Hina Khan

Issued: Fri, 31 May 2019 14:47:00 BST

Hina Khan has been a STEM Ambassador for 15 years and has enjoyed working in all areas of science, engineering and technology.  She started her career with a degree in Physics and Astronomy, that then progressed to completing a PhD in Space Science. Whilst working as a research scientist at a world class university, she got the opportunity to take up a 3 year research fellowship at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre. Here she worked on ground breaking research to study space science using innovative technology and space missions. Her time in the USA was career defining as she was exposed to amazing research activity at world class institutions and got to work with leading scientists at the cutting edge of research. Hina continued this pathway to the European Space Agency and then finally back to the UK to work on satellite operations. Today she works in a leading data analytics organisation that have harnessed the power of small satellite technology to deliver data, applications and services to the global market, improving lives and the society we live in. 

Why did you decide to become a STEM Ambassador?

I have been interested in science from a very early age and decided that a career in science was the way I wanted to go. As I progressed in my career I have had the opportunity work in some world leading organisations and on science programmes that are on the cutting edge of scientific understanding. Science has always inspired me and having had such opportunities to travel the world, work at NASA, ESA, amazing universities and to return to Scotland to work for one of the most innovative companies in the space sector, I wanted to let young people know that the possibilities are only limited by their own imagination.  Coming from a small town in Scotland, it is sometimes considered a unique path that I followed and perhaps I was ‘lucky’ in what I did.  But in reality these pathways are open to all of us, and it is through hard work and good role models that allow us to see these paths.  I want to show this to young people and to inspire them that science is a rewarding and achieve career to follow.  

Which area of STEM are you most passionate about?

My career has been in the space sector, and this is what I am passionate about.  All the areas that connect to this, Maths, Physics, Geography and communication.  I love to talk about how physics connects us all in ways that are sometimes unusual, and maths is an area of education that is embedded in all aspects of our lives.  I enjoy being the reality to the these subject and demonstrating that we use them everyday without realising.  Being able to demystify these subjects is a huge challenge to be able to encourage young people that these are accessible subjects for them to do well at. 

What is your favourite thing about being a STEM Ambassador?

See the wonder and appreciation from the young people when I visit school and show them that I am a normal person from a normal place that has been able to some extraordinary work. And that they can do this too.  Seeing the wonder in young people eyes when they realise that they too could do these things and that it is not a world away from them.  It is right here, right now and they can do this. 

Describe your favourite or most memorable activity so far:

I arranged for a full year group of P6 children and staff to come to the University to see and take part in real research.  I arranged activities with my colleagues and rounded up some support to help out so that we could run some workshops for the P6 pupils, and arranged a tour of the facilities.  The staff and pupils loved the trip to the University and to see what it was really like to work in a place where science and STEM was the focus.  They loved being part of a programme of work and to see the results of this presented to the rest of the class. 


What STEM Ambassador activities do you have planned for the future?

I work a lot with my local secondary school and primary school to tie into the curriculum areas that the teachers are working on.  I have done sessions around World Space Week (October) and am planning activity with the local P7 class as they start the Science topic on Space.  I have scheduled meetings with the teachers to look at what they are doing in this area and how I can support the learning in this. 


What advice would you give to new STEM Ambassadors?

Never shy away from what lead you to the path you took.  Your experience and pathway is the essence of what will encourage young people to relate to you.  Always try to connect with the people you are working with through the activity you have planned.  If working with a school then speak to the teachers to make your sessions tie into the curriculum areas to add value to the work you are presenting.  If it is a public activity, then round up as much support as you can to have hands on activities, or demonstration to make it more real for the audience.  Above all be enthusiastic about what you are doing.  Remember you are trying to encourage STEM activities and make it fun, so make sure you have fun too.