Heather Goring-Harford: How did I become involved in Ocean Sciences?

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Let me share one of my most vivid memories with you. When I was ten years old, my dad took me to the British Museum, and waiting for the train back home at Charing Cross station we stopped in WH Smiths for something to read. Dad said I could have any magazine I liked. Of all of them, the one that inexplicably appealed to me sat on the bottom shelf, sporting two yellow fish on the front cover – Practical Fishkeeping. My dad thought it was funny but bought it for me anyway. It’s a good job he did, as reading this magazine sparked a lifelong love of all things aquatic. Since then I’ve always enjoyed building habitats for fish and other aquatic creatures in my aquariums. Eventually it wasn’t enough just to get my hands wet, so I learned to SCUBA dive as well. I’ve always wanted to combine my passion for the water with my love of chemistry, and here at NOC I get the opportunity every day!


So how did I get here? Well, I did a hodgepodge of A Levels which included art, English Literature and French as well as chemistry and physics. This actually helped me to develop quite a diverse skills set, and has come in very handy throughout my career. When it came to higher education, I decided on chemistry for three simple reasons: I enjoy it, it’s challenging and it offers a wide range of potential careers. It didn’t take me long to realise that I would much rather spend my career standing at a lab bench than sitting behind a desk! I’ve always enjoyed work which combines chemistry with other topics I find interesting, for instance my Masters project involved chemical analysis of archaeological samples. After graduating I wanted a break from academia, and continued using my chemistry in a wide range of ways at work – I’ve had jobs including pharmaceutical research technician, museum visitor assistant, school lab technician, and diamond grader. I also really enjoy volunteering when I have time. I’ve done this in a few places, but I think the most fun was being a curatorial volunteer at a local museum, where I helped restore and catalogue Victorian lantern slides. Whilst working, I also studied geology and oceanography with the Open University to better tailor my chemistry knowledge for working in the earth sciences. What particularly attracted me to do a PhD was the promise of a really good challenge, and I knew it would be a great way to develop my lab skills to the highest level. When I finish, I hope to continue applying chemistry to reveal more about ancient and natural worlds.


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