The University of Southampton
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Vanessa Bowman

1994 BSc Geology

Vanessa graduated in 1994
Vanessa Bowman

What was your first job after graduating?

I went straight into teaching outdoor pursuits on the Isle of Wight. Alongside quad-biking, night hikes and low-ropes courses, I was part of a team designing geography and biology fieldwork exercises for visiting school pupils that aligned with the National Curriculum.

What is your current job?

Research Fellow within the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.

What are your major responsibilities/duties in this role and what skills have you developed?

My main responsibility is to undertake research in collaboration with Professor Jane Francis (also a Southampton Alumnus), along with colleagues throughout the UK and abroad. These results are published in respected academic journals. I undertake research on microfossils from Antarctica to reconstruct past climates and environments. My work contributes to understanding the dynamics and sensitivity of the South Polar Region during periods of global warmth in the context of future anthropogenic climate change. I also contribute to undergraduate teaching and the supervision of PhD students. My teaching role includes lecturing and academic tutoring, in addition to pastoral care of undergraduates as a personal tutor. I also help supervise and support PhD students undertaking their research degrees in our Palaeo@Leeds research group here at Leeds University. I am involved in outreach activities, including school visits and public talks, which are how we disseminate our findings to the general public and inspire the next generation of scientists. I also help manage our palaeontology laboratories ensuring safe working practices for all users. This varied role allows the development of many skills, including analytical, communication, teamworking and time management skills.

What has been your favourite job since you have graduated? Why was it your favourite?

I enjoy my current position within the Palaeo@Leeds team as it is a stimulating research environment with academically active staff and many enthusiastic students. Our laboratory facilities are fantastic. I have also had some amazing travel opportunities during my academic research – both for fieldwork and conferences. These have included field seasons in the Antarctic, to remote sub-antarctic islands, to the Falkland Islands and much warmer to Panama and Italy to name a few. All of the research roles I have had since my PhD have all allowed me to manage my own time, being productivity-driven, in particular, a New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Fellowship undertaken at Victoria University of Wellington. Another aspect that I enjoy is being part of a network of scientists in related disciplines across the world producing innovative results from multidisciplinary projects.

What have been the turning points in your career?

Winning a New Zealand Vice Chancellor's Commonwealth Scholarship allowed me to complete my PhD at Victoria University of Wellington in what is now the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences. This confirmed that I wanted an academic research career whilst enjoying the support and mentoring of a successful team of academics that I still work with today. Subsequently, being awarded a New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Fellowship allowed me to further develop my research skills and knowledge and pursue independent research goals in a relatively new field of palaeontology (phytolith analysis).

If you could start your time at University again, what would you do differently?

I would probably make more use of the Careers Service to help plan my future direction and assess the wealth of opportunities available to graduates.

What are your future career plans?

I would like to continue working as a researcher as long as funding allows. This will hopefully involve remaining in academia, but may require branching out into industry or becoming an independent consultant - the important thing for me is to remain open to all interesting opportunities!

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