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Broadening Horizons: STEM Societies

Updated: Oct 20

Imagine yourself in your lecture. You are sitting putting your laptop or pen to the limit to try and note down all the wisdom being thrown at you. You hear an awesome thought about Linear Mathematics or Marine Biology and you feel the burning urge to mention a brilliant idea about this to the person sitting next to you; however, if you even breathe one atom of oxygen doing this, the noise will cause eagle eyes to stare instantaneously.

Lectures being these high-paced environments and tutorials often being a sea of silence can make it difficult to pose questions that we have been dwelling on. Additionally, the jump in STEM content from lower education to university level can be a leap: so it is only natural that you will have things you are confused about.

This is where societies come into play. With their relaxed environments, they are the perfect place to answer those pressing questions in a comfortable space. Not to mention a fantastic way to meet like-minded people. St Andrews has a huge range of STEM societies that are just waiting to be taken advantage of.

Graduating computer scientists face the huge challenge of a competitive job market. Aleksandr Isaev, the president of the St Andrews Computer Science Society (STACS), told me that STACS allows students entering this field to stand out. Extending the curriculum with a host of events from sponsors and partners such as American Express or Bloomberg, the society also provides CV and internship workshops to bolster everyone’s applications. Aleksandr further highlighted the society's recent venture to join the British Computer Society which he believes could provide more quality events in the future.

I then had the pleasure of chatting with the Biology Society, or BioSoc to its friends. Hannah Weiss, president of BioSoc, explained that first-year Biology exhibits a whole range of topics that the subject has to offer. In later years, the range you study decreases due to the expectation to specialise in one or a few subfields. BioSoc has found that student biologists actually have a love and passion for many of the topics, so this specialisation may be a limiting factor. Not to worry though: BioSoc has you covered. With events every week ranging from lectures to cocktail and colouring nights, you can immerse yourself in all parts of Biology (including sessions on elephant seals!) in a stress-free environment.

In conversation with Murray Purkis, a second-year student who is a member of the Astronomical Society (AstroSoc), I learned how the society has enabled the development of some brilliant friendships. Both Murray and Nikko Juengsophonvitavas, the president of AstroSoc, were in agreement that this society is a great place to find both a connection with others and with astronomy; a subject that is relevant to an array of disciplines. Moreover, who wouldn’t want to end a society event by stargazing using the University’s very own observatory?

Finally, I spoke with SUMS: the University’s Mathematics Society. Carys Williams, the society’s freshers’ representative, told me about a range of opportunities: from networking with experienced students, to fortnightly pub socials, to ‘Maths Jams’ (the group’s regular board games afternoons). SUMS seeks to move away from looking at maths as an academic subject, focusing more on community. Carys exceptionally ‘sums up’ that sometimes one-hour conversations with friends at a society can reveal much more than six hours scratching your head in the library!

Something I ought to mention is that whilst these are STEM societies, you don’t have to be a STEM student to join them. All these societies have the common denominator of being welcoming: it was heartwarming to see how many events I was being invited to when I reached out to them! STEM or not, explore what they have on offer: these societies would love you to join them.

These societies are balanced with educational enhancement whilst fostering an environment of collaboration, comfort, and creativity. Joining them is not another errand, but instead a pleasure after a hard day’s work. So if you are reading, be sure to finish all the wonderful articles The Saint has to offer and then, head to the union website, and have a look at all the options because what I have shown, is just a taster of all the STEM societies available to you. Go out there, take a grasp of your education and have a bit of fun with your subject: or one that you would like to explore.

Illustration by Charlie Macbeth

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