I graduated in 2008 with a BSc (Hons) in Natural Sciences (Physics).
To fulfil a life-long interest in physics that had not been realised earlier in my career, mainly due to responsibilities as a young carer and a poor school experience.
The Open University offered me the opportunity to study part time and bring up my son. Also because my early education was not good (I failed my O level physics three times in school) there wasn’t another university that would take me on and I couldn’t find any other courses in physics locally. The OU was my chance to change my life. I also became a single mother during my OU studies but I was able to continue studying and maintain an income through various jobs including an industrial wirer for the construction industry and a cover supervisor in a school.
One of the greatest things I got from my studies (apart from the knowledge) was getting to know so many people from all over the country, both tutors and my fellow students. I have made some great friends for life through the OU, we are always there for each other.
Another highlight, is the opportunities the OU has given me, I got involved in student support with OUSA, I gained a lot of confidence in myself and was encouraged to get more involved with national societies, which in turn have given me more opportunities.
I never dreamt I would do the things I have, the observing residential school in Mallorca was a turning point – I knew then what I really wanted to do.
After graduation I completed a PhD (Probing the Diffuse Interstellar Medium with Diffuse Interstellar Bands) at Keele University, focussing on the local bubble and the Magellanic clouds. I then worked as Projects Officer at the National Schools Observatory, developing Inquiry Based Science Education learning resources to allow students to conduct independent research projects in astronomy, specifically on variable stars. That contract has just ended and I am doing some freelance work before starting another contract. I was the Publicity Officer for the Society for Popular Astronomy for over 10 years and I am still involved with the Council of the Society but my main role is as Astronomy Secretary for the Royal Astronomical Society, which makes me an Officer on their Council.
Much of my success is down to the support and encouragement I received from The Open University staff. I am now a part-time OU Associate Lecturer on SXP390 (the level 3 physics project) which allows me to now pass on my experience to other students.
I intend to continue working with the astronomy societies to help inspire others into astronomy, either for pleasure or work and I am still working on my research. I would like to go back to Chile to continue my observing programme which is an all sky survey. I am also doing a bit of editorial work so who knows – maybe one day I will also write a book!
Do it! Don’t worry that you may not be able to do it, just give it a go and when you get stuck – ask. It sometimes takes a long time for the smallest thing to click but when it does….. just don’t ever give up. Also, I highly recommend joining any groups or societies in your subject and getting involved, go along to all the talks and lectures you can and speak to researchers in your field. You will find most will be only too happy to talk to you and you never know where such conversations will lead. It is what I did and I am now doing things I didn’t know existed when I first started my studies, it was a bit daunting at times but so worth it. Just take a deep breath and go for it.
Interview updated Jan 2016
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