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The University of Southampton
Biological SciencesOur alumni

Nathalie Swain-Diaz BSc Biology, 2014

Science Researcher, BBC

Nathalie Swain-Diaz's Photo

My subject knowledge also helped me gain a place on a Masters course and most recently has helped me secure a position at the BBC’s Natural History Unit

Why did you choose to come and study at Southampton?

The modules offered by the BSc Biology course at Southampton were more closely aligned with my interests than other Universities, and the ability to choose from modules on other courses, such as Marine Biology, was a huge bonus for me! Southampton also had a lot to offer in terms of extracurricular activities and societies which made it more appealing.

What were your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences)?

There are many highlights from my time at Southampton, but one of the main ones from my course was the Spanish field trip in Bolonia. It was the first time I’d had the chance to do field work properly and I knew that I would want to do something similar again, plus it provided a great opportunity to get to know people on the course. The following year, I leapt at the chance to do marine field work for my dissertation, and travelled to Honduras to study herbivorous fish on coral reefs which was one of the best trips of my life.

In general, Southampton also allowed me to have a great social life. Living in halls is definitely something I remember fondly. It was the first time I had lived away from home, as it was for many people, and I formed incredibly meaningful relationships with the people I met in my first few days living there, including people who I still consider to be my closest friends.

What other activities did you take advantage of while at University?

Whilst at University I joined Aerial Sports and Swimming, as well as Conservation Volunteers which I greatly enjoyed. There are so many societies at the Uni doing taster days throughout the year, there is quite literally something for everyone!

I went on a field trip to the Bay Islands in Honduras to study herbivorous fish and coral reefs for my dissertation which was an absolutely incredible experience!

I started to volunteer for the Natural History Museum in London during my 3rd year, which I still try to do from time to time, taking museum specimens out onto galleries and talking to members of the public about nature and sparking their curiosity.

What did you enjoy most about your course?   

I really enjoyed the Spanish field course and have been lucky enough in the past few years to attend as a demonstrator for first year students. I’ve now been 5 times and still love it! There’s so much diversity in what is a relatively small area, which makes it a great place for learning about taxonomy and field work skills.

I also really loved the animal behaviour and marine ecology modules as they were the topics I was most interested in studying.

What have been the highlights of your career to date?

I’ve been lucky enough to work in some amazing places of the past 3 years since graduation including the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and now, the BBC. Over the past year I have been working on a science project for 9-11 year olds, advising on investigations which will hopefully inspire the next generation of budding scientists! I’m about to take up a temporary position at the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol where I will be working on ideas for wildlife documentaries, similar to those which inspired me to pursue Biology in the first place and I cannot wait!

How did your time at Southampton help you to grow as a person and help you get to where you are now?

My experiences and education at Southampton definitely helped me secure volunteering positions, like at the Natural History Museum, which in turn helped me gain employment after University. You pick up a lot of transferrable skills from a Science degree, such as planning and lateral thinking, which may sound ridiculous, however in the workplace both are incredibly important to anticipate problems and buffer against them. My subject knowledge also helped me gain a place on a Masters course and most recently has helped me secure a position at the BBC’s Natural History Unit. And as for the future, I am hoping they will help me find a PhD on the impact of marine plastic pollution.

What advice would you give to a student starting their degree at Southampton?            

Honestly? Enjoy yourself. Some people go to Uni with their life all planned out in their head, others have absolutely no clue what they are doing. But either way, there is no point stressing at University - you don’t need to have it all figured out yet, you just need to enjoy it!

Things will figure themselves out and you may not end up doing exactly what you envisaged (I know I certainly haven’t!) but that’s ok. It sounds so cliché, but University is such an immersive and memorable experience, unlike any other part of your life and with so much on offer, make sure you grab every opportunity available to you whilst you can!

What tips would you give to current students looking to start a career in your sector?  

Work at it! Try to fill your time doing as much as you can – volunteer for causes you care about, get involved in societies which spark your interest, help out on research projects… make sure you are doing something you are passionate about!

Also, sometimes it is more about having a strong work ethic rather than your experience necessarily, so don’t be scared to accept a job in a different sector for a little while – remember it’s not permanent but can make your CV stand out. Speaking of, make sure it’s up to date and keep your eye out for vacancies in the sector you are interested in. With social media this is easier than ever and it will help you spot trends of when employers are most likely to advertise jobs too!

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