Oh well! good luck everyone!
Favourite Thing: As a scientist based at a research facility, I get to meet loads of different people who come to use the laboratories and get involved in a huge variety of different projects.
Lancaster Girls Grammar School, University of St Andrews (1992-1996), University of Aberystwyth (1996-1999)
MA hons Physical Geography; PhD Isotope Geochemistry; PGcert Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
Lecturer in Earth Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University (1999-2004)
Isotope Geochemist at NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory (2004-present)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Me and my work
I measure minute chemical differences in things like teeth, hair and bone to understand what ancient people ate and where they came from.
I work at the NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory which is based at the British Geological Survey in a village just outside Nottingham. We act as a scientific service for UK university researchers and also for commercial work. So lots of different people come to the lab to have their precious samples analysed. The lab works on lots of different geological questions, like ‘How old is the Earth?’ but my specialism is archaeology. I use an instrument called a mass spectrometer which measures tiny differences in elements like carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. Mass spectrometers measure isotopes, which are slightly different variations of elements. Carbon for example has isotopes 12, 13 and 14 and these isotopes behave differently. The numbers relate to the isotope’s mass and the lighter ones (e.g. 12) react more quickly than the heavier ones (e.g. 13). We use this to look at lots of different things in nature and in ancient bones and teeth to tell us about past lives. Its a bit like silent witness for ancient bodies!
My Typical Day
Training visitors to use the machines, checking results, doing some chemistry in the lab, maybe some writing.
After dropping my kids off I rush into work and normally the first thing I do is check the mass spectrometer has worked OK overnight. We run the machines overnight as they take 8-10 hours to analyse a whole batch of samples. I then look through the results on my computer, stop for coffee and cake with my colleagues (there is always lots of cake!) and set up the mass spectrometer for the next run. After lunch I might chat with visitors about their work and how things are progressing, or check on samples being prepared in the lab, before dashing off to meet the school bus. I work part-time as I have 2 small children to take care of too!
What I'd do with the money
I’d like to set up a fund with the money to help school students visit our laboratories for a real hands on experience
The money could be used to help fund school student visitors on work experience to our laboratories so they can grasp what day to day science jobs are really like.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
scientist and mum!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
King Creosote (I’ve followed him since I was an undergraduate in various other bands, he is great live)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Student pranks at University
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. More time, 2. More sleep, 3. More wishes
What did you want to be after you left school?
An ice-cream seller!
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
No, I once got caught throwing a snowball inside but that is as naughty as it got!
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Travelled to places like Ethiopia and Mexico collecting samples
Tell us a joke.
My daughter’s favourite joke: What do you call a donkey with 3 legs?……………..A wonkey