. Many students were very interested in science roles, and made notes when I mentioned opportunities to learn more about the work we do at APHA, such as by looking on the APHA Science Blog.

With my first event as an APHA STEM Ambassador completed, I am now really looking forward to developing my skills further by signing up to future events, and hopefully inspiring more young people!

Find out more:

Please email if you would like to find out more about our STEM Ambassadors or to let us know of an event that we can consider attending in 2024.

Additionally, you may wish to read the following, previously published blogs, on some of the outreach and events we have been involved with:

You can find out more about British Science Week and how you or your educational setting can become involved by visiting the official website.


Sharing and comments

Share this page