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Alumnae Profiles

IYM alumnae go on to do amazing things in science and technology! Here are some of their stories.

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Sienna Mitchinson

Hi! I’m Sienna, and as you may be able to guess from my Oodie, I’m a student at the University of Otago. I am a 2nd year in 2024, studying a BSc majoring in neuroscience, with a minor in microbiology. 

I attended IYM Residential in 2021 and I genuinely don’t think I would be as passionate about my study and future if I hadn’t. I loved the many different areas of STEM we were introduced to, but the main area that shone for me was human health and biology.


The support and experience I gained on the programme gave me so much confidence in the area of STEM in which I belong. 

Anyone can make a difference, and achieve their dreams - you just need to believe in yourself, and be resilient. 

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Sophie Handford

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Alumna Sophie has been making an impact since attending IYM in 2017:

I'm Sophie and I'm 22-year-old Councillor, activist from Kāpiti, New Zealand. Since a young age, I have held the environment closely and always felt a strong connection to and need to protect this one planet we share. I founded School Strike 4 Climate in Aotearoa and went on to coordinate the movement which mobilised 170,000 people across the country in September of 2019, united for climate justice.


I then ran for Council at the age of 18 and was elected as one of Aotearoa’s youngest Councillors, now holding the Climate & Youth portfolios on the Kāpiti Coast District Council. I am also studying part time at Victoria University of Wellington, doing a Bachelor of Communications, Majoring in Political Comms.


Having represented Aotearoa through APEC Voices of the Future and Ship for World Youth, I am committed to seeing us as communities and as a country lead our world to a better future for the next generation.

Lily Apinelu

Being surrounded by empowering, innovative young females who have a passion for STEMM was such a blessing. The week-long IYM 2018 programme made me experience a range of technologies through hands-on activities and analytic thinking. From promoting ideas on how to encourage young females to consider doing STEMM, to panel presentations from women who had overcome the ideology that “females aren’t supposed to be in the STEM sector,” IYM helped me realise that I can be capable of being like those women.


I’ve always wanted to do something that involves science but I never really knew what to do or at least where to start, luckily IYM has helped me with that - it had me thinking about possible future related careers in the STEMM sector. It also inspired me to try to help and make a difference in women being under-represented in the STEMM sector once I leave college. I think it all starts with believing in yourself and IYM definitely helped me with that. I was able to be confident enough to share my IYM experiences with any girls at my college, whether they have the passion towards STEMM or not.


Also as a Pasifika descendant, I want to help young Pasifika females to apply for opportunities, such as the IYM programme so that the IYM programme not only grows but also diversifies.

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Janis Baker

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A 2017 alumna, Janis comes from Kaponga a small Taranaki town where she attended Opunake High School. She was introduced to engineering in 2016 when she took it at school. Janis achieved top of Level 1 Engineering and then got High Achievement in Level 2. So, when she was accepted into the IYM programme in 2017 Janis was thrilled.

“The IYM programme benefited me because I got to meet like-minded girls and see what the greater Wellington region had to offer,” she said. Then through a networking event at IYM, Janis got herself a summer internship at Pertronic Industries Ltd.Always one to love a challenge, in 2017 Janis became a volunteer firefighter in Kaponga, which she said has been the best decision of her life. "The seven-day recruit course was the best week of my life, pushing my comfort zones and learning the required skills for firefighting and rescue.”

Never satisfied with sitting still, in 2018, Janis was selected on the RNZAF School to Skies programme. This offers 48 young females the opportunity to spend a week on Ohakea Base exploring some of the trades the RNZAF has to offer.

Now Janis is living her dream working as an apprentice at Trustpower in Hydro Operating and Mechanical Maintenance. "Working as a full-time apprentice is what I have been waiting for and I am thoroughly enjoying what I am learning and doing," she says.

Chelsea Jane Kah

Chelsea, an alumna from 2018 and one of our 2019 interns highly valued her IYM experience -

I applied to attend the IYM programme because I never really knew what I wanted to do after school. This quickly became a problem as I found myself a senior in high school still with not much of an idea of what to do in the future apart from the fact that I enjoyed physics and maths. I had heard about residential programmes similar to IYM that provide opportunities for students to discover more in Science and Technology, but I was always too intimidated to apply for science camp programmes due to the male dominated field of study - the exact issue that Innovative Young Minds tackles.

On the programme, I found confidence and assurance in the girls around me who all had the same hope for females to be represented equally in the workforce. I met women who are succeeding in the STEMM sector and heard their motivational stories and advice. Directly from the programme, I gained the courage to aim big in the future and to no longer shy away from the careers which are "meant for men".

I went into the programme unsure of my future career and came out with confidence and determination to pursue engineering and succeed regardless of the gender imbalance. Attending IYM 2018 changed my life.


Nicole Singh


The Innovative Young Minds programme is designed specifically to encourage young women like us to explore science, technology, engineering, mathematics and high tech manufacturing - fields that we have all learnt to be known as the STEMM sector.

Although I thought I knew a fair deal about it, before I joined IYM 2018, I actually didn’t know the true meaning behind the programme. It was easy for me to say it’s a science camp, but it’s so much more and as the days went by I began understanding more and more about what this programme stands for.

The programme began and within the first meeting as part of the IYM family, I heard these amazing women repeat “this programme is open to young women because females are under-represented in the STEMM sector and we want to change that”. As a participant sitting alongside a bunch of like-minded females, I also got inspired to make that change. We were all young women who have a huge passion for science and technology and we came together to persist and motivate each other. There were no stereotypes about what someone in the STEMM sector should look like, there was a range from loud to quiet, and from artistic to sporty. Everyone felt accepted. I left the IYM family holding dearly the experience, encouragement, the acceptance and lastly knowing that we are all capable of pursuing our dreams.

I encourage new participants by always remembering that being a woman will not stop us and self doubt will not stop us. IYM is a programme that not only inspires young women to follow their passion, but also took the time to remind us that we are all capable, we all have the potential of following our passion.

Girls remember we all have the potential, and success or failure depends more upon attitude than capability...successful women act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something, and soon it becomes reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly and you will be amazed at the positive results.

Amy Cui

I went into IYM Residential 2018 already interested in science, but not quite knowing where I could go with this interest and where it may take me in the future. There, I met 39 other like-minded girls and was introduced to many career options and pathways for the future and enjoyed my week so much.

IYM is a science camp that aims to have more girls in STEMM careers, but it is also so much more. It is a great opportunity to find other young women who share the same passion for science and technology, as well as nurturing the innovation that comes from having so many bright young women together in one place.

Since IYM, I have gone on to involve myself in more science related programmes. I have volunteered at the Space and Science Festival, WJPT, and recently returned from participating in the International Young Physicists’ Tournament. I believe that taking part in IYM gave me the push I needed to continue doing what I love. After six months of hard work and two weeks of tournament, I achieved 8th place and silver medals as a member of the 2019 IYPT NZ team in Warsaw, Poland. This was such a special opportunity to me, and I never would have had the guts to do it had I not been encouraged by seeing all these other women in science showing that women can do it too.

I encourage all young women who are interested in science to give IYM a go. It may seem intimidating to spend a week with total strangers, but everyone is in the same boat and everyone is challenging themselves to pursue their interests, regardless of the current gender imbalance.

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Wendy Su


For me, taking part in IYM 2018 was an eye-opening and a wonderful experience. I grew up in a poorish area in the south of China and being the little innocent child I was, I didn’t know what sorts of careers were out there in the world apart from the main careers you hear about and see on TV shows and movies like doctors and lawyers. 

However, after taking part in the programme, I realised that there are careers that are just as influential and important as the lawyers and doctors that we hear and see so often. Like the engineers that create and build the fire tracks that we see every now and then on the road and the scientists and researchers who discover new knowledge that help future generations.

Taking part in the programme has definitely helped me find myself a lot more and opened my eyes to new possibilities and careers that I can take. It has helped me build my self-confidence, make new friends and reconnect with old ones while having a good laugh as we learnt new things together during the programme. Being a participant in the programme will always be a favourite memory of mine.

Hayley Krippner

Being a participant of the Innovative Young Minds 2017 programme and becoming a member of the IYM family is one of the most valuable opportunities I have ever experienced.

It is the diverse activities that makes this programme truly special. Having that chance to visit business and tertiary education institutes gave me first-hand experience of how science and technology is applied in the real world. It provided me with a clear idea of where I can be in the future and how I can meaningfully contribute to society. Because of the variety of the visits and presentations, there was something for everyone. It meant that we got a taste of a huge range of fields and discovered other career paths that we may not have considered before IYM.

I became empowered by the passionate members of the panel discussions. What they had to say was extremely moving and I was profoundly inspired. I especially enjoyed hearing Kate McGrath and Amanda Santos’s journeys and how they overcame barriers to reach their goals. I can apply their messages in my own life to learn from my failures and to achieve success as they have. More importantly, we strongly considered career paths that many of us had dismissed because of the still lingering stereotype of science and technology being male dominated fields. Meeting these incredible women gave us clear evidence that women can do anything just as good as a man, if not better. If they can do it, why can’t we?

I am so grateful for the support from our community and Rotary to invest in such a life-changing, uplifting and essential programme. I now have direction, perspective, life-long friends, renewed motivation, and most importantly, I am excited for what the future holds for myself and my fellow IYM family. IYM instilled in me the assurance that whatever I put my mind to I can achieve as long as I have the courage to try.

The overall week has left me with my goals at the front of my mind. Now knowing what I must do to achieve my dreams, I am fuelled with a fiery desire to achieve them, more so than ever. I am all powered up, ready to push through the hardships, determined and ready to work hard as I know that it will pay off. I strongly encourage all young women to put yourself out there. Be brave and challenge yourself. The more challenging something is, the more rewarding success is. You choose your future.


Sophie Miller

Kia ora, I'm Sophie Miller and I'm very honoured to be an alumna from the inaugural Innovative Young Minds programme in 2017. I found Innovative Young Minds to be a very beneficial experience for me as I learnt a lot about my passions and how to communicate with others who shared those same passions. I found Innovative Young Minds was full of opportunities and encouraged me to take as many of those as I could.

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