I've joined the Green Zone!
EducationUniversity of Essex. Plymouth University. University of Reading. University of Finland
QualificationsBSc (Hons.), MSc (Distinction), PhD
Work HistoryUniversites: Lapland, Plymouth, Oxford, Reading, Nottingham, Essex.
Current JobAffiliated Senior Researcher - University of Lapland; Associate Lecturer - University of Plymouth
Favourite thing to do in my job: Get other people excited about interesting things!
About Me: I am a neuroscientist, who now works in climate change research. Trained as a chemist and as a programmer (I know, what a mess!)
I live in Cornwall but travel quite often for my work all over the world. In fact I travel rather too much! But not in the current crisis!
I was a competitive Ultimate Frisbee player for a long time but I am now retired from competition and just throw discs for fun.
My Work: I do research in Climate Change, and help out on other projects to do with education and public engagement. Often this means organising and facilitating workshops for teachers, academics and others.
My current research revolves around the effects that climate change might have on the Arctic and on Arctic tourism. I am writing computer programs that will help those managing (for example) skiing industry to make decisions.
This is just a small part of a huge EU funded research project that looks at all aspects of arctic life called Blue Action which involves people from all over the world.
Science Communication has always formed a large part of my scientific life. I am a regular at science festivals, science cafes; I have developed projects with the Ri, the Wellcome Trust, various museums, the British Council, the Edinburgh Festival; and I work with students of all ages as ‘Scientist In Residence’ at a large school in Plymouth.
My PhD was in computational neuroscience. It’s amazing how we use the stuff we get from our eyes and ears to make sense of the world and nobody is really sure about how we do it. My thesis involved building computer models of how we hear, and how we learn to hear.
My Typical Day: I read a lot of papers, write notes on what I am going to do for my various projects, meet with and talk to my colleagues (including a lot of skype), and write and test computer code. There are many opportunities to get out and talk about science in public, in schools, at festivals and in the media. I travel a lot, this involves a good deal of planning and preparing talks, demonstrations and workshops.
The long answer is: that there is no such thing as a typical day, sorry!
I do spend a lot of my time reading. Other people’s results and opinions are an essential part of research, even if you disagree with everything they say. I also like to read what people are doing way outside my own area. Many researchers fall in to the trap of only reading what they think is directly important to them, and they miss loads of great ideas that would make their work better.
Writing computer code is a creative process that I have always enjoyed. Playing with ideas, making them work, building models from data, seeing how it all fits together in many different ways – it is like a vast (in effect infinite) intellectual construction kit where the design of each piece, and the way all the pieces fit together, is at your fingertips and the results are satisfying and beautiful to look at.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, serious, careful.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
I honestly had no idea. Take a tip from me – *be more focussed!*
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only minor stuff. My school had a purpose built music department with sound-proof practice rooms. Occasionally (!) I took my guitar to the music block and locked myself in rather than go to lessons. I was caught in the end of course.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I don’t have one at the moment. I listen to a lot of great tracks by different people. My friends are always recommending great stuff for me to listen to.
What's your favourite food?
Lebanese cookery is great!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Kayaking the Nantahala River in North Carolina – great rapids!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would want to be smarter, more energetic, and less serious.
Tell us a joke.
A polar bear walks in to a bar and says “A pint of bitter and … … … … … … … … a packet of crisps please”. The guy who is serving asks him “Why the big pause?” “Because I’m a polar bear!”