EducationHayesfield School, Bath (1998-2005), University of York (2005-2009), University of Muenster, Germany (2008-2009), University of Basel (2009-2012)
Qualifications11 GCSEs, 4 A-Levels, Masters in Chemistry, PhD in Chemistry
Work HistoryIn one summer holiday during my degree I worked as a student scientist for Vectura PLC who were making dry powder inhalers. During the next summer holiday I was a research assistant at the University of York. I was paid to do my PhD at the University of Basel, then I carried on doing research in academia in a position called a “post-doc” at Basel. Then I moved to America and worked there for about 18 months. After that I moved back to the UK and was unemployed for a little while. I did some tutoring of GCSE and A-Level students in the various sciences. Then I got the job I have now at Swansea University. It meant changing specialisms and that was really difficult because I spent my first year not having a clue what I was doing! I feel more confident now though.
Current JobI’m currently a research officer at Swansea University.
Prof. Andrew Barron, Energy Safety Research Institute, Swansea University
Favourite thing to do in my job: Communicating science to everyone
About Me: I'm a chemist working in an engineering department at a university. I think about carbon dioxide and how we teach people to create less of it. At home I do that by riding my bike, growing lots of food and now we have chickens too!
I spent time trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up! Then there was a climate crisis and I realised that I was good at telling people about science without it confusing them. So although my qualifications are all in science I don’t actually spend much time in a laboratory.
Outside of work I’m a climate activist, a mum to a cheeky 4 year old, an avid gardener and social media addict!
My Work: I'm figuring out ways to get people to reduce their carbon footprint. I also try to turn carbon dioxide into something more useful and less dangerous for the planet.
In nature plants convert water into oxygen and protons and combine these with carbon dioxide from the air to make carbohydrates, which it uses as food for itself. Plants are very clever doing this as it’s not an easy reaction, but then they have had billions of years to get it right!
Recently scientists have been trying to recreate what plants do, but also simplify the process so that we can do it in a couple of steps, rather than the 10+ steps that plants use. This is the project that I’ve been working on. working up. We’re trying to make a catalyst – that splits the water and the carbon dioxide up and reforms them into a useful product (like ethanol which everyone is using as a hand sanitiser!)
We make the catalyst out of copper. This means trying different copper shapes to see which ones are the best at changing the carbon dioxide into something else – it’s not an easy job as we still don’t understand what makes a good catalyst but I’m making some progress 🙂
As part of that I started thinking about how much carbon dioxide we produce in our everyday lives. I wanted to start telling people to make less carbon dioxide, to have a lower carbon footprint. So, with some colleagues, who are now good friends, I set up the You and CO2 workshop where we teach students all about their carbon footprints and climate change and try to encourage them to make behavioural changes.
My Typical Day: I never know what my day will look like!
These days I don’t do much lab work anymore.
I’ve been developing a new scheme of work for schools that teaches students in years 8, 9 and 10 about their carbon footprint. It shows how we don’t just need scientists to fix climate change but we actually need creative writers and artists and communicators as well. We hope that it will help students to change their behaviours to reduce their carbon footprint.
To do this I’ve been working with some great colleagues who are spread out across the UK. So we have meetings on Skype to talk about the work and how we can make it better. We also trial it in schools and then talk to the teachers and the students to see what they thought of it.
I write grant applications to try and persuade people to give me money to keep developing this work. I also manage any money that we do have which has meant learning about finances and budgets and contracts!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Tenacious, odd, passionate
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My chemistry teachers and my music teacher!
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
A science teacher
Were you ever in trouble at school?
A few detentions for forgetting my calculator in maths classes!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A professional clarinet player
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Parasailing near Sydney, Australia with my husband.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To get funding to do research without having to write grant proposals, to be able to change countries by clicking my fingers, to have a weekend hanging out with all my friends in one place!
Tell us a joke.
What do you get if you pour hot tea down a rabbit hole? Hot cross bunnies!