Spardha Jhamb is a postdoctoral researcher at the Technical University of Denmark.
Spardha is a chemical engineer, and her journey into this profession is a result of her love for number from her school days. She mentions that she loved anything that could be quantified, and calculated, as this enhanced her perception about the world around her. Spardha mentions that she liked everything that involved mathematics, and she shared a fun example, where she used to find the percentage of sugar mentioned on the packaging of different ice-creams, which would help her to select a healthy ice-cream for herself, so she could eat ice-cream with less guilt. This love of numbers led Spardha to pursue a PhD in Computer-Aided Design of Sustainable Chemical Product Formulations, wherein she developed predictive models for the properties of the ingredients that could be quantified. These properties help to understand the needs of the customer and design customized and sustainable formulations for food, pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals or paints and coatings. Even though, Spardha’s love for numbers is a big reason why she’s in a STEM field, but all this would not be possible without her biggest inspirations: her parents. Spardha’s mother has a physics background whereas her father has a mechanical engineering background, so they were an added motivation and support for Spardha, and they motivated Spardha to pursue a career within STEM. Spardha considers herself extremely fortunate to have met the mentors she has met at the Technical University of Denmark; they are the ones who have sparked her curiosity through scientific discussions and kept on guiding her with their vision.
STEM to Spardha means the freedom to explore her curiosity, and quest about working principles of everyday things. STEM is also all about creating something meaningful and innovation that serves a purpose in the society, it is a means of helping those around us, and making this world a better place for all. Spardha believes the main aim of STEM should be not only to make the world a better place to live in, but better in terms of developing products that enhance convenience in life and allow us to live in harmony with nature.
If Spardha were to explain what people with a degree like her can work with, then she explains that some fun projects could be searching for biobased as well as biodegradable ingredients for formulating new products. Another approach could be finding alternative routes that minimize resources and time for formulation and application of paints. There exist other options as well, such as making use of computer-aided tools to boil down the focus area for search for new ingredients with better performance and environmental, health and safety properties. For Spardha, her proudest moment in this field has been the fact that she has gotten better at public speaking through delivering several engaging talks about scientific topics that excite her. This has also led her to winning an award at an international conference for the best oral presentation.
But, if given the chance to change certain things in STEM to make lives of women easier, then Spardha would like to change the following:
1. Having standardised work-ethics and anti-bias training for institutions where the workforce is from multicultural backgrounds
2. Avoiding forming and passing stereotypical judgements based on gender
3. Encouraging shared responsibility of child upbringing between both partners, providing workplace maternity provisions and having a fully-functional public childcare support system for raising a family, so that, it is not the sole responsibility of a mother to raise children
When Spardha was asked about how best to encourage young girls to join STEM, she came with some astonishing statistics that currently “In most European countries, only 20 - 22% of the professors in STEM are females. Also, according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) data, less than 30% of the world's researchers in STEM are females.” There is your reason why, there needs to be more girls in STEM. Spardha suggests that girls should be exposed to better and more entertaining forms of scientific education right from childhood. This should be done by organizing entertaining science-based workshops. “Moreover, within the daily setting at school, encourage and provide simplistic but scientific explanations about the working principles of various objects that we come across in everyday life. Encourage them to participate in board games that involve strategic and scientific thinking, Lego-based games that spark their creativity and simulation-based games that enhance their competitiveness. Encourage reading short bedtime stories of successful professional women, rather than fairy-tail based stories where a beautiful girl is looking to be rescued by her prince-charming.”
Lastly, here are Spardha’s closing words of encouragement for young girls who want to join a STEM field:
“Be fearless to pursue whichever field excites you, you are passionate about and gives you the adrenaline rush in your veins. Research in STEM is an adventurous journey, be assured that you will be surprised by your own abilities to discover and possibly also invent new things. Challenge existing conventions and theories until you are fully convinced that they explain your observations. Dare to chase your curiosity like 'Enola Holmes' (the famous fictional character from the Sherlock Holmes Family)!”
You can contact Spardha Jhamb on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/spardha-jhamb/
I thank Spardha Jhamb for taking part in this project and answering all the questions in a very informative manner. I hope, your experience and STEM story will inspire a young girl to join a STEM field and excel just like you have.