Blog: 5k a day fancy dress challenge to raise profile of STEM careers

Author, Jessica Gagen is a 2nd year Aerospace Engineering student at the University of Liverpool. 

In normal climes you’d usually catch me playing on the flight simulators or studying in the library between lectures, but nowadays there’s a chance you’ve spotted me elsewhere, without actually realising it’s me! Let me explain…

For the entire month of March I’ve taken up the challenge to run 5k every day in fancy dress for charity around Liverpool. I’m a massive STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) advocate, and I’m doing this in order to help young girls realise the exciting opportunities a career in STEM can lead to. These days a lot of teens are prioritising their focus on their social media – validating themselves through how successful their posts are and comparing their looks to unattainable standards set by Instagram beauty filters, and as a consequence of this they’re missing out on their true potential! Acquiring knowledge is so much more rewarding than conforming to ever changing beauty standards, so I’m hoping that by sharing my journey into STEM, advertising the opportunities in STEM careers and running around Liverpool in silly outfits – I can prove it!


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A post shared by #FANCYDRESSJESS (@jessicaashley_)

My journey into STEM wasn’t the usual. I achieved 10A/A*s at GCSE but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the future as a career, so took Chemistry, Biology, Maths and English as A levels to give me a wide spectrum of job opportunities. After finding out my eyesight would never be good enough to fly as a commercial pilot, I dropped maths assuming I’d go into something biology related, but then realised I didn’t want to! I’d seemingly taken the wrong combination of A levels so felt stuck, but during this time I was picked up by a modelling agency, and after finishing my exams I decided to go into it full time. I worked super hard and was lucky enough to sign internationally and begin modelling across the globe at the age of 19 for a lot of well-known brands, yet my roots remained tied to STEM. At the tender age of 22 I began to panic, the commercial modelling world was changing with the influx of Instagram, and slowly I began booking less work, so I needed a back-up. I knew I wanted to go into engineering and do something with planes but for years I’d written it off for not having physics or maths at A level, so one night started researching my options and fast forward a few years – I’m now a second year aerospace engineering student at the University of Liverpool.


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A post shared by #FANCYDRESSJESS (@jessicaashley_)

For a long time I’ve been in receipt of messages from young girls through Instagram and in real life in regards to getting into modelling, and I’d never discourage anyone from trying it out – I feel blessed for the amount of opportunities I’ve had and still do it part time around my studies! However, I feel having amassed a platform, in a time where teens aren’t able to acquire work experience and are forever looking down at their phones, I should use it positively by helping those teens who are stuck, or lacking focus as a consequence of prioritising their social media. When I was in school I assumed Engineering was just woodwork and metalwork, so I’m here to prove to girls that it’s in fact so much more than that and the opportunities in the sector are incredibly exciting!

The charity I’m running for throughout the month of March is One Woman at a Time – dedicated to educating women of disadvantaged backgrounds and providing them with the skills they need in order to attain a better lifestyle for themselves and their community. So far I’ve ran my 5km a day dressed as a giraffe, a pirate, a cavewoman, a dragon, Dorothy and so many more! My route changes daily so please keep a lookout!

To keep up to date with my challenge, find me on Instagram:

To donate to my just giving page, follow this link: