Encouraging more women to study STEM subjects

Kara is a first year Mechanical Engineering student and a recipient of the Ann Cairns Scholarship, designed to encourage more women to study STEM subjects. This is Kara's story.

Before applying to university, I did look at apprenticeships, but I decided the best route for me was to go to university. I studied maths, physics and geography at A-level and economics at AS-level. 

When I was looking at universities, I decided to focus on those that were within 2 hours of where I live, as I like to be close to home. The main attraction of Newcastle University was the general first year, where you split your time between learning mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering. It is a bit nerve-wracking when you’re signing up to UCAS and it seemed very final to select just mechanical engineering. I knew that choosing to study at Newcastle would give me more options if I want to specialise in something else further down the line.

I have surprisingly really liked the electrical engineering modules, the coding sections of the modules have been interesting, but I still like mechanics the best. 


The Ann Cairns Scholarship has helped towards covering the increase in the cost of living. The remainder has gone towards my extracurricular activities, because I think it is so valuable, on top of your studies, to make the most of a student experience.

Kara, Ann Cairns Scholarship recipient
First year, Mechanical Engineering student

I’m enjoying taking part in extracurricular activities and I have joined the orchestra. I’m the only trombone player in the orchestra, and the first trombone player in the orchestra for 5 years. We had our Christmas concert in Jesmond last year, and we have our next concert this semester, so I am really enjoying it. It is a great way to de-stress from lectures. 

I’ve also taken part in some of the social sports, including badminton and table tennis. The Mech Eng Society is a great way to meet others studying engineering, and people in other years as well. I also have a peer mentor who is in fourth year, and she has been very helpful. 

At the moment, I want to go into something automotive based when I graduate, particularly with more sustainable technology bringing in aspects of electrical technologies. I did my A-level coursework on sustainable transport, and how we can move to a more sustainable functioning economy, so it’s an area I’ve always been interested in.

Scholarships can make such a difference, particularly for underrepresented groups like women in STEM, as engineering is such a male-dominated field. I wasn’t expecting quite so few females when I got here in Welcome Week. If you provide the opportunities at an earlier stage and help with supporting degrees, then women are more represented further up the industry, and more people will aspire to be in the industry in future. Scholarships can be the driving force to break the cycle. 


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