Our Stories: STEM in The Real World

Our Stories: STEM in The Real World

Alex Ballisat, STEM Ambassador and Research Engineer at CFMS talks about his experiences of learning STEM subjects in school and applying it in the ‘real world’. 

During my time in school, maths and science were presented as abstract concepts with little application to the real world and even less overlap between the fields. Computing was not taught either and my lessons with computers were focussed on learning how to use office packages and search the internet. I had no idea that using computers to solve science and engineering problems was becoming increasingly common as more and more computing power became available to researchers. In reality, all science and engineering blurs into one field which is fundamentally about using maths to make useful predictions. This is true at all scales, from understanding the fundamental particles of the universe, through gaining insight into how cells behave in our bodies, to building the infrastructure of everyday life like cars, mobile phones and houses, and unlocking the secrets of the cosmos. In all of these, computing is playing a key role in allowing researchers to solve problems and iterate designs faster. The ability to have accurate representations of reality at your fingertips, without having to construct costly prototypes and experiments, is accelerating progress and we can now solve challenges which only twenty years ago seemed insurmountable.

At CFMS, we use computing to solve a wide range of challenges across a broad range of sectors. Employees come from a broad range of disciplines: some have engineering backgrounds, others pure science degrees and some are also IT experts, but we all have a solid foundation in maths. The work is very varied, no two days are ever the same and there is always a new problem to solve or an idea to test out. This makes it a very rewarding career and given the huge range of industries that STEM is used in, there will certainly be a field out there you will be passionate about, even if you haven’t found it yet. We want to try to expose students to this broad range of possibilities when they are in their formative years so they can keep their options open, keeping up maths and science opens the door to many careers.

Looking back to my school days, I wish my eyes were opened up more to the world of possibilities available to me. Engineering was never really an industry that was talked about and when it was, it was more mechanical or civil. This is one of the reasons why I have become a STEM ambassador. I want to showcase the range of industries that are related to STEM through interactive sessions that can inspire future engineers.  

CFMS are working with South Bristol Youth Charity and welcoming schools throughout the year to our facilities. As part of the Discover Maths Program, we are demonstrating how you can apply maths to the real-world, as well as allowing them to try out some of our systems like Virtual Reality. 

If you are selecting your options or know someone who is, I would strongly encourage anyone who has even a passing interest in science and technology to keep their options open: keep going with maths and science through school as there is a whole world out there full of exciting and challenging problems to solve. If you’re looking into your career options, I would strongly recommend that you look into contacting engineering firms and explore your interest further and perhaps spend some time with them gaining some work experience - this will really help you understand where you want to be.

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