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The subjects of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) form a fundamental part of the curriculum across the Dukes Education family. Their importance is continually reinforced by the advancement of technology and the developing requirements of industry.

For British Science Week 2024, we spoke with Emilia Angelillo, Science Lab Technician at Sancton Wood School and Dukes Education STEM Enrichment Champion and Ambassador, to discuss the importance of STEM within education, the further education and professional opportunities for pupils looking to take the subject further, and how the stereotypes facing the STEM sector are being challenged.

“I have always been interested in science, ever since I was a little girl.” said Emilia when asked about her career.

“We had a microscope at home, and I used to be fascinated with looking at things under it, things you could not see with the naked eye. And I had a really cool collection of dinosaurs – I remember that!

“My interest grew when I was in secondary school, and I became passionate about biology. For a while I thought I would study medicine at university, but then I realised that it wasn’t for me because I would struggle with certain aspects of the profession.

“At university I became fascinated with micro-biology, and I understood that it would be my future, and I became a micro-biologist.”

Emilia later joined Sancton Wood School in Cambridge as a Lab Technician and found herself quickly becoming the Dukes Education STEM Enrichment Champion and Ambassador.

“It wasn’t planned. I was working as a science technician at Sancton Wood, and I ran a small workshop in the prep school, and I started thinking that it is something I would like to do more. So, I started looking into it, and from speaking with other colleagues across Dukes, I found out that I could become a STEM Ambassador.

“I’ve really enjoyed it since the start. It is amazing to work with the small children who are so enthusiastic. I also really love to meet people from other settings, which I discovered when delivered a workshop online to people in other countries. That was a wonderful experience for me.”

Utilising her insight into both the science and education sectors, we asked Emilia to share her thoughts on the importance of science within the curriculum today.

“Science is an important part of the curriculum, because even if you do not want to embrace a science career, you will require skills, such as working in teams and critical thinking – the scientific method. This is especially true nowadays where we are living within a world that constantly bombards us with information, and sometimes it is difficult to understand whether what you read and what you see is real or not – if it’s reliable or trustworthy. The scientific method will help you a lot with this.”

She continued, “For children nowadays, it is crucial that they understand how to trust and verify sources and information. And I think the scientific method helps a lot with that.”

We asked Emilia how pupils of all ages at Sancton Wood are encouraged to engage with the subject that is often viewed as both complex and daunting.

“Science at Sancton Wood is very important. We start teaching science in the prep school where the curriculum is focused on practical science. We are very lucky to have a STEM lab in the prep school so the children can take part in all kinds of activities and enrichment.


“In the senior school, we are still very focused on the sciences. We have STEM clubs, young medics clubs, a chemistry club and we try to make science fun and accessible for all.


“This year we also started the CREST Awards, a scheme which helps the children develop scientific skills. The scheme can be completed at different levels, so our nursery, prep and senior students take part. In the senior school, the students chose a project, carry out research, design the experiment and end with observations and conclusions. This is exactly what a scientist does and is a good taste of what they will do if they embrace a career in STEM.”


“I think there is a level of fear of the curriculum as it is quite demanding, so to try and fix this, we  launched a new transition programme this year aimed at Year 6 children to provide them the basic skills they will need when they reach Year 7, for example, using Bunsen burners, microscopes and science practical techniques. We hope to make them feel more comfortable with the subject when they arrive at senior school, and they really enjoy it.”


Emilia went on to say, “there is a stereotype that if you want to study science, you must be a genius!  I always tell students that science is for everyone, and you can take part in science at different levels. So, even if you aren’t particularly focused on academic study, you can still study science and enjoy it. This is what it should be all about.


“Of course, if you are very good at maths, chemistry, or biology, you can follow a more academic path – which is beautiful – but you may choose to follow an apprenticeship or T Level which is more technical.


“My message is, if you want to do science, you do not need to be Einstein or Madame Curie, you just need to be passionate and then you will find your way.”


With a soaring global demand for talented individuals who can accelerate innovation and technology, Emilia also went on to touch upon the professional career prospects for those looking to take their passion for science into the workplace.


“There are many different careers in science split between both academia and industry.


“You don’t need to know straight away what you want to do. It will be clear to you through your journey. You might start studying something and realise that it isn’t for you and change to study another subject within science.

According to a recent study in 2023, women make up only 29.4% of the STEM workforce. This statistic, according to Emilia, reflects the challenges and stereotypes facing women looking to cement a career within STEM today.


“There are still many stereotypes in science. One of them is that some subjects are more for boys than for girls. If you think about science subjects, women are well represented but when you look at engineering, there are fewer women in the profession. In fact, if you speak with women engineers, they will tell you they still struggle to find boots and clothing that can fit them, as they have been designed for men!


“If I asked people to close their eyes and imagine a scientist, maybe 90% still think about a white male in a lab coat with scruffy hair and goggles. But this is changing. When I ask children the same question, now get references to their mums or even me sometimes!


“This year for British Science Week, among the experiments we will be finding time to remind the children that science is for everyone regardless of background, skin colour or gender.”


Wishing to offer encouragement to those looking to take their passion for science further, Emilia had this advice to share:


“If you want to study science my advice is to be passionate, resilient and bear in mind that science can sometimes be frustrating. Science doesn’t always work, but the key thing is – don’t give up and learn from the failures. Being a scientist requires a lot of passion, patience and a lot of hard work!”

You can keep up to date with Emilia and her exciting experiments at Sancton Wood School by following her renowned Instagram page.