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#GEANTwomeninSTEM: Laura Durnford

In honour of Women & Girls in Science Day and International Women’s Day, two important days marked by the United Nations and celebrated across the globe, we are celebrating the women in our community. As our wonder women are involved in many fields, we decided to focus on specific fields and this year we are highlighting the women in Trust & Identity! Like everything in the world of GÉANT, our trust and identity team is a strong collaboration between women (and men!) all over the globe.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our colleagues working for T&I, which shows perfectly in this series.

Let us introduce you to Laura Durnford, biology graduate turned radio producer, who is now passionately involved in T&I.


Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Laura Durnford, I work as a Senior Communications Officer at GÉANT.

What is your study and professional background?

I earned my BSc in Biology, followed by an MSc in Science Communications, and worked as a science specialist radio producer for 12 years before I moved into the world of marketing communications for the R&E networking community.

Quite a diverse background, how did you end up in STEM?

When I was a teenager there was a moment when I decided not to be afraid of a sheep’s eyeball my brother was chasing me around the garden with. I stopped running away and turned round to take a close look. One thing led to another. I decided to study biology at school and university. Then I heard about the science communication course at Imperial College and knew I had to get in. That led me into radio production in London before a move to the Netherlands. I knew I was a definite science groupie one day when I was visiting an independent production company; unimpressed that a famous rockstar had just been sitting in my chair, I then felt my pulse racing and butterflies in my stomach when I passed by another visitor who was an elderly and famous TV astronomer. When I got the chance for my own weekly science programme in the Netherlands (in English), I jumped at it. Interviewing Nobel Prize winners and many other researchers at various stages of their careers on all kinds of science was a buzz. When I made the switch to GÉANT (then TERENA) it was good to know that my new role would help to support research and education in a different way.

Are there any challenge(s) you face as a woman in STEM (personal, in the sector, in T&I)?

Overcoming your own sense of insecurity can be a challenge. 

What is it you do in the field of T&I?

In GÉANT and the AARC project I help promote federated identity, authentication and authorisation infrastructures for research and education, and services such as eduroam and eduGAIN. I have learned a lot, met great people and feel that my contribution helps real users find and get what they need to learn and do their research more easily. 

Name your greatest experience or achievement in T&I work

Years ago I coordinated an international effort to create and share materials to promote the eduroam service. Those were still used until fairly recently. Only last year I got chatting to the person next to me on a plane one day who, it turned out, worked in a university, knew all about eduroam and even remembered seeing one of “my” posters. It brought the message home to me that you don’t have to be a technical expert in order to make a contribution and that sometimes quite small things can leave a lasting effect.

Any inspiring words for our readers?

Give yourself permission to be curious. Be unafraid to try something new.


From all the men and women at GÉANT, we would like to show our gratitude to the female career tigers, young professionals, researchers, students, mothers, experts, in short all the hard working women contributing to not only trust and identity, but all the work we are doing in R&E networking.

Make sure to keep an eye on the GÉANT blog and social media channels and follow the campaign under #GEANTwomeninSTEM.

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