Meet our #UoRWomen!

To mark International Women’s Day this year, we asked some of our brilliant staff to answer a few questions about their research, their career highlights, and their inspirations. Read on for a selection…

Dr Macarena L. Cárdenas

Research/teaching specialisation

Paleoecology

What made you choose this area?

I am interested in the environment and particularly on the vegetation. I just love getting to know how the vegetation changes, how it evolves within itself, and how it relates and responds to factors such as the climate and human influence. This area gives me the possibility to not just look at those interactions, but also to reveal how they were in the past, and throughout time.

What advice would you have for young women wanting to become involved in this area?

To keep a large perspective and stay present with the issues that is happening today to the environment that can be understood by studying the past. To engage with not just the topics that are relevant but also, and actually quite importantly, with the people and environment affected by these issues. Also, to do multidisciplinary research, as one proxy will let you know what the other doesn’t want to!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I am a multi-passionate, so I never get bored if it happens that I have free time. Some of the things I do are: going to open and wild places for hiking, yoga, meditation, exercise, talking and visiting with family and friends,  dancing, crafting, painting and making jewellery. I also have great fun with experimental cooking in the safety (for others) of my home.

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

My mother. She is my inspiration for courage, strength and sensitivity. She just goes for things no matter what obstacles she may find.  She always said to me: “do whatever you love the most and don’t let it go. No matter what it is, no matter how crazy that may look like for others. If it makes you happy, just do it”. And so I did! (although it is certainly crazy).

 

Professor Anne Verhoef

Research/teaching specialisation:

Environmental physics, with emphasis on soil-plant-atmosphere systems

 What made you choose this area?

Great interest in soil from the age of 14. Studied Soil Science (specialisation soil physics), followed by micrometeorology (Phd)

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become successful academic / research staff?

A number of grant successes in a row not long after I started. Wide-ranging and original teaching portfolio ~5 few years after starting.

What is an exciting development currently in your area?

Combination of novel environmental physics instrumentation (including remote sensing) combined with state of the art process modelling to answer many societally pressing issues.

What advice would you have for young women wanting to become involved in this area?

Follow your scientific interests and passions first and foremost, don’t just take the path of least resistance (e.g. where you have the best GCSE & A-level grades)

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Very little time left…: running, outdoor swimming, gardening

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

I don’t believe much in (male or female) role models, the thirst for knowledge needs to come from within the young scientist. Lecturers that motivated me during my studies where those who conveyed that passion, not those with necessarily the most advanced lecture slides/notes or best-run practical classes.

 

Dr Hazel McGoff

Research/teaching specialisation:

Teaching geology – Earth processes and history and the resources that we use

What made you choose this area?

It is a practical subject that involves fieldwork, good observation skills and the ability to visualise and imagine processes in space and time.

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become successful academic / research staff?

When my students start teaching me things! Hopefully this means they have enthusiasm for the subject and good knowledge. A great foundation for a career.

What is an exciting development currently in your area?

On a local scale – Chloe Knight, one of our final year students has been researching the meteorite collection that is here in the University of Reading – its geology, the chemistry of the specimens and the history of the collection. We hope to submit a short paper for publication later in the summer.

What advice would you have for young women wanting to become involved in this area?

Go for it – do what interests you most and enjoy it. Learn as much science as you can and appreciate the links between all the different disciplines.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spending time with my horses.

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

  1. My friend Dave Prior – now Professor of Geology in Otago University in New Zealand – he brings great energy, enthusiasm and scientific expertise to everything he does.
  2. My PhD supervisor, Derek Briggs – now Professor at the Peabody Museum, Yale, USA – who encouraged all his students to develop their research projects and take them in whatever direction was appropriate.
  3. Isabella Bird – an intrepid Victorian explorer and the first woman to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

 

Dr Liz Shaw

Research/teaching specialisation:

Soil microbiology and biochemistry

What made you choose this area?

My A-level Geography teacher, Mrs Allison (Cottingham High School), first inspired my interest in soil and then my MSc tutor (later PhD supervisor, Richard Burns) inspired my interest in soil microbiology.

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become successful academic / research staff?

There has been no one defining moment but there have been some successes (my appointment to a lectureship, winning my first research grant, promotion, positive feedback from students) that I have celebrated.

What is an exciting development currently in your area?

New molecular and biogeochemical methodologies that when combined can be used to overcome the problems of understanding what non-culturable microscopic organisms living in an opaque environment (soil) are doing!

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

My research area inspires me but I am supported in this by my parents, my partner, my son, my friends and key colleagues and collaborators.

 

Dr Beena Balan Sarojini

Research/teaching specialisation

Climate Scientist specialised in Ocean, Atmosphere and Land surface of the Earth.

What made you choose this area?

I loved Physics and Geography in School and I am a nature lover. At the University level I got to know about courses on learning more about the physics of Earth and its climate.

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become successful academic / research staff?

Several moments at different stages of my research career: 1) When I gave my debut international presentation at the European Geophysical Union’s annual conference, 2) When the main article on my PhD study got published in a peer-reviewed journal, and 3) When I got invited to contribute to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2013

What is an exciting development currently in your area?

How the representation of soil-plant processes in a climate model can improve the prediction of climate and extreme events like droughts and floods.

What advice would you have for young women wanting to become involved in this area?

Find the right course for you at the University. Get, set and go!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Swimming, yoga and having fun with my daughter.

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

My mother who encouraged me and my sister to study as much as we wanted which was not possible for girls at the time when she was studying.

 

Dr Avril Maddrell

I work in Social and Cultural Geography, with particular research interests in the Geographies of death, sacred mobilities and gender.

I am currently an Editor of two international journals Gender, Place and Culture and Social and Cultural Geography. I have really appreciated those occasions when Editors have helped me make the most of my research findings in papers, and now enjoy being an Editor myself; its always rewarding when authors write to say that reviewer and editorial guidance has helped them develop their arguments and showcase their research.

I will be starting a new large AHRC-ESRC research project on March 13th Deathscapes and Diversity: Planning for minorities’ and migrants’ bodily remains, ritual and remembrance practice with Yasminah Beebeejaun (Bartlett School of Planning, UCL) and Katie McClymont, (UWE Bristol) and the two project postdoctoral research associates: Danny McNally and Brenda Mattijssen (University of Reading).

International Women’s Day

Avril will be speaking at the University of Stockholm on 8th March as part of the book launch symposium for Contemporary Encounters in Gender and Religion. European perspectives (Palgrave 2016) with Swedish Co-Editors Lena Gemzoe and Marja-Liisa Keinnanen.

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