STEM professionals solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges, build better systems, and enable us to understand the world we live in. But who gets to become a STEM professional? Well, not just anybody. Rural and remote communities in India rarely get to do any hands-on science, making a STEM career practically impossible to pursue. And yet, these populations are the ones who face 21st-century challenges head-on. Who better to solve problems like climate change, flooding, species extinction, and outdated healthcare practices than those who experience them first-hand?

VigyanShaala builds data-driven phy-gital (physical + digital) solutions that make science accessible to nurture the scientists of tomorrow. Our rural STEM champions is a model designed to uncover the hidden gems of STEM from the most remote, last-mile Himalayan communities that are marginalised both socioeconomically as well as geographically. We build innovation spaces and bring expert global mentoring and hands-on science experiences to students who may otherwise never get the chance to learn science outside of a textbook.

We set up community lab spaces equipped with internet connections to initiate a culture of research and innovation in these colleges. We further intervene with a gender-specific lens through our spin-out program ‘She for STEM’ to enable girls to collaborate with aspiring girls from other parts of the world and together reimagine their place in the future of STEM. Since our inception as a volunteer group of excited graduate students back in 2014, our interventions have reached over 10,000 students across India and expanding globally with our ‘She for STEM’ program.

Dr Darshana Joshi, Founder and CEO VigyanShaala International

A passionate Physicist, mentor and social entrepreneur, Dr Joshi is committed to recalibrating the gender balance in STEM disciplines. She is presently building India’s largest digital ecosystem for affordable mentoring and coaching at scale for every Aspiring – Committed – Talented (ACT-ing) #GirlInSTEM at program Kalpana. Dr Joshi is keenly interested in designing low cost pedagogical tools to promote interdisciplinary thinking and problem solving among youth from the most marginalised communities.

Dr Joshi holds a BSc in Physics from Miranda House and Master’s in Materials Science from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore. Later, she obtained a PhD in Physics from Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge. For her doctoral work she was awarded the prestigious Schlumberger Foundation’s Faculty for the Future Fellowship for women from developing countries. Towards the end of her PhD she became the first Indian women to be elected the President of Graduate Union, the primary representative body of postgraduate students at the University of Cambridge.

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