Imperial College London

Science meets poetry: PhD researcher wins travel grant with inspiring poem


PhD student Luciana Miu

PhD student Luciana Miu won the Wiley Women in Research Travel Grant with a unique entry to inspire the future generation of women in STEM.

Luciana Miu, a postgraduate researcher at the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training Partnership at Imperial College London was chosen as the winner of the 2nd Annual Wiley Women in Research Travel Grant Competition.

Her entry, a poem titled “To you, future scientist”, was found the best out of more than 170 responses by a panel of judges. Ms Miu will receive $2000 as the prize to support her travel expenses.

We asked Ms Miu about her connection to research and poetry, and how she feels after winning the competition:

What made you decide to provide your entry in the form of a poem?

I've always taken a bit of refuge in poetry - I think it modulates whatever message you're trying to send into something rhythmic, musical and striking. I remember waking up after the night of the Brexit vote and, amongst all the chaos on my social media, all I could think of was to write a limerick about it. When it came to the Wiley Women in Research competition, to me the idea of talking, through my entry, from behind a computer, to the young women scientists of tomorrow meant that my message had to be modulated into something striking. And for me it was natural to choose poetry.

What inspired your interest in science and engineering when you were growing up?

Both my parents are researchers, and when I was growing up I frequently visited their physics research labs. There was this awe in me of the vastness of physics research and the phenomena that we as humans had become capable of understanding, manipulating and replicating. My high school chemistry teacher was the other reason. She is an amazing woman scientist and the one who always pushed me to do my best, so I associate her teaching with ambition and drive. So I grew up directly exposed to the vastness of science and the untiring ambition of those who pursue it.

“There was this awe in me of the vastness of physics research and the phenomena that we as humans had become capable of understanding, manipulating and replicating.”

What are you currently working on in terms of research?

I've had a really eclectic journey through my education. I started off getting into university on a biochemistry degree, switched to geology, then switched to environmental science, then pursued a masters in sustainable energy engineering. Over the course of the journey I got interested in the interface between technology and society, at the same time I was being initiated into the global challenge of climate change. Now in my PhD research I study these socio-technical interfaces in the context of the complicated system that is the residential energy efficiency sector. I'm working on a number of very interesting projects involving the retrofit and consumption behaviour of domestic energy users in the UK and Europe. At this particular moment I am on a research stay with Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in Milan, working with multi-country survey data to calibrate an agent-based model for simulating investment decisions in energy efficiency measures.

How does it feel to win the Wiley Women in Research Travel Grant competition?

I'm happy and humbled to win the competition. What I'm most glad about is that the poem seemed to strike home with the panel and those who have since read it. I hope it makes its way out into the world, and even if it touches just one young woman and makes them realise they can be the giants our future needs, that's mission accomplished for me.

Read Luciana's poem in full: 

Luciana Miu: To you, future scientist

It's warming to my heart to see so much of me in you, 
That wide-eyed awe, that eager smile: "What else can science do?"
"What spaceships, cars or nano-bots will engineers design?"
"What next for astrophysics on the history of time?"  
So no matter what they tell you in your college applications,
There is nothing more important than this lifelong fascination.

It's deja-vu to see you look around your college lab,
You've heard the story, yes - it's slightly meaningless and drab:
"Gender balance: 80-20. Yes, of course we strive for more.
But for years now, engineering has been male right to its core."
Yet no matter what you're thinking, as the only girl enrolled,
There is nothing more important than the passion that you hold.

And it's clear in your and my minds that our future generations,
Must stand tall upon the shoulders of our giants' inspiration,
And say: "Diversity in science is no longer just a dream,
Look around you and you'll see us all now working as a team.
Just think back - how many breakthroughs do you think we would have missed
If we'd settled for the "fact" that women study science less?

So no matter if they tell you to rethink your love for science,
Just remember: science needs you, and the future needs its giants.



Sara West

Sara West
Department of Chemical Engineering

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