Flic Williams: How did I become involved in Ocean Science?

How did I become involved in Ocean Science?

I remember thinking that Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space, had a great job, and wasn’t it awesome that something like the Mir space station existed. It is fair to say I have always loved science!

However it wasn’t until many years after my A-levels and an MSci in Physics, that I started to understand how little is known about our oceans. Qualifying as a scuba diver opened my eyes, and my reading, about the science used to describe our oceans. Suddenly, I realized that there was an arena I could genuinely contribute to if I could just find a way in.

So, after 10 years in the UK civil service, I had a “now or never” moment, and enrolled on the University of Southampton’s MSc Oceanography. It was a big step to leave a comfortable salary, interesting job and good colleagues behind, to become a student again and face a whole host of unknowns.

portrait2The MSc served as a broad introduction to all the disciplines of ocean science – biology, chemistry, physics and geology, with more specialized modules covering topics such as climate, earth observation using satellites and geophysics. I felt very privileged to be being taught by people who are at the forefront of science in their areas, and who are really passionate about their subject.

RedSeaMe FlicDivingMarseille1

I realized that I wanted to stay working in research. To do this I knew a PhD would be useful, and luckily a PhD position was advertised in an area that had really captured my attention – palaeoclimate. This is the study of what the climate was like in the past – both the recent past (e.g. the last 500,000 years) and the even deeper past – up to millions of years. The idea is that if we can understand how our planet reacted in times past, then we stand a better chance of understanding how our planet will behave in a future, higher carbon dioxide world. Specifically the topic was on sea level over the past 500,000 years, and the PhD would blend the disciplines of geophysics with palaeoclimate – just perfect for me.

This PhD has allowed me to work with different people, to see how a research consortium works (as I am funded to be part of the iGlass consortium), to attend conferences in different countries to present my work, and to join a research cruise in the North Atlantic.

My aspirations are quite simple. I wish to successfully complete my PhD and to find a post doc that will allow me to continue working in the science I find so inspirational.


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