“I can’t remember a time I wasn’t interested in nature. Growing up in Hertfordshire, I knew the name of every wildflower. At university, I studied a subject I absolutely loved – mathematics. There’s something beautiful about looking for patterns in nature, and I loved applying that same thinking to the world of numbers.
When I finished my studies, I wanted to bring together my interest in nature and maths to better understand the world. I decided to do a PhD focused on the physics of the atmosphere and the oceans. That’s the great thing about being an academic – the line between your work and your passion is fuzzy.
Initially, the focus of my research was ozone. The ozone hole was the biggest environmental topic at the time. I went on my first polar expedition to study the ozone hole over the Arctic. Winter there is stunning. The sun only just skirts over the horizon for a few hours a day, the northern lights are incredible, and you get these amazing rainbow clouds high up in the sky, called polar stratospheric clouds.
From there I moved to studying the ocean around Antarctica as part of the British Antarctic Survey. It was such a special time in my career. Imagine seeing 100,000-year-old air bubbles escape from the Antarctic ice. Or obtaining ocean measurements from underneath the ice thanks to seals with small tracking devices. I still keep a small bottle of water from the bottom of the Antarctic ocean by my desk.”
“One of the privileges about being an academic is that you get to dedicate your career to what you love.”