Women in STEM: Manasi

Manasi in the lab

My 26th guest is Manasi, a metallurgical engineer pursuing a PhD in Chemistry.

Hi @manas_nano! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

I am Manasi, metallurgical engineer by first degree. Now doctoral researcher in chemistry and chemical engineering at University of Sheffield. I am passionate about scientific communication, public engagement and microscopes.

Manasi is a proud woman in engineering

When did you start your Twitter account? How did you get the idea?

I started using twitter more often when I started my PhD. University of Sheffield encourages to use social media for research and networking purpose. I too think it is a useful tool.

Can you tell us something about how you balance work and private life? 

This one is difficult to answer at this point during covid-19 pandemic. As we are working from home it is natural to overdo work on one day and tend to do less on the next. I have allotted certain time for self-care and hobbies.

During your academic studies how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?

I remember during my UG and Masters around 15% were female classmates. When I enrolled in my UG in 2008 more popular choice of female aspirants was to do computer engineering because further career options. It was common notion – a metallurgical engineer would have to work in steel industry or a foundry. However, there are plenty of opportunities for a metallurgical engineer other than working on a shop floor. Mentoring by fellow alumni to UG aspirants can be helpful for bringing more women in STEM. Societies such as woman in engineering at the university of Sheffield is working towards this by arranging many outreach career guidance events.

Have you ever felt harassed or being kept apart as a scholar because you are a woman?

Personally I feel privileged to have been supported by male colleagues and classmates throughout. This experience may vary person to person. During my UG – my male classmates helped and supported me and my other female classmates when in difficulty e.g. during the carpentry or welding workshop trainings. Similarly, my male colleagues and batchmates from masters in Sheffield encouraged me to apply for PhD and scholarships. Some tasks might be out of our scope being females (such as moving gas cylinders, purchasing lab infra, getting it delivered or installed) but support from peers and hiring skilled labours for getting the physically difficult tasks done can be helpful to solve the issue. Before joining my PhD, I was the only female in my office in Bangalore but I never felt being kept apart rather I was treated with more respect being only female. I think if there is good amount of mutual understanding and respect among the peers, the gender does not create much difference.

How did you become passionate about science? 

There were three turning points – first my school, second my engineering project at National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune and third my master’s at Uni of Sheffield. I completed my primary and secondary schooling at a small town in India. My schoolteachers took extra efforts to get us interested in science. I vividly remember two projects that I did during school – one was on ‘evolution of space research in India’ and other was on ‘Design of streetlight controller to save electricity’. My small-town school gave me an opportunity to work towards national talent search competitive examinations and appear on national television in a science quiz. I wrote a research essay on my favorite scientist – Galileo Galilei only to result in winning 1st prize. I remember me taking environmental science classes in school very seriously. As a result of continuous efforts and growing interest towards science, I got opportunities to meet three eminent scientists during my school days. 1. An astrophysicist and science fiction writer Dr. Jayant Naralikar in an award ceremony of my essay (on Galileo) in 2005. 2. Space scientist Dr. Vasant Govarikar after his public lecture in 2004 3. Architect of India’s Param supercomputer Dr. Vijay Bhatkar in an award ceremony of talent search examination in 2005. All these three meetings have created a strong influence on STEM being my career choice. Second turning point was when I did my final year UG engineering project at NCL on materials for solar cell applications that introduced me to the real-life research career leading me to apply for Masters in Nanomaterials engineering in Sheffield. Thirdly, my masters’ project was on Lithium ion battery materials for EV and smartphone applications which was again a very interesting stimulus to keep me motivated to further explore STEM.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I’m working on materials design by computational chemistry and green chemistry approach for applications in energy and sustainability. I use quantum mechanics approach for calculating affinity between two species e.g. two water molecules. Other aspect of my work involves bio-inspired green synthesis of materials in order to avoid the usage of toxic chemicals and energy cost. Third aspect of my project is applications of developed materials in treatment of wastewater by light energy driven accelerated process which makes my work entirely interdisciplinary. I also do thermochemistry lab teaching to UG students. Other than this I am PhD representative of chemistry department’s ED&I committee, we recently organised IUPAC’s global women’s breakfast in Sheffield to promote women in STEM. I also participate in various outreach events by women in engineering society at the university. Being a Grantham scholar, I got an opportunity to be trained by the UK Parliament on science in policymaking. I with two of my colleagues organised a public event in Sheffield’s festival of debate on sustainable palm oil which was a great success.

Thank you so much for your time. Lastly, can you give any advice to girls interested in STEM?

I think everyone deserves to dream higher. Just believe in yourself and dream for your goal. The moment you start working towards your goal, all the support starts coming along your way.

Follow Manasi on her professional networks: LinkedIn, Google Scholar, Sheffield University

Manasi showing science to kids

Published by Martina Bodner

Biotechnologist, PhD Candidate in Food Chemistry, Science Teacher, STEM and autism advocate, mother.

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