Name: Dr Meriel FitzPatrick
Job Role: Lecturer in Earth Sciences
Organisation: Plymouth University
PhD, Palynology, University of Plymouth
MSc, Palynology, University of Sheffield
BA Mod (Hons) Trinity College, Dublin
1. What inspired you to take up a career in the Geosciences?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I went to university at the age of 17. My family encouraged me to study something I enjoyed, so I chose Natural Sciences because it provided a broad introduction to all the sciences, zoology being my main interest. However, having never studied geology before, I found it fascinating and enjoyable. I had always spent time outdoors, so I enjoyed the fieldwork immensely. I found I preferred geology to zoology which required hours spent sketching pickled organisms or dissecting recently dead ones. The realisation that exploring the geology of an area, trying to figure things out and work out a geological history based on what you could observe in the field was a bit like solving a puzzle, made me want to study it further.
2. Can you give more detail about your path to your current job role?
After my degree I chose to continue studying/research and completed an MSc and then a PhD in palynology which had direct career openings in the oil industry. I worked in industry for a while as I was writing my PhD but left my job in order to finish it. Then I worked part-time on an hourly paid basis while my children were very young but now I have progressed to a permanent part-time contract.
3. What does your current job role involve?
My current role mainly involves teaching undergraduate students at all levels through lectures, tutorials and practicals, so much of my time is spent developing teaching materials. Teaching students in the field is also an important part of my role, including residential fieldtrips at least twice a year. At Plymouth our pastoral care through the tutorials is an important part of supporting students and helping them adapt to academic life at university; I am responsible for co-ordinating these tutorials for Stage 1 students. The foundation stage of our degree programmes includes an introductory Geoscience module which I am module leader for. I am involved in research through supervising MGeol and PhD students and continue my own research when I have the time.
4. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the huge variety my job provides and the scope for meeting people and travelling to interesting places. I enjoy working with people, both staff and students. Seeing the students progress and graduate at the end of their degree is immensely rewarding.
5. Why do you think it’s important to encourage more girls into the Geosciences?
The Geosciences are often perceived to be very male dominated but this does not have to be the case! It’s important to encourage more girls into the subject to help correct this gender imbalance. There are many different aspects to the Geosciences which provide a wide variety of career choices, giving both genders just as much possibility of being successful.
6. If you could give a piece of advice to girls currently thinking about a career in the Geosciences, what would it be?
If you enjoy science subjects, have an inquisitive, enquiring mind, are interested in the world around you and enjoy some outdoor activity, I would say “Go for it – the choice is yours”! Geosciences can provide a very stimulating and rewarding career, in whatever area you choose – research, academia or industry.
Meriel will be running a workshop on ‘Reconstructing Geological Time’ at our ‘Girls into Geoscience’ event on 4th July. Book your place today: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel (01752) 585975.
You can also follow our event on twitter @girlsingeosci