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The history of science is full of women who never got the acclaim they deserved and young women with few role models in STEM subjects can feel excluded from these traditionally male areas.

'Meitner Day' is a day long experience that has been run in schools in the south west during February and March by Links to a Life - a creative learning community using theatre, games and science to encourage young women and girls to take up physics and other STEM careers, framed through the life of trail-blazing Austrian atomic physicist Lise Meitner.

I was able to participate in a “Meitner Day” at Huish Episcopi Academy in Somerset (organised by the South West Nuclear Hub) and saw first-hand how Links to a Life use Meitner’s story to inspire the Years 9 and 10 girls.

To get the ball rolling they started off with a scientist Happy Families card game which got the students talking about the various scientists involved in nuclear physics and their accomplishments. Further discussion about these people got the girls to tease out the exclusivity of a scientific community that only allowed rich white European men to learn and contribute. After a quick break we leapt into maths and science and, with a little aid from myself and the teachers, the students were able to independently repeat Meitner’s calculation of the expected production of energy during nuclear fission!

To learn more about Meitner, the company performed a one-hour play about this fascinating woman, who fought prejudice in the German universities, escaped the Nazis and discovered the products and methods of nuclear fission. After a brief talk from me on work on a nuclear site and my route to my current role I was bombarded with questions which led to some fascinating discussions on scientific ethics. By the end of the day the thirty girls who had reluctantly filed into the classroom in the morning were coming up with brilliant points about scientific responsibility and the morality of discovery – linking back to Meitner’s rejection of the atomic bombs.

I had a wonderful time working with the students and the Links to a Life group and would strongly encourage anyone looking to take a day out to inspire and be inspired to help support activities such as this.

Molly O’Neill, Geologist - Construction Technical Support, EDF HPC