Madelaine Swift, STEM Projects Officer (secondary schools)

I am the newest member of the team, joining in March 2022. I am very excited to be delivering the secondary schools STEM Careers Programme, whether this be careers related workshops, school days dedicated to fun and interactive science, or organising events and awards for young scientists in our community.

I think the best way to learn is to explore, get involved and to play – I was the child that took the radio apart; and there’s no better way to get inspired by science than by getting involved.

I found secondary school very hard, but I was lucky enough to have teachers and people in my life to help guide and inspire me; when I announced that I had decided to make an electric guitar for my GCSE Design Technology Project, none of my teachers or classmates thought it was possible – and told me so, frequently. But my DT teacher did. He took the time to explain things and help me, and offered encouragement – he believed in me. I still have, hanging on my wall, a fully functional custom designed electric guitar! I think everyone should have someone like my teacher in their lives, especially young scientists.

I have always had an active role in education, working as a Teaching Assistant and Playworker at local primary schools during my school breaks, and moving on to private tutoring whilst I was a university student. I am a very strong believer in learning through play – at any age! And that’s exactly what I hope to do at Science Oxford, whether this be leading a day about Life Sciences by solving a Murder Mystery, or solving real life engineering problems with Lego and K’nex. Nothing is better than getting to see someone’s eyes light up when they have made their own personal scientific discovery – and the excited chatter that follows.

I studied at Swansea University and gained a BSc(Hons) in Physics. During university, I was also a STEM Ambassador and got involved with outreach projects in local schools and events at the National Waterfront Museum. My dissertation was based on modelling the flight of an ion propulsion system for space travel and I was really happy to be able to adapt this into an interactive stall, so that museum visitors could change aspects of the rocket’s systems and see how it would behave!

After my degree, I stayed in Swansea and pursued a career in financial advice. I loved the problem-solving aspect, the analysis – and the ever-changing world of finance that I would have to adapt to. As well as being able to help people and teach them about their finances. In 2018 I returned home to Oxfordshire, and in 2020 decided that, whilst I loved my career, I needed to follow my heart and get back to my roots –my ‘inner scientist’ was calling.

In my personal life, I like to consider myself a ‘jack of all trades’ (and master of none). Though hampered by the pandemic, I love to perform at live gigs, singing and playing my guitar and write and record music in my spare time. I try to keep fit by practising TJJF Jiu-Jitsu and weight training at the gym. I also used to Fence and was a Sabreur at a national level. I enjoy painting and creating – whether this be tinkering with electronics, woodworking or soldering together the occasional Tesla coil. My latest project is figuring out how I can connect an old MIDI Keyboard to a mini Tesla coil, so I can play sounds through the keyboard and make the coil ‘sing’. I also love the outdoors, especially when the weather is suitable for stargazing, or catching sight of one of the regular meteor showers throughout the year. My partner and I can often be found camping out in the great outdoors, practising our bushcraft and survival skills for the inevitable zombie apocalypse!

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