We’re always so proud to share stories of Essex alumnae working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), fields where women are typically underrepresented and in-demand. 

To celebrate Women in STEM, we’re sharing the stories of inspiring female role models and their cutting-edge work. As ever, we’d love to hear from you letting us know where life has taken you since Essex.

Afsheen Rashid

Afsheen Rashid

MEnv in Environment, Science and Society 2001; Honorary Degree, 2017

Afsheen, who moved to study in Essex after completing a Masters in Geography in India, has spent 10 years working in environment and climate change looking to use “social energy” to make change happen.

As Founding Director of Repowering London, she was awarded an MBE in 2016 for services to renewable energy projects in deprived communities and is also the founder of Tower Hamlets Muslim Women’s Collective. 

She said: “We can only address the issues of climate change by integrating the environment, business, society and culture. We cannot treat them in silos. I encourage you as graduates and postgraduates to follow your passion, your interest and listen to your inner voice and your instinct. Let it lead you to achieve your dreams and more. But most importantly, while you are on this journey do remember to respect yourself and equally those around you.”

Ugonnaya Igwilo

Ugonnaya Igwilo

MA Public Health, 2013

Ugonnaya Igwilo was named regional winner of the British Council’s Study UK Social Impact Award in 2018 for her vital work on Ebola Virus disease awareness campaigns.

In 2014, Ugonnaya worked at the Emergency Operations Centre during the Ebola outbreak and served as a screening medical officer at the Lagos International Airport, screening over 5,000 passengers. This campaign successfully reached over 21 million Lagos residents and subsequently helped curb the outbreak.

Ugonnaya has also supervised the tracking of HIV patients who have stopped receiving treatment and identified the reasons why they left to encourage them back into care. She’s taught over 5,000 medical students and community health officers in Lagos and has recently worked with the state’s Ministry of Health to provide technical support and expertise in the prevention of the Monkey Pox outbreak.

Over the last year, she’s also been heavily involved in Nigeria’s efforts to fight the outbreak of COVID-19

Ugonnaya will soon be finishing a six-year residency training program at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria and is on her way to becoming a Public Health Specialist. 

She said: “Being a member of the Human Rights Society at Essex built on my knowledge base and changed my perception of my role as a public health physician. This was a guiding principle for my volunteerism, community outreach planning and implementation and my health service delivery.”

Anushree Srivastava in protective space suit

Anushree Srivastava

MSc Biotechnology, 2016

Originally from Northern India, Anushree was inspired to study at Essex after reading an article on astrobiology research conducted by Dr Terry McGenity from the School of Life Sciences.

The knowledge and experience Anushree gained during her Masters helped her to secure a position as Crew Biologist with The Mars Society. Straight after graduation she took part in a simulation mission in the Utah desert, a landscape as close to Mars as can be found on Earth. For her participation and contribution to the mission, she was shortlisted as a finalist in the British Council Study UK Alumni Awards in 2018.

Since then, Anushree has taken part in various other projects to support further research of the planet, including working for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission in the USA, and is currently studying towards her PhD. 

She said “Astrobiology addresses the most profound question of humankind – ‘Are we alone?’ Astrobiology explores the possibility of finding extinct or extant life elsewhere in the universe, as well as investigating the origin and evolution of life on Earth.”