This gentleman Tom Brady is quite successful at this sport. He has won the trophy at the Super Bowl individually more time than any teams in the history of the entire sport. He’s very good at it. He won it recently. That’s not really the news. The news was that the team that he’d recently joined had the most diverse coaching staff of the entire league. And they were not a good team. They had not won for a long time. And he joined them and they won the Super Bowl. So literally, diversity won.
Yeah, it was great to see. Okay, so what did I actually do? That’s why I did it. What did I do? I was approached by my head of department with this goal, that he wanted anyone basically to be able to see themselves in our portraits and be inspired to know that they could succeed at our institution. And…
He really wanted us to incorporate everybody. So that was all the different research we do, all the different levels, people across our campuses. He wanted our medical doctors, he wanted our lab-based researchers, he wanted everybody included, which was great. I was also told we could only feature women because people wanted to readdress the balance. I was also told by some people that we should only feature academics because that’s who we are. And other people questioned why we’d include students.
because, well I don’t know why, because we’re at university thinking we want to do that, but anyway, I wanted to just point out that it was so vital at that stage that I stuck with the idea of the whole community, because what I wanted to do was showcase our people, their stories, and more than just our research, I couldn’t have done that if we didn’t take that decision to make sure that everybody was included.
So the beginning of it, having been given that, I think, really lovely idea from my head of institute to make sure everyone was welcome, everyone could see themselves, was just kind of the logistics of setting all up. And although this bit, I think, is potentially quite boring, it was very important to make sure that everybody in my department knew that they could nominate people, everybody knew that anyone could be nominated, the panel who took people forward was a representative of all the…
across our department so that nobody felt that this wasn’t for them because we really wanted to make sure we didn’t have the same people coming forward, the same people being nominated. During that process I also got details from the people who nominated startle students and the nominees themselves so I had a good idea of what they would be willing to talk about because some stories are quite personal and really we needed people who’d be willing to share open
So it was quite key at this stage to check that with the people who’d be taking part before we moved on to the next bit. And we covered all those things about types of research and seniority levels and all that so that people were being nominated in all those areas, so that across the final ten portraits we got a fair representation. I would like to report some of the people who I photographed to talk to. I couldn’t do that, so what I did do is I sat down and talked to them.
to some of them and you’ve got a chance now to hear from Simone about what she thought about the selection process. My name is Simone Walker, I am a senior research technician in the National Heart and Lung Institute of Imperial College London and I manage and run a specialist technical facility. But why did you agree to take part in making waves? It just from the outside seemed different. It seemed…
really inherently fair and genuinely inclusive and trying to really capture diversity but I think in ways that people don’t necessarily always think about. So from the nomination side of things from colleagues but the comms surrounding it were really good in my opinion.
There’s loads of things where you see people have been nominated but you just wonder about how. I never knew how to nominate a person but this time it was really clear. I also know how the selection process was done and there was a wide variety of people that was part of that and what was different in my opinion for that bit was it encompassed lots of levels of people, not just the professors and again that’s something that we don’t always think about. It seems like a lot of times it’s always the same important people.
that are making the decisions but in this case I know it wasn’t. And then the envisage of the people that got represented, I think also just the fact that it’s the people on the ground hearing now, not people that have done something magnificent that may have left or have also got to the pinnacle of their careers. It covered everyone at all levels.
a good programme to be part of and like I said it’s the actual people here and now across different roles within the department. Again a lot of times we don’t really think about how all of or who contributes to the success of a department it’s only again the senior figures that get featured a lot so there’s that side of things but then there’s obviously the ethnic and gender
which actually is the more obvious side of things and it’s great to see and it’s really important to see, but this has so much more than that.
snow for that. And then basically moving on to I guess the look and feel of what I was trying to do. I was really trying to do something that would make people stop and look. We have a lot of really traditional portraits as I’ve shown you which are quite big physically. If I wanted something that would stand literally on a little hand next to these and people would still want to look at it. Also we have of the modern photography it tends to be the same kind of shot. For us it’s a lot
coats with pipettes. They’re beautifully shot, it’s amazing, but you don’t maybe know much about that person, actually even their research, because it’s all in a petri dish. So how was I going to bring out more about the people? Again, I was told very clearly to really focus on science, and I did, but in the end the people and their extra stuff that they brought to it that really made this hopefully a success. So this was my inspiration, a classical portrait,
that stuck my mind about this is that you have the objects in the background that tell you more about the people who are featured in the picture. The gentleman also wearing their finery and all of the other portraits I showed you people tend to be dressed up to kind of show off their best selves. At the front of the picture there’s a, looks like a bit of a blur, but it’s a skull and if you stand at a certain angle it’s like a hidden message. It’s this kind of 3D object that
comes out that talks about desplating all of us. Not particularly happy, but hidden messages in that picture. So how did I translate that? So basically, the first profile I want to show you is Irina. She’s one of our early career researchers. This is the portrait in full. So these are printed and framed in our buildings. So obviously, one thing that makes it quite different
on that so you can clearly see who she is and what level she’s at because most of the people featured are not professors and I also asked everybody to choose three objects which I’ll show in greater clarity in a second but her objects are a microscope which looks a bit like a computer screen at the front left which shows her the cells that she works on, a mortar board
which reflects her work-life balance. I pulled out three quotes to go with those objects that she chose. And at the bottom there, there’s also a QR code, and that goes through to a longer form profile.
So, just to show you…
Sorry, can you scroll down for me?
These were the online profiles built on shorthand that I used through the QR code to really bring to life.
what these people are actually about. So we had the three quotes, but I sat down with each person and had about an hour, two hour in-person interview about yes, why they’d chosen each object to speak about them and their work, but also to basically speak widely about them as people and they had the opportunity to bring out anything that they felt was important to them. It was just amazing to sit down with people and hear.
about them. Turns out everybody’s amazing. Everyone has these amazing stories. One of the things that Marina touched on is her family moving here due to political arrest in the 90s and how that’s affected her, her family, her parents and who she is today. So thank you, go back to the presentation.
Okay, just wanted to touch on the fact as well. Not everybody agreed with what I was doing. When I was just trying to get some of the formal things done like health and safety approval.
it became apparent that I couldn’t take things forward because there was actually an issue, technically with stuff, but just because people thought what I was doing was going to be absolutely terrible. So I guess I just wanted to comment on having conviction in your ideas. If you’ve got an idea that you think is going to work, like make sure you take the time to fulfill it properly, because if you start shippling it and changing it, I think you won’t end up obviously with your vision, which trust yourself because hopefully it will work out well.
So this is the portrait of Simone, who you’ve always briefly met, and you’re going to hear a bit more from her about more about the project just now, just to run you through her objects. She has a lab coat to talk about her work, which she’s been touched on. She runs a clinical facility. And the other things that she brought out were books. She’s an avid reader. He says, reading is empowering. You can learn so much from it, even fiction. You can learn about
open up your whole world. And then with regards to the earrings she chose, I’m British Caribbean, I grew up in London, but my mum would always talk about home and she’d be talking about Dominica. This also, so as well as the photographer I worked with, she was amazing, I worked with a design company and they put together the portraits for the text on, but they also did these assets for us, which we could use on digital screens around campus, so we had a way of, people who might not physically be seeing
in the building, also still being able to get a chance to see them. So I will pass back to Simone. How did you find the experience of taking part in the process and making waves? Really good, but also really nerve-racking. But it’s been a really positive experience. I’ve got to be kind of open and vulnerable.
but it’s been a really successful thing to do. So I’ve really enjoyed it.
Yeah, so I’ve actually had quite a lot of people contact me about it because it has gone out quite widely. So some people that I don’t work with that are actually not even within our section have contacted me because they’ve seen it and they’ve been like, oh, it’s so good, I’m so proud of you. Or they’ve just like made contact because we’ve met once somewhere and then they’ve contacted me about seeing me. So it’s like allowed me to be a bit more visible and people feel that they can approach me as well. And it’s
It’s not just, it’s covered lots of different topics because obviously it shows so many different sides of me. So people are like, oh you’re so fashionable but you’re a scientist or I like your earrings and the fact that you’ve represented the flag and it’s so nice to see a technician doing something like this. So it’s kind of all like loads of different angles so yeah, there’s been lots of different kinds of contact. Obviously there’s the people within my close art section and then in the department.
I was a bit more surprised for the people. I was totally a bit, very distant to the National Art and Lung Institute. Why do you think these kind of initiatives are important? I think it’s really important. I think for too long now, we’ve seen one image.
of a very specific type of person, essentially the older white male. But it’s not just that, I think updating the portraits with the people that are around now is also really important, celebrating the people that are working in the here and now.
not just celebrating past successes, celebrating the current success is really good. I think it adds value to the people that you have here, but also it will show external visitors what your organisation is all about. The past is in the past and it’s good, but I think we need to change our way of thinking a lot. From what I’ve seen, not just in academia, but in large organisations as a whole, it’s always…
senior people or maybe someone who has done something really good but maybe has passed away and it’s good to celebrate people while they’re here as well. So I think it can, I would like to hope that it does go wider and I think the other thing that I like that should also be embraced is
the mix of media that’s the right way to put it. So the fact that it has the electronic profile which also contains the portrait but with more details the interviews as well combining with the two so it’s not just a picture in isolation that you glance and maybe don’t have the meaning behind having that additional meaning so even if it is an older picture but they then
thing to go with it to give a bit more explanation and even that could then add to the history of places, positive and negative, if that’s the case of where we are now, that was something else that could be taken forward.
I think the point she makes at the end there about updating our previous portraits with online content is a really good one and something that I’d literally just told me in that interview just the other week and I think I might take forward as like a next project. I think it’s a really good idea as well of adding context to our older imagery. That might be my next thing. There’s ten profiles. I won’t get through all of them. I wanted to just show I guess the diversity or some of the mix of people we included. So this is Aaron who is one of our clinical doctors.
took part. He spoke about being a doctor, he spoke about representation and you know protected characteristics not being a barrier with his his rainbow lanyard and he also spoke about his work with the RAF air cadets. I guess I think the thing that was particularly poignant to me about his story is he came from a very normal medical family so he hadn’t even considered going into medicine but he had certain people who came into his life who really
encouraged him to come into medicine. He’s now going back through his work with the RAF to inspire other young people to kind of achieve their potential. He’s literally, you know, he is that person that people are seeing that makes them realise that they can be it. So I thought it was really interesting we ended up featuring him in this campaign. He’s literally kind of already doing what I was trying to emulate through this campaign. Briefly just to touch on some of
with very young children with severe asthma and she loves chocolate but I just thought it was nice that one of her quotes around teamwork so although she’s one of the most senior person we featured, she’s the head of one of our sections, she wanted to bring out the fact that she wouldn’t have any success if it wasn’t for the people around her and interestingly every senior person I spoke to had a wonderful quote about either the importance of mentoring or teamwork or
public and really sharing what we’re doing. So I think even for some of the people who maybe would have been featured more typically, they still were bringing out much more than what we’d normally feature, which would be the amazing research that they’re doing. Okay, these two you’re going to hear from a video.
about these two ladies, these are two of our PhD students, Micah and Selena. One other object is the microphone because they run a podcast, Elevator Podcast, which is about promoting female role models. This video is a bit longer, but I really value their opinions. I think they make some really good points. So hopefully you will enjoy hearing what they have to say.
So hi, I’m Celina. I’m the final year PhD student at Aaliyah College. I’m an IT and Business student at Buckeye. I’m originally from France and I came to London almost 10 years ago now. I’m just writing up my thesis and we’ll just have met soon. And I’m Micah and I’m also final year PhD student. I’m Celina but I have another year so my final year just started.
is exciting. I’m originally from Germany and I came to the UK almost seven years ago now. Why did you agree to take part in Making Waves? So we talked about this idea. Yeah. So I guess there were a couple of…
things why we wanted to take part. I mean firstly it was a huge honor to be selected so just to point that out as well. For us to be selected. Yeah, it was a massive surprise. Yeah, but secondly I mean with our podcast, with the Elevator Podcast, what we do is we want to highlight positive flow models. So that’s exactly how it fits within making waves as well. So it really aligned with our values, I would say.
Yeah, that’s the main reason why I guess we sort of accepted and we were very excited because we felt like all the portraits that were hung around campus were just sort of like white, all male, and all they were like, we need to change this, like we’re the women. So no, it’s great to be part of it. We got some good feedback from people and we were like, oh it’s so nice to see your work being displayed because I didn’t know about it, and I’m like, there you go, then that’s their purpose, that was the purpose of the project, to show them it’s working. So nice. People writing us emails, being like, oh I saw your portrait.
amazing work. Yeah, as well as I asked you actually like yeah what’s it been like since? Yeah definitely like increased visibility for like our work and also like us as people, like as a person and for sure people just recognizing what we’ve done. People get surprised sometimes be like oh didn’t know you were doing this and how did you manage that, I’m saying PhD. So it’s great to be able to be recognized without also to show that you can do both
I think this project was also very important because in academia we tend to not show people’s achievements outside of just the academic work and especially for our postdocs and teaching students I think it’s great that we’re showing what people do outside because it’s not just academic work. We were saying most of the time we get questions on papers etc. what can we show, of course mostly on papers, but there’s so much more work people do around and…
Yeah, it’s not being really shown, like all the EDI work people do and they’re not being highlighted for that. So it’s exactly this kind of work with the making race which we support, which we really wanted out there.
So I think the portraits really were really amazing at bringing out individuality as well in each person. And I think that’s something that really lacks in general in the university and academia. Do you think there’s a wider scope for this kind of thing having an impact? In July, you say it firstly, of course yes. I think we can already see that it has an impact within July. Seeing that there are people sort of talking about it and seeing it and respond. But also hopefully yes, wider impact.
we talked about it, but it would be fantastic if other departments would follow, firstly Women Imperial, but also maybe through you talking about it, and us posting about it, and articles being written about it, that it reaches other universities. And not only universities, it would be amazing if it could reach some companies or some other parts of our industry.
Yeah, for sure. I think there’s definitely still a lot of work to be done in terms of EDI and everything. Like really the NHLI and Imperial and any other universities, not just Imperial. But yeah, as Manka said, I think I really hope that opens doors for similar projects or maybe people can just take a different twist on it. But yeah, I think it’s just very important to highlight people’s achievements and get them all repeated. And I feel like we were really proud and there were a few other students as well who were taking part in the project
key that some students were auto-highlighted in. Because we tend to just be the ones we’re like.
hidden away, still doing a lot of work and a lot of students do so many amazing things as well, on the side. Even in companies, I think more and more, we’ve got like four, five generations just working together. Where is the communication? It’s always human by the same people talking and that’s just why things are not going forward. And I’m not just saying this because I’m a minion, but it’s just we need like any generation to speak so everyone will bring something, will find you.
they’re going to talk about as well making a change for the better.
They both had quite difficult experiences getting into academia themselves. And Micah makes the level point about how she really hopes that others won’t face the same problems that they did, which I thought was a lovely comment on how they’re trying to kind of pay it forward and basically be role models themselves for the next generation to make changes. OK, so final bit was just to talk a bit about the impact. This project, I started rolling out earlier this year. So far, we’ve only…
similar to the profiles because we’re doing them kind of on a month-on-month basis so that everybody gets their time in the spotlight.
This suddenly feels very egotistical when I put it up. Anyway, I wanted to make the comment of quoting myself, that this has been the best thing I’ve done. I’ve been at Imperial for nearly 10 years, and taking the time to work on a longer project where I sat down and I spoke to everybody across our department has been the most inspiring thing I’ve done. And I guess the note on that is that I’m hoping, seeing as I have had that reaction to it, that hopefully I’ve done it justice, and that what we’ve put out will lead to others across our community being equally
inspired and represented.
In terms of the impact, I wanted to briefly talk about the launch event, because this was quite important to getting out to our community, the wider community across the college. Some of the contributors spoke at the event, and we had senior people in attendance, including our head of institute and the head of the head of Imperial. And it was a really opportunity for those people to kind of get the idea of it. They got to meet the contributors. They got to see more than the science.
Also, I had fellow college colleagues there, and they then took my stories to their audiences, which worked pretty well. Our dean of education sent out his next all student email in reference to it, so it was really nice to celebrate everybody and get everybody to kind of build a bit of buzz around it so that it then got sent out across the community. It’s a lot of work, but it was really worth having that event.
Okay, stats. So not a lot of stats, but so far seven profiles have gone out. So on the platform we’ve had nearly 4,000 views of the profiles, which considering it’s just across Imperial, our department is much smaller than that, shows that it’s gone outside the department already, it’s had a very good uptake. Some of the people you heard speaking, Simone Mike and Selena, spoke about how they’ve had people contacting them and the impact it’s had on their lives, but just kind of anecdotally we’ve had particular…
and the one building, always tells me about the people and their comments they’ve made generally good. Sometimes, you know, some people don’t like the change because it’s kind of challenging preconceptions of who should be on our walls. Personally, I think that’s a good thing. So it’s definitely been something that people are talking about, which hopefully is only a good thing. Some pretty standard stats just to show you on our social channels. A couple of the posts have gone out on X and Instagram.
I don’t have any benchmarking stats, but basically these have performed very well for us. And obviously the images, again, credit to the amazing photographer who really made, again, everybody feel at ease to get these images. A big part of this was people opening up to me when I interviewed them, but also when we took the photos and feeling confident to be portrayed.
Oh, and then very briefly, I did some just quick mental needs and stuff to get engaged. This was before the project launched across our department. I asked a bit about how much people maybe schools have represented. Did they feel welcome? And then at the launch event, I asked the same questions. And there’s a bit of a junk, which I just, you know, that’s again, everything going in the right direction, hopefully.
Okay, so my key points. I was very lucky to have my Head of Institute come to me with this because I had senior stakeholder buy-in which I know that we don’t always get. With that came a budget which to be honest was not a lot of money, it was more time, but his backing encouraged everybody to get involved and he also helped with the impact because he helped with making sure that other senior leaders were aware of the project. Include
If anyone was doing a similar project, I think that was so key as I touched on, that everybody is involved, because you can’t show everybody if you don’t include everybody. Thinking about a way to make it stand out, so for me it was kind of the objects and the lighting was a bit different and also people were not wearing lab coats. The honest and open content, which I was very lucky to get, again, all thanks to my contributors for sharing their lives basically, and without that it just wouldn’t have worked because
same stuff that we always say about how great certain aspects are but it was their personal stories that even the senior people now reflect upon making this an interesting project. And then finally tell everyone because I think hopefully if there’s something like this that is showcasing the more diverse group it’s really nice to try and get it out there. Which brings it to my final quote. I saw Austin speak at Content Ed several years ago.
He’s written a book with this title and he talks all about how with ideas, if you see something that you like, take it, transform it, make it better. So I guess my final comment is if you do think this is something that you like, I would encourage you to take it, transform it, make it better, do something else, because the whole ethos of this project was to hopefully do something small where I am, really hopefully inspire others to do the same kind of thing.
So that’s it, that’s me, any questions, but also if you want to contact me, email or grab me at any point during the conference and that’s the QR code that should take you to the landing page for the making of waves.
Yeah, let me just grab a mic.
Would you come up with the questions to ask your participants? So it stemmed from the objects.
So when I had the idea of getting to choose an object, and I encouraged them to have something to do with their work, because that was important, but I kind of encouraged that the other two things needed to be not directly to do with their research. And then it would kind of be an, I tend to ask people how they identified as a broad question. So people could either talk about heritage, sexual orientation, they could talk about