“I can remember at about eight years old discovering that there was such a thing as a marine biologist and being so happy that my hobby could be my job someday. I am very dyslexic with dyspraxia and Irlen Syndrome tagging along for good measure. It feels like things take me much longer and require greater effort to keep up with my peers.”
My job as a Research Associate in the deep-sea group at Newcastle University is extremely varied: Building my own deep-sea equipment, organising the logistics of getting that equipment to some very remote places, deploying it from research vessels, analysing and processing the data and finally publishing the results. It’s great to feel involved in every aspect.
Did you always want to be a Research Associate?
Yes, before I even knew it was a job. I can remember at about 8 years old discovering that there was such a thing as a marine biologist and being so happy that my hobby could be my job someday. Specialising in the deep sea happened more gradually. Cool equipment, getting to travel lots and so many new discoveries had me getting deeper and deeper over the years.
How did you get into this role?
Once I was determined that I was going to be a marine biologist, most of my GCSE and A-level selections were geared towards that. I got a bachelors (Aberystwyth) and masters (Bangor) in marine biology but didn’t feel mature enough to tackle at PhD at 23. I worked as a field environmental scientist for a few years and got lots of sea experience. I came back to academia as a research assistant and did an MPhil (Aberdeen) in my spare time which eventually lead to my PhD. When my supervisor moved to Newcastle I came along and started my current job.
What would you say was your biggest challenge getting to where you are?
I am very dyslexic with dyspraxia and Irlen Syndrome tagging along for good measure. It feels like things take me much longer and require greater effort to keep up with my peers. I find some very simple things extremely difficult. It’s just as tough as it’s always been but I am always learning new coping strategies and improvements in technology continue to help. Lots of my coping strategies have developed into skills and, when part of a team, thinking a little differently can be a strength.
What’s the best bit about your job?
Adventure and the stories I come back with. I have been amongst the very first people to see some animals. Things that I have built have withstood the pressure of the deepest places on Earth and I have gotten to travel to some amazing and remote places. I still love what I do and feel so lucky to be able to do it.
What bit of advice would you give your younger self?
It’ll never be fair that you have to work so much harder than everyone else. If you can accept that, without resentment, you can still do everything you want to do. There are others that need to work even harder, and for some it is almost impossible. Don’t be frustrated, focus on how lucky you are that you can work harder to get everything you want.
What’s your favourite sea creature?
It keeps changing but I like the hadal snailfish. Everyone thinks of deep-sea fish as horrible monsters. I like that the world’s deepest fish are cute little pink things. The Ethereal Snailfish continues to be mysterious and magical.Back to the list