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Women In STEM Activities

Period: 8-14 March 2021

Once you have finish reading please also read our other 'Women in STEM' content.

Women in STEM (Careers) Women in STEM (SHARE)



Art in Science

Hi, I’m Dr Caroline Erolin and I am a Senior Lecturer at the University of Dundee. As part of my job, I do research and teach Medical Art. I teach students how to use art materials and computers to make images of the human body. These can be used to help patients understand their disease better and to teach doctors.

Learn more about Caroline’s job and career journey in her career profile in Dr Caroline Erolin in Women In STEM.

Watch the following video to see how I started drawing animals when I was a child and ended up doing the job I do today.

I am also involved in figuring out ways to create 3D digital models, just like the ones in the activity sheet! These 3D digital models can be interacted with, meaning they can be moved around. I look at how we might use these 3D models for learning the different parts of the human body, or the ‘human anatomy’. I am also interested in how we can look at these 3D models using virtual reality (VR).

Scan of Hippopotamus Skull (by Dr Caroline Erolin)

Now it is your turn to get drawing!

On the activity sheet you will find links to two ‘Sketchfab’ accounts. Sketchfab is an online platform for sharing 3D models. One of the accounts is for human anatomy and includes scans of real bones and 3D models of human anatomy created by Caroline and her students. The other account has scans of zoological (animal) specimens, such as an elephant skull and a rhinoceros beetle! These scans are from the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum based at the University of Dundee.

Dr Caroline Erolin
Dr Caroline Erolin Senior Lecturer, Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, School of Science & Engineering, University of Dundee.
Digital Hand Model (by Dr Caroline Erolin)
Medical Illustration (PDF)

SHARE Activities

Blood Testing

Back in Body Bits Week, you learnt about your blood and that it is made up of different parts such as red blood cells and plasma.

Did you know that your blood can tell doctors and scientists about your health?

Blood tests are one of the most common types of medical test and have a wide range of uses:

  • Assess our general health
  • Check if we have an infection
  • See how well certain organs are working
  • Screen for certain genetic conditions

In this video you can see a laboratory in Ninewells Hospital where blood samples are tested. As so many people have blood tests every day, either at their doctor’s surgery or in hospital, scientists use machines and robots to help them. This makes it quicker to get results!

SHARE: Recruiting for Research, Improving our Health

Normally, the leftover blood is thrown away but in Scotland, we have people who donate theirs to scientists so that they can study it. Almost 300,000 people have given permission to the Scottish Health Research Register (SHARE) based at Ninewells Hospital to use any leftover blood following routine clinical testing.

You might wonder why scientists want to study this leftover blood. Your blood contains DNA. DNA is found in every cell of your body and is a genetic code that is an instruction manual to build you! It is your DNA that causes your eyes and hair to be a certain colour, for example.

Dr Xand and Dr Chris from Operation Ouch explain how DNA builds a person here (from 3:54):

How to Build a Human | DNA | Operation Ouch | Nugget

Your DNA can also influence the way you react to disease and medicines used as treatments. Everyone has different DNA (apart from identical twins/triplets) which means people will respond differently to illness and medicines. If scientists can understand these differences, doctors can treat people better.

Did you know that 10% of the Scottish population has already volunteered for genetic studies into diabetes, obesity, cancer, asthma, eczema or heart disease?

SHARE is also a register for people who are willing to be invited to take part in research projects. You can learn more about what they do on their careers profile [link]. Anyone aged over 11 years can join the SHARE register. If you are interested, please visit:

Activity: Genetics Dictionary and Word Search

Scientists have lots of technical words to explain the topic of genetics. You will have heard some such as sperm, genes and chromones explained by Dr Xand and Dr Chris in the above video. Check out our genetics dictionary to understand what each word means and then find all the words in this word search. If you would like to make the activity more challenging, you can search for the definition yourself and compare with our dictionary definition.

This page about genetics may help you:

Genetics Dictionary

Chromosome (KRO-moh-some) - threadlike structure that carry the genes and are made up of a substance called DNA.

DNA - DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic (dee-ox-see-ri-bo-nyoo-CLAY-ik) acid. It carries all the information about how a living thing such as a human will look and function.

Dominant - when the word dominant is used in relation to genes, it means that that gene will be the trait that you will end up with. For example, as shown in the video if you get one gene for blonde hair from the egg and the other gene for black hair from the sperm, the black hair gene is dominant. The person will end up with black hair.

Gene - basic unit that carries genetic information. A gene is an instruction for different features or traits. Each cell in the human body contains about 25,000 to 35,000 genes.

Genetics - the study of how certain features are passed on – or inherited - from parents to their offspring.

Egg - also called ovum. The egg comes from the female and contains half of the genetic information (genes) needed to create offspring.

Nucleus (NOO-clee-us) - is found inside a cell and contains our chromosomes and genes.

Recessive - when the word recessive is used in relation to genes, it means that that gene will be the trait that you will not end up with. In the definition of dominant, the recessive gene is the gene for blonde hair.

Sperm - The sperm comes from the male and contains half of the genetic information (genes) needed to create offspring.

Trait (trate) - a feature or characteristic, such as eye colour, that is passed on to offspring from their parents.

Dundee’s Wonder Women of Science

Many amazing women who were either born in Dundee or lived here have made important contributions to science. You will meet a small number of them today and learn about what they did in many different fields of science.

Now you have learnt all about these Wonder Women, it’s time to test your knowledge! Answer the questions and fill in the boxes in the crossword.

Have enjoyed meeting these Wonder Women? Why not go on our Dundee Discoveries walking tours to find out more about the city’s amazing history of science?

Try a series of self-guided walking tours through pioneering scientific research in medicine, biology, forensics, nursing and dentistry from the past to the present.

See Dundee Discoveries – Past and Present for more details.

Forensic Science

Forensic scientists help the police to solve crimes and help lawyers in court to explain what might have happened when someone is accused of breaking the law. Their findings are presented to the jury, members of the public, who decide if the person accused committed the crime or not.

Forensic scientists can use physics, chemistry, biology and maths.

Today, you will meet two researchers from the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, Holly Fleming and Hilary Arsenault. Holly Fleming uses different colours of light to help see some types of evidence that would otherwise be hard to see. Hilary works as a forensic biologist and works mostly with DNA. They have created two fun hands-on activities related to their jobs.

Invisible Inks: secret message writing and revealing

In forensic science, some types of evidence are hard to see. Scientists can use a combination of dyes and coloured lights to help them. The dyes and lights can detect certain materials and make others more visible, such as fingerprints or blood.

Coloured Lighting

In the invisible ink activity, you will write a secret message on paper. It will be invisible. You will then reveal the message by using a secret ingredient!

DNA transfer and persistence (using extracted DNA)

When you touch an object, you leave DNA behind. For example, when you touch your pencil you leave some of your DNA on that pencil. In her job, Hilary tries to understand how DNA gets to, and reacts with, the surface of an item. It is her job to understand how the DNA got onto the pencil and when it was put there.

Credits VcpMartin (Wikimedia Commons)

In this activity you get to see DNA! Single strands of DNA are so small that your eyes cannot see them. This simple DNA extraction activity will let you see DNA by taking a bunch of single strands and grouping them together. This group of DNA will be big enough for you to see!

Extraction Video Fruit

Also see the extraction video saliva (Activity 2) from Forensic Week from last year.

ouTube Video: DNA Video

If you have enjoyed these activities, you can take on the case of the stolen tiara and try out more forensic experiments to try and catch the culprit.

Dr Holly Fleming
Dr Holly Fleming Research Assistant, Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee
Hilary Arsenault
Hilary Arsenault Research Assistant, Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, School of Science & Engineering, University of Dundee
Invisible Inks
Invisible Inks (PDF)
Extracting DNA From Saliva Worksheet
Extracting DNA From Saliva (or Strawberry or Banana) (PDF)
Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science
Leverhulme Trust


Identifying Skeletons

Back in Body Bits Week, we introduced you to the bones in your body.

Did you know that there are scientists who study bones from the human skeleton?

Julieta does this and her job has a technical name which is forensic anthropologist (fuh-ren-zuhk an-thruh-po-luh-juhst). Forensic anthropologists study a person's bones because they can tell us who that person was. Bones can give us a lot of information about the person that we are trying to identify. The pieces of information that the forensic anthropologist try to gather include sex, age and height.

In 2012, a skeleton was found buried beneath a car park in the city of Leicester in England. Did you know that forensic anthropologists helped to identify the skeleton as King Richard III? He was King of England almost 700 years ago! Researchers in Dundee studied his skull to work out what he looked like. You can learn more about this story and see BBC News story: Richard III: Facial Reconstruction Shows King's Features.

Bone Fact!

Did you know that more than half of the bones in your body are found in your hands and feet? There are 206 bones in the whole body with 106 found in your hands and feet! 27 in each hand and 26 in each foot!


Today, you will try to do the first steps for human identification. You will be the forensic anthropologist for one day!

A forensic anthropologist needs to know the skeleton very well. In your first activity, you will need to name some of the main bones in the human skeleton.

You will now learn how scientists use their knowledge about bones. It helps them to identify a skeleton, to know who that person was. One of the first steps is to know the sex of the individual. In your second activity, you will try to figure out the sex of two individuals by looking at their bones. The best bone to estimate sex is the pelvis (hip bone). They are the most different between males and females.

Do you know why?

Females can give birth. The form and shape of the pelvis is quite different to allow babies to be born.

Watch this video as Julieta will explain the differences in the shape of the pelvis between males and females. This will help you answer the questions on activity sheet 2.

Julieta Gómez García-Donas
Dr Julieta Gómez García-Donas, Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology at the Center for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID), School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee
Activities Worksheets
Activity #1 Worksheet (PDF) (Answers)
Activities Worksheets
Activity #2 Worksheet (PDF) (Answers)


Making Molecules

At the level we can see them, medicines look like tablets, pills or liquids. At a much smaller level, tinier than we can see, they have a much wider variety of shapes. They’re often so tiny that we must use special lab equipment to know what they look like. Each type of medicine has its own shape. They can have rings, lines, all sorts of shapes. They work in three dimensions!

Meet the Scientist!

Amy is a medicinal chemist. A chemist is someone who mixes chemicals to make new things and a medicinal chemist is doing the same, but they want the new things to become medicines! Her job is to go into labs and make desired molecules to be tested as a medicine. Her job is to be in a lab using different types of tiny building blocks called atoms which are joined together to make bigger things called molecules. For example, a carbon atom and two oxygen atoms joined together makes carbon dioxide, CO2, which is a gas which makes fizzy drinks fizzy! Medicines are just big molecules with lots of different atoms.

We can model the 3D structures of medicines to see what they look like. There are modelling kits that you can buy, but it’s also easy enough to do it with things you might find around the house. Fruit can be a surprisingly useful tool for science! Try out this molecule making activity using pieces of fruit as different atoms.

Also see our other Galleries.

Amy McIntosh (Women In STEM)
Amy McIntosh works in the Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee. Learn more about her job and career journey in her career profile.
Molecule Making
Molecule Making (PDF)

Soil Safari

Join us on a soil safari and find out lots of interesting facts about the things that live in soil, the jobs they do and how some of them work together.

Meet the Scientists

Senga and Carmen are plant scientists. They both study plant roots and soil organisms. Read about their jobs and career journey to date in their career profiles.

What Is Soil?

Soil is the top layer of the Earth which we mostly think of as where grass, flowers, trees, and crops grow. It is a mixture of different components like tiny pieces of rock particles, clay and decaying organic material (like dead plants and animals, leaf litter and poo).

There are many different types of soil and this depends on how much of the different components are there, the climate, how well it is looked after by humans and by the plants, animals and microbes living and growing on and in them.

Different organisms prefer different soil environments; for example, fruit trees love growing in soil that has lots of clay, but carrots really do not like that type of soil. Generally, the more organic material a soil has the better because organic material has lots of nutrients that are helpful for the organisms living there.

Let us go on a soil safari and find out what organisms we will find...



We come in many different types and we like different types of soil but the more nutrients in the soil the happier we will be. We have special relationships with a lot of the other organisms in soil and work as a team with some of them (called symbiosis). Our roots are important for this. We release chemicals which bacteria love to eat and other organisms give us nutrients that we need to survive and grow.



We live in soil and particularly like living around plant roots. We are tiny and you can only see us with a microscope. There are thousands of different types (species) of us and in just 1g of soil there can be as many as 10 million of us! We get food from the plant roots and some of us help the plant to grow or defend plants against organisms that can make them sick called pathogens.

Decomposer Fungi

Decomposer Fungi
Decomposer Fungi

We also get called saprotrophs (sap-roe-trofes) but you know us best as mushrooms. We are important to soil because we break down (decompose) things like dead plants and poo and return their nutrients back to the soil for plants and other soil organisms to use.



We are thin worms that range from being around as thick as a human hair to being 10 times thinner! We can be shorter than 1mm or even a metre long! We are like a soil transport system. We carry bacteria and fungi that live on our skin and inside our bodies through the soil and even spread them on to plant roots where lots of us live.

M. Fungi

M. Fungi
M. Fungi

We are a special type of fungi who have a job that is almost like a food delivery service. We have long, thin growths call hyphae that spread out up to a mile long and form a huge network. We use our hyphae to deliver nutrients from soil far away directly into the roots of plants (mostly trees and some crops).



We love it when our soil home is warm and wet. We can make our own food from the sun, just like plants. We hold the soil together and releasing nutrients that feed plants and other soil organisms. When we die, we form a crust over the top of the soil to protect it from bad weather.



We can infect plants, bacteria and fungi which makes them sick. Normally this is bad but sometimes we infect bacteria and fungi that harm plants so we can still be helpful sometimes. We come in lots of different type and some are called Phages, can you find out what is special about a Phage?

Oh No! Rodney the Bacillus has a viral infection!

A phage infects bacteria by attaching itself to the bacteria and injecting its genes inside. The virus then uses the bacterias’ “organs” (which we call organelles) to make thousands of copies of itself until the bacteria gets completely filled up and eventually bursts! When the bacteria bursts open it releases all of the viruses that were inside, and they can go on to infect other bacteria.


Now you have taken our soil safari, it is time to undertake a couple of challenges featuring the different things that live in soil.

Dr Senga Robertson-Albertyn
Dr Senga Robertson-Albertyn, Postdoctoral Research Assistant, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee
Dr Carmen M. Escudero-Martinez
Dr Carmen M. Escudero-Martinez Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee
Soil Safari Challenge 1
Soil Safari Challenge 1 (PDF) (Answers)
Soil Safari Challenge 2
Soil Safari Challenge 2 (PDF) (Answers)

The Brain

The brain is a complex organ and controls pretty much everything you do. It makes you, you. It tells you to move your hand to pick up a pencil and move your legs so you can walk or run.

It is made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons with billions of connections. It is through these connections that messages are sent all over your body to tell it to do something. Every time you learn something new, like playing the piano, your brain makes new connections. The more you do the new thing, the stronger these connections become and the easier it becomes to do them.

Use Your Brain

Everyone's brain works a little bit different and that's great! Anne is a brain researcher. This means she studies how our brain works. She wants to find out what happens in our brain when we listen to music or to someone else talking. For example, musicians' brains can understand music, talking, and rhythms much better than the brains of people who don't play music. But sometimes the way our brain works can also make it harder for us to understand other people, or to learn to read. Her research aims to help people to learn to listen and read more easily. You can learn more about Anne in her career profile

Now watch this video to learn more about the brain.

Operation Ouch: Your big, brilliant brai

It is now time to learn about how the brain works with a fun activity. Have a go at our Stroop Effect (PDF) worksheet.

Did you know...? The left side of your brain controls the right side of your body and the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body.

Check out this video to see what happens when you block your brain signals on each side of the brain.

Operation Ouch: The brain – Amazing Body facts for kids

Brain Regions

The brain is made up of two sides called the left and right hemispheres. Our brain is divided into different areas, and all of them are responsible for different things (personality, senses, emotions, creativity, scientific thinking).

Check out this article in Curious Kids for more fantastic brain facts - Curious Kids: how much does a brain weigh?

Now try out these activities that feature the different parts of the brain.

Brain Quiz

Now you have learnt lots of facts about the brain, let’s test your knowledge with a Brain Quiz! If you do the Quiz together with your friends or family, you can impress them with your brilliant knowledge about the brain!

Dr Anne Keitel
Dr Anne Keitel Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of Dundee
Veronica Pravata
Veronica Pravata. Veronica is a PhD student at the University of Dundee. She is a brain researcher too. She is trying to understand how the brain develops when we are young and why it sometimes doesn’t work out properly.
Stroop Effect (PDF)
Worksheet: Brain Quiz Questions (PDF) (Answers)

Computers in Science

Computers have become very important tools for us all. Scientists use them for lots of purposes. It can be for something simple like sending an email to another scientist, to use a piece of equipment such as a microscope or to do complex work that would be impossible to do themselves such as analysing big data sets.

For a computer to be able to do these jobs, they need to be told what to do. Scientists can create instructions for computers to help other scientists and to help people. This could be writing computer programs for scientists to use to store and/or study data. Scientists can create ways that computers can help people. This could be to speak on their behalf or to allow them to draw with their eyes. Scientists at the University of Dundee do some of this work.

Studying scientific data using computers

Suzanne Duce is a research scientist who uses a computer program called Jalview to study the materials inside our cells called DNA, RNA and proteins. Jalview was created by scientists in Dundee and is used by many more over the world to help them with their research. Suzanne creates training materials so that scientists know how to use Jalview properly.

You can now try out Jalview yourself with a specially created activity What virus is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic?. This activity suitable for secondary pupils.

If you enjoyed this activity, you could try out another called, Viewing DNA & RNA.

Using computers to help people

The University of Dundee is a world leader in supporting and enhancing interaction for people with disabilities which affect their way of communicating, for example if they can’t speak and also can’t use their hands to speak sign language. Through their work researchers develop a variety of technologies to help. The people who will use the technology are involved in the design and the testing. This makes sure that the technology will work for them.

JG Being Used in School By A Children
Nicole helps developing and testing new software which allows her to chat about her day at school. She can’t speak due to her cerebral palsy and controls her computer with a switch you can see next to her cheek, similar to the way Stephen Hawking controlled his computer.

Professor Annalu Waller leads the AAC Research group who does this work. (AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, take a look at the research group’s web site if you want to find out more.)

Labake Odushegun is a PhD student and business owner working in computing. She is studying for a PhD at the University of Dundee. She looking at new ways for people to use, and interact with modern technology.

Alongside her studying, she runs two companies. A web design agency and private security company, which provides security services to elderly people.

Labake taught herself web design and thinks the best way to learn new things is by getting stuck right in! She has created the following activity to introduce you to the basics of computer language. You will start with something simple - HTML. You can then get practicing using the link provided in the Web Design Worksheet.

Scientist Using A Computer Connected To A Microscope (University of Dundee)
Scientist Using A Computer Connected To A Microscope (credit - University of Dundee)
Dr Suzanne Duce
Dr Suzanne Duce, Research Scientist in Bioinformatics, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee.
Prof. Annalu Waller
Prof. Annalu Waller Professor and Head of Computing, School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee
Labake Odushegun
Labake Odushegun is a PhD student in Computing, School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee and business owner.
Web Design Worksheet
Web Design Worksheet (PDF)

Through the Eyes of Telescopes

Space is an amazing place! In previous themed weeks we have introduced you to stars, the solar system, astronauts and much more!

Did you know that many people study Space?

Dr Aurora Sicilia Aguilar who works at the University of Dundee is one such person. She is an astrophysicist (a·strow·fi·zuh·suhst). Astrophysics is a branch of astronomy where physics is used to understand the universe.

Aurora studies how stars and planets form. She uses special equipment called telescopes to help her do this. A telescope makes things that are far away appear nearer. The ones that Aurora uses are found in different places. Some are ground-based (stay on Earth) like the one pictured while others are in space. She can use these telescopes to look at baby stars and their surroundings. She can see how they form inside giant gas and dust clouds in our galaxy. She can explore how their surroundings may change the type of planetary systems that will appear around them.

Aurora's favourite type of observations are "spectra". These are not images of stars, but the rainbows that you can produce with the star light. A type of instrument that we can mount on telescopes, called a "spectroscope" helps to see the rainbows.

Make your own spectrum rainbow

Put a CD under a lamp and move it around. What do you see? Can you see a rainbow? The light from the lamp is splitting into all the colours of the rainbow.

The rainbows of starlight can tell us a lot of things, such as what stars are made of, and how they move in space. This information is useful to scientists. It helps determine things such as the way stars form and whether they have planets orbiting around them.

Become an astrophysicist

Now it is your turn to become an astrophysicist. You will get to see what astrophysicists can see through the eyes of different telescopes.

Before you do the activity, you will learn:

  • Why we need so many different telescopes?
  • Why some of them need to be in space?
  • What the images obtained by different telescopes tell us?

Now, read our What do we see through the eyes of different telescopes? worksheet to learn more.

You will now get to study images taken by different telescopes. The images are the same gas and dust cloud, which is called IC1396A and is located in the Cepheus constellation.

The images show what IC1396A looks like through the eyes of the visible-light telescopes (with the Large Area Imager and the CAFOS/2.2m telescope) based at Calar Alto Observatory in Spain and in two infrared colours with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Telescope.

You can learn more about the Calar Alto Observatory and their work by checking out their web site at

The cloud contains baby stars (called "protostars") that are being formed, surrounded by tiny disks where their planetary systems will be born as well (these are called "protoplanetary disks"). Baby stars or protostars are, like baby dogs and baby children, very active, and like blowing at the cloud where they are born, opening holes like the one you see in the centre of the image.

For primary pupils. Look at the different images taken with different telescopes in our Flip Through Chart Worksheet (PDF). Do you see differences and similarities between the images?

For secondary pupils. This is a game, use our Find The Stars Worksheet (PDF) images to try to identify the stars that you can see through different telescopes. The first image has four different young stars marked with green circles. Can you find them in the other images?

It is a very difficult game, because each image is showing you what is emitting in the region with a different temperature, or a different material. The answers can be found in the next page.

Good luck with your observations!

Find the Star worksheet Check out this 3D visualisation of the Orion Nebula from National Geographic. The fly through video uses images taken by different space telescopes like those from the flip through chart to create the visualisation. How amazing is that!?

Fly Through a Star-Studded Nebula In a New 3-D Visualization

Also see our other Home Learning Topics information and our Learning Resources.

If you have enjoyed these activities please share them with your friends and family.

Once you have finish reading please also read our other 'Women in STEM' content.

Women in STEM (Careers) Women in STEM (SHARE)