What is your current Job Title or Role?
Lecturer in Physical Geography
What advice would you have for young women who are interested in a STEM career or job?
Don't let gender stereotypes hold you back. I work in polar and mountain research, a field that was traditionally male-dominated and used to be very much associated with exploration in great wildernesses like Greenland and Antarctica. Now there are many women pursuing successful careers in this field, studying everything from glacier change to microorganisms, and old-fashioned ideas about women not being tough enough to work in remote environments are all long gone! If you're unsure about how to pursue a particular STEM career don't be scared to approach someone who already works in a specific role, and if you're already studying or working in STEM but want to know how you can move forward and progress your career then try finding a mentor who can offer advice and support. Sometimes a friendly push from someone we respect and trust is all we need!
How did you get to where you are today?
I have always enjoyed geography, and a trip to the Scottish island of Arran during high school was the first thing that really opened my eyes to the way that glaciers have shaped the landscape. I went on to study geography at university, where I did my undergraduate dissertation research on a glacier in the Italian Alps. From that point on I knew I wanted to work in glacier research, so I went on to do a PhD on glacier hydrology in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, followed by four years working as a researcher on past and present glaciation in Sweden. I'm now a lecturer in physical geography, specialising in glaciers and cold environments.
What do you do on a daily basis in your work?
My work involves a balance of teaching and research. I give lectures, seminars and workshops to both undergraduates and postgraduates on glacier processes and environmental change in polar and mountain regions, in addition to thinking about how humans interact with and influence the physical environment. I also teach on field trips in locations including Iceland and Arctic Sweden, where students can learn about glaciers by studying processes on the ground (often the highlight of the year for both staff and students!). In addition to teaching I spend a portion of my time conducting my own research, which involves fieldwork in remote locations around the Arctic. Currently my research is focussed on how snow and ice can trap pollutants and release them again, perhaps even decades later, through melting. I'm also interested in how changes in water quality might impact people and the environment in glaciated areas.
Who or what inspired you to get into STEM?
I was inspired to get into STEM by my teachers and lecturers, in addition to watching documentaries about the processes operating on the Earth's surface. We now have more understanding of the ways in which humans influence the Earth than we've ever had before. It's imperative that we continue to conduct research on issues ranging from the impacts of climate change to increasing quantities of plastics in the environment, and encouraging new people into STEM careers is an important component of continuing this work, finding solutions, and influencing the way in which governments and businesses address issues and implement change. For this reason I also spend time communicating science issues, including my own work, through social media and blogs, in addition to taking part in outreach activities.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The highlight of my job is collecting data in the field. Many weeks and months go into the organisation of fieldwork in the Arctic, and getting out there and actively "doing science" that can help us to better understand environmental processes, and our impact on these processes, is very important to me as a researcher. I absolutely love being on the ice, despite the often difficult terrain and cold conditions, and hopefully my enthusiasm for the subject is something I convey to my students when I'm lecturing too!
What do you like to do outside work?
Perhaps it's no surprise that outside of work I enjoy spending time outdoors! I usually go climbing (indoors and outdoors) three times a week, and find that it really helps to both keep me strong and keep my mind healthy too. Having experience as a climber can also be helpful when working in difficult terrain during my field research. I also enjoy hill walking, cycling, and photography, and tend to spend my holidays in a tent somewhere hoping for good weather!