Encouraging Female Interest in STEM

Anagha Rajesh, a Grade 12 student at Our own English High School, Sharjah — Girls, talks us through her journey to be selected for the ‘1000 girls, 1000 futures’ programme.

The 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures programme is an initiative by the New York Academy of Sciences designed to engage young women and advance their pursuit of science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) careers by providing mentoring and 21st-century skills development.

The programme is open to girls around the world, aged 13-18 currently enrolled in high school or an equivalent, who are enthusiastic about STEM. The programme also welcomes women working in STEM, across all disciplines and sectors, who are willing to act as mentors, coaches, and role models.

Anagha Rajesh, a Grade 12 student at Our own English High School, Sharjah — Girls, who has had an interest in science since she was very young, has recently been selected to join the programme. She found out about the programme while searching online and decided to apply for it because she felt it would give her a platform to interact with girls from all over the world who have similar interests in science. The only requirement to join the programme is an internet connection and girls can access the open platform and there are no costs involved for participants.

Anagha had to answer open-ended questions online and say why she wanted to be involved and mention any recent achievements in the field of science. “The final question was a personal statement essay in which I explained a project I have recently undertaken utilising nuclear science. My team came up with a design for a device, called IDAD, that can detect early-stage Alzheimer’s. Before a person begins to show symptoms of the disease, this device could detect it,” she says, adding that the team was shortlisted in a recently held nuclear science competition.

Over the course of the year-long programme, Anagha will be partnered with a mentor who works in the STEM field who will provide guidance on college applications and resources she will need in terms of extended reading. Anagha will work on developing a prototype of IDAD so it can be tested by medical professionals and hopefully move into the next stage of development.

Anagha says that programmes like these give women a voice in this male-dominated field and encourages them to dream big. “In this programme there are students from societies that are underdeveloped in terms of science and technology. Having more girls and women coming into this field can help humanity solve big challenges and make the world a better place.”

Her advice for any girl who wants to pursue STEM and join the programme in the future is to have a real passion for science and a desire to connect with people from all over the world. She adds that since most of the schools in the UAE are focusing on innovation, and more girls are taking up innovation challenges, taking part could drastically improve their chances of being accepted into the programme.