A Spotlight on Ploughshare’s Women in Science


Published 9th February 24

By Elizabeth Akass, Content Marketing Manager at Ploughshare

Ahead of this year’s International Day of Girls and Women in Science, we’re shining a spotlight on just some of the members of our team who have chosen science as a career pathway. Lindsay D. Smith, Sandy Fisher John, Hannah Askew, and Helen Waugh tell us why they are passionate about science, their area of specialism, their experiences working in science-related fields, and why they think more people should consider pursuing a career in science.

I originally pursued science because I wanted to make a positive difference to people’s lives and work in an area that provided a challenge and would have an enduring impact. After completing a PhD in Biochemistry, I worked as a researcher in oncology, focussing on understanding the cellular changes that happen in cancer, and developing and testing treatments that tackle these. During my time in science, I was exposed to a wide range of scientific specialisms and fields, which I think has been hugely beneficial to my role at Ploughshare. It has equipped me with a broad basis of scientific understanding, and a confidence to lean into different technology areas.

I think it’s important for people to consider that there’s a technical aspect to almost everything we see and use every day – it all comes from STEM. Supporting science and technology is fundamental to developing and enabling solutions to real issues in the world, from health, to sustainability, to the AI revolution. As scientists, we are constantly hypothesising, testing, and learning, with a foundation of change and innovation. Whether you’re working on small molecules or spaceships, you gain a diverse skillset and a resilience in solving problems. I think as the world increasingly evolves and new challenges arise, we will need more and more people to take an interest in science.”

– Dr Lindsay D. Smith, Senior Commercialisation Manager at Ploughshare.

Lindsay has a PhD in Biochemistry and specialised in cell and molecular biology.

I was drawn to science, and particularly applied science (better known as engineering), due to the endless possibilities that I see it presents. I’ve studied and worked in the field of materials engineering: a fascinating subject because it is so intrinsically linked to our everyday lives. Understanding more about the building blocks of the world around us, what makes it work and how it could work better has always been a motivator for me. In this area, there is a real collision of knowledge and creativity, resulting in the ability to solve big problems and generate things we didn’t think were possible before.

“During my PhD, I had the opportunity to work as part of a cross-disciplinary, international project. Collaborating with a diverse group of scientists and researchers was incredibly enriching, for both me and the work we were doing. I think it’s important for more people to pursue science because the best solutions to any problem come when a diverse set of thought and experiences are considered. The more people able to contribute to the conversations, the better chance we have of hearing a broader range of viewpoints and creating meaningful Impact.”

– Dr Sandy Fisher John, Commercialisation Manager at Ploughshare.

Sandy’s background is in Materials Engineering, with a PhD in microscopy and characterisation of nanocarbon composites.

There is an excitement to understanding how things work and making new discoveries that go on to save lives or positively impact people or the environment, or improve products or services. My training and education as a scientist and engineer has opened doors to incredible opportunities – visiting and working with customers and collaborators across the UK and worldwide. It also gave me the opportunity to live and work in Australia and Sweden.

“The beauty of science and engineering is that you can apply those skills to many areas – I have worked in a broad range of disciplines, from biomedical to aerospace. After my PhD, I worked as a researcher and engineer before taking up additional roles in project management and leading teams and projects. I transitioned into the world of commercialisation because I wanted to learn how to build businesses from new technologies and work in an interdisciplinary space spanning commercial, legal, and intellectual property. It is challenging, but very stimulating and rewarding, and I’m inspired by the passionate scientists and engineers that I get to work with every day.

“In an age where technology development is moving so quickly, STEM subjects provide a springboard to a wide variety of opportunities and roles, and it is so important to have a diverse range of people working on the biggest challenges of today.”

– Dr Hannah Askew, Commercialisation Manager at Ploughshare.

Hannah has a PhD in Materials Engineering, with a background of Biomedical Engineering and biophotonics.

Science underpins everything we do as a society, and it provides a toolbox that can help us solve problems and answer questions about why things happen. During my PhD, I worked to understand why wounds in diabetic people don’t follow the same healing pathways as wounds in people without diabetes, and suggested improved treatments to help. I have always had a natural curiosity about the ‘why’ of things, and working in science allows me to explore and find answers, as well as benefitting society at large.

“I have worked mainly in the energy sector (in both renewable and conventional power generation companies) specialising in technology transfer. My background allows me to understand the research and idea creation process and talk productively with research teams and inventors, as well as understanding intellectual property which enables me to ‘translate’ between scientists and those in more commercial roles.

“If you like science and maths, careers in these areas offer a lot of opportunities. I’ve worked for small companies and large multinational corporations and universities in both the UK and Ireland, and have worked on collaborative projects with people from all over the world.”

Dr Helen Waugh, Senior Commercialisation Manager at Ploughshare.

Helen has a PhD in Mathematics, with a background in mechanical engineering and the energy industry.

Ploughshare is dedicated to working closely with scientists and engineers to help their innovations go further. Discover our latest technologies available to license here.