Preston teacher Sheila Kanani wins Inspiring Women Technology Award

PUBLISHED: 20:09 14 August 2014

Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy, Dr Sheila Kanani (Technology Award Winner) and Diane Modahl

Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy, Dr Sheila Kanani (Technology Award Winner) and Diane Modahl


A teacher from Preston with a soaring ambition to go into space wins an Inspiring Women Award, supported by Lancashire Life

Sheila KananiSheila Kanani

When we manage to get a second British woman into space the chances are one of the crew leaving the earth’s atmosphere will be a diminutive young woman with her roots in Lancashire.

Preston teacher Sheila Kanani might not be the tallest but her ambitions are as high as the stars. Her work as a planetary scientist secured her a place among the winners of the Inspiring Women Awards, once again sponsored by Lancashire Life and Cheshire Life.

Dr Kanani, from Lytham, charmed guests at the award ceremony by telling host Andy Crane of her passion for educating teenagers and her desire to make science relevant to her pupils. She was given the Inspiring Women Technology Award for her work in founding STEMMsisters, an online interactive site she runs with her GP sister, Nikki.

Afterwards, Sheila spoke of their ambition to spread the appeal of science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine by linking young people online with a bank of experts who can answer questions and give careers advice.

Sheila KananiSheila Kanani

This is something Sheila would have appreciated when she was a young girl obsessed with astrophysics - so obsessed she fake her date of birth on an application to become an astronaut. She was rumbled when they asked to see her passport.

‘I’ll make it into space one day even if I have to pay Richard Branson to get there,’ said Sheila, who is married to Blackburn software engineer Jaz Pearson, a man who shares her passion for space.

‘‘More and more girls are taking up physics. It never crossed my mind that gender is an issue in science,’ added the Ashton Community Science College teacher. ‘It’s an amazing subject, it explains so much about life around us. I was never held back at school - in fact I remember my physics teacher telling me “you are pretty good at this”.

‘Then I saw Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 and decided I wanted to be an astronaut or a miliary pilot. I went to the library to find out how to find a book about it and years later ended up with a Phd in astrophysics.’

Her next journey isn’t to the moon but to London where she is taking up a role at the Royal Astronomical Society. And if she doesn’t make it to the stars, there’s always the stage.

Sheila is a stand-up science comedian - heard the one about the young woman from Lytham who wanted to go to into space? You have now.

All the winners of the 2014 Inspiring Women Awards at Manchester’s Midland Hotel

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