Students from local schools were invited by our West Deptford, US, site to explore how chemistry creates the colours we see in everyday life

Encouraging Female Scientists of the Future

What is the nature of colour? How is it introduced into a sweet or piece of candy? How do fireworks display different colours? What is involved in building boats?

Representatives of Johnson Matthey's West Deptford site in the US delivered two workshops at the 2013 and 2014 annual fair for girls at the Gloucester County College in Sewell, New Jersey to answer these questions and many more. The workshops, entitled 'Color, Candy and Chemistry' and 'Build a Boat' explored how colour chemistry plays a role in different aspects of everyday life and outlined a few of the chemistry tricks used in food science, while Build a Boat revolves around physics concepts such as buoyancy and the business behind building a profitable boat.

The workshops encourage students to study science in further education

These events are intended to encourage female students from schools in the area to think about a career in one of the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths. Gloucester County College, a post-secondary community college, has found that to encourage them to take up a scientific or technical career girls require motivation early in their education. To meet this need the college set up its Women in Technology Fair in 2001, which brings together women working within STEM areas with high school students to share their enthusiasm for their professions.

The programme has gone from strength to strength, with more and more organisations joining as sponsors or facilitators. The event is very popular with only six places allocated to each school and a high uptake for the most appealing workshops.

The girls get a great deal out of the course, and for some it is life changing. Through the creative and well designed workshops, they understand the attraction, pervasiveness and sheer fun of science. With role models like those from Johnson Matthey leading the workshops, they can envisage themselves as scientists making a valuable contribution to society.

Career choices

For our staff, this is a chance to encourage students to think ambitiously about their choice of career. Women are under represented in the chemical industry, by making a contribution to events like these; Johnson Matthey can encourage gender diversity across the industry.

This is just one example of our commitment to building a diverse work force. In Cambridge, UK we are funding a series of weekend chemistry workshops during 2014 for disadvantaged year five pupils from local primary schools. Designed to motivate and promote an interest in science among gifted and talented students, the workshops will provide additional challenges and stimulation in the subject, to encourage students with different backgrounds to go on to study science in further education.

Activities will be based around the 'Changing Materials' topics and linked around a common theme of the gases around us, changing states of matter and how new materials are made. Students will have an opportunity to engage in exciting and fun practical activities which would not normally be accessible to them.