Breaking Barriers in STEM

An interdisciplinary and intersectional initiative which aims to address Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in STEM. The event Through the Looking Glass: Breaking Barriers in STEM launched the initiative and from this four themed working groups were formed. This initiative will culminate with a knowledge exchange event in Spring 2022.

EVENT: Through the Looking Glass: Breaking Barriers in STEM

The event, organised by SULSA ECR representatives, took place online on 28th October 2020 and comprised of a webinar and breakout discussion groups. MSP Richard Lochhead opened the webinar followed by presentations from four exceptional early career researchers in life sciences, chemistry, and engineering. The webinar was followed by discussion groups focusing on four main themes: Decolonising the Curriculum, The Leaky Pipeline, Expanding Our Reach, and Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Check out the Speaker Cards, watch the event recording and read the event report.



Cross-Pool Working Groups

This project is now running with four working groups comprising academics from across disciplines and career stages. These groups cover four key themes:

  • Decolonising STEM
  • The Leaky Pipeline
  • Expanding Our Reach
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Each group is led by a Research Pool representative from SULSA (Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance), ScotCHEM (Scottish Universities Chemistry Research Pool), SINAPSE (Scottish Imaging Network: A Platform for Scientific Excellence), and SICSA (Scottish Informatics and Computer Sciences Alliance).

These groups will aim to assess the current landscape and determine where they can add value, within their designated topic, through cross-University collaboration. All groups will come together quarterly and present their progress at our knowledge exchange event Down the Rabbit Hole: Breaking Barriers in STEM 2.0.



UPCOMING EVENT: Down the Rabbit Hole: Breaking Barriers in STEM 2.0

Date: Friday 29th April 2022
Time: 12:00 – 15:30
Location: Pollock Halls, University of Edinburgh

After the success of our Breaking Barriers in STEM: Through the Looking Glass event in 2020, SULSA, alongside Research Pools ScotCHEM, SICSA, and SINAPSE created working groups to address the following EDI issues:

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • Decolonising STEM
  • Expanding Our Reach (International Support)
  • The Leaky Pipeline

On behalf of these groups, we would like to invite you to Breaking Barriers in STEM: Down the Rabbit Hole, an EDI knowledge-exchange. This event will begin at 12:00 pm with a networking lunch followed by talks from organisations working to resolve issues in each thematic area between 1:30-3:30 pm.

The networking lunch will be held in an exhibition space so we invite your EDI committee to host a stall during this time to provide information on EDI activities happening on your campus.

We want this event to bring those passionate about EDI together to share ideas and experiences in tackling some of the barriers and how collectively, we can make STEM a place where everyone is welcome.

For more information please contact:

SULSA’s Through the Looking Glass: Breaking Barriers in STEM Art Competition asked the question – what does an inclusive and diverse environment look like to you?

We welcomed creations from all formats and are delighted to present the winning entry and runner up.



by Roxanna Munir

PhD Researcher, Glasgow Caledonian University

“The central figure is composed of numerous skin tones layered by palette knife, highlighting the broad diversity in science across the world. The layers work in unison to compose a single person, indicating the connectivity and collaborative aspects of science. There are subtle suggestions of glasses, a hearing aid and piercings again supposed to indicate the broad reach and accessibility of science. The person is surrounded by stereotypical vintage science illustrations to indicate both the broad definition of science (as it ultimately encompasses all things) and highlighting the “beginnings” as we have now progressed to digital imaging. The colours behind the figure hint at a rainbow, to signify LGBT+ inclusion in science too. Lastly, the artwork being imaged on a mirror is to ultimately indicate that anyone, anywhere is part of science in their own way, as we encounter it in everyday life – everywhere!”






‘Daddy is trying to write his astrobiology lecture’

by Dr Nicholas Tucker

Senior Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology, University of Strathclyde

“Many of us have had to juggle work and childcare during our scientific careers, but the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has blended our home and work lives like never before. I was looking after my 6 month old son Peter whilst preparing to record an astrobiology lecture and he was obsessed with what I was up to. Mercifully, the sticky finger marks on my laptop screen don’t show up on Zoom.”

This runner up prize was sponsored by ScotCHEM