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The Three Million Dollar Challenge:

How Do We Make Science Accessible for All?


Science is at the core of everyone’s lives: from navigation to healthy living, space exploration to fixing the climate. Our economic success comes from investment and leadership in science and technology, and yet many people feel that “science is not for me”. The number of people choosing a career in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths - is falling, and there is a huge issue of diversity in science. So if we can find a way to make science more appealing, and encourage more people from underpresented groups in society to engage in STEM, the economic and social benefits for the country could be huge. 


Earlier this year, astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell – who co-discovered the first pulsars in 1967 - donated the money she won for the Breakthrough Science Prize ($3m) to help women, ethnic minority, and refugee students become physics researchers. So, at a special VIP Night as part of the ATOM Science Festival 2019, we bring together five women involved in very different areas of science, technology and engineering, and ask: if you had $3m (£2.3m), how would you make science more accessible for all? At the end of the evening, we will be sharing some of the ideas to the wider science community – and we will also be celebrating women in STEM on the night.


Taking place at St Helen and St Katharine School, Abingdon, this event is open to everyone. Afterwards, we hope you will see science in a different way, feel that science might actually be 'for you' - and more importantly, encourage you to take advantage of the science taking place during ATOM – and encourage others to pursue a career in STEM.


Wednesday 20th March 2018 at St Helen & St Katharine School

...Doors & Bar Open 19:30, Talk Begins 20:00, Tickets £7.50


Dr Jess Hamer


Jessica is a physics coach and gender balance officer at the Institute of Physics (IOP). Having studied Geology at the University of Liverpool, Jessica completed her PhD in Palaeoclimatology at Royal Holloway, University of London before focussing on teaching. After her PGCE Jessica went on to become a science teacher and teacher trainer before moving into diversity research at the IOP. She has worked on numerous projects to widen participation in Physics through initiatives targeted at school students, parents and school staff.

Vicki Potter


Vicki has worked with Oxford Instruments since 2006, initially providing outsourced recruitment and HR services across the Group through her own consultancy business. She joined Oxford Instruments permanently in January 2011 as Group Recruitment Manager and HR Manager for Plasma Technology. In November 2013 she moved to Head Office as Group HR Development Director and focused on developing and delivering global people-related projects and processes. In June 2016,  Vicki was appointed Group Human Resources Director.

Vicki has a BEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a MA in Human Resources Management. Prior to working with OI Vicki held Engineering and Operations Management roles in Pepsico Inc. and ICI plc.

Steph Hills


Steph Hills is the European Communications Officer for STFC, based within the CERN Press Office.  Her role is to make sure that key UK stakeholders are aware of all the benefits that the UK derives from its membership of CERN.

Steph looks after visiting UK journalists, promotes opportunities for UK industry to supply products and services to CERN, encourages schools to visit and works closely with the UK university community and Brits on CERN staff.  She is also a former student of host school SHSK.


Shefali Sharma


Shefali is a Senior Commercial Strategist at Oxford Space Systems (OSS), a venture capital backed, early stage space tech business. She completed her Masters in Space Engineering and joined OSS to learn the ‘black art’ of the business world. At OSS, Shefali has been assigned the task of exploring how OSS might expand to address market opportunities in Asia. She was selected as a 'promising leader' under the Royal Academy of Engineering SME Leaders’ Programme. 


Shefali successfully completed a 3-month secondment to India on behalf of the UK space industry to help assess the scope and scale of market opportunities for UK space companies to export to India. The secondment helped provide a better understating of the rapidly growing Indian space market and helped identify key barriers to entry and growth.


Dr Suze Kundu - Materials Chemist and Science Communicator


From a very early age, Dr Suze Kundu has been fascinated by the "stuff" that makes up the world, often breaking things apart to try and figure out how everything worked. Luckily science enabled her to turn this destructive curiosity into a career, first through a BSc in Chemistry, then an MSc in Analytical Chemistry and finally a PhD in Materials Chemistry at University College London in 2012. She has since studied for a PGCE in Senior School Science, and an MEd in University Learning and Teaching. After six years lecturing in the Department of Materials at Imperial College London and at the University of Surrey's Chemical and Process Engineering Department, she is now Head of Community Engagement at the technology company Digital Science.

Her research area is functional nanomaterials, but as a science communicator she delves into the wider applications of chemistry, physics and materials science and engineering all around us, sharing this through live lectures, on TV (Discovery Channel) and radio.

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