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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Professor Rachel Mills. Head of Ocean and Earth Science.

Published: 8 October 2014
Head of Ocean and Earth Science

In July this year, Professor Rachel Mills was appointed Head of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton. She heads a team of over 65 academics who carry out cutting edge research across a spectrum of subjects including oceanography, marine biology and ecology, geology and geophysics.

“It is an exciting time to take the helm at the Waterfront Campus,” she says. “Many new academic staff have joined us over the last few years, significantly expanding our areas of expertise, and I am looking forward to working together to enhance our education delivery and develop new areas of research.”

Rachel has many years’ experience of the University of Southampton; she first arrived to study a BSc in Chemistry with Oceanography as the minor subject but enjoyed learning about the oceans so much, she decided to focus on that subject instead, graduating with first class honours in 1988. “I thought there was much more opportunity for exciting discovery in the oceans, she explains.” Rachel went on to study for a PhD and carry out postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge, exploring deep sea hydrothermal vents along the mid-Atlantic ridge and gaining first hand experience through taking part in research cruises and diving to the seafloor in submersibles.

Returning to Southampton as a Lecturer in 1993, Rachel became Deputy Head of School for Education in 2005 and then Faculty Associate Dean four years later. She has continued to play an active part in research alongside her other duties, extending her interests from vents to volcanoes and other seafloor sediments. In particular she studies the relationship between climate, the oceans and the underlying sediments; both in terms of supply of materials to the oceans and using sediment records to study past change.

One of the significant successes of the collaboration with the Natural Environment Research Council at the Waterfront Campus is the Graduate School of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. “We have celebrated the graduation of more than 500 PhD students since we set up the Graduate School and currently have over 250 PhD students; as you can see from the numbers, we are still growing fast and producing alumni that are based all over the globe.”

In recent years Rachel has been involved in the Athena SWAN initiative which encourages universities to address issues of gender diversity and enables more women researchers to achieve their potential. “Too many women are still leaving academia at postdoc level but there is a recent step change in the number of female academics appointed to Ocean and Earth Science and, together with colleagues across the University, we are committed to making career progression more equitable,” she says.



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