Alumna – University College London
Career Development Fellow (Energy and Society), University of Edinburgh
I came to LoLo following a masters degree in chemistry, which included a year working with a leading pharmaceutical company. At that time, I had an interest in energy but thought that I would pursue this through working in the lab. Things took a completely different direction when I joined LoLo! I ended up doing a masters dissertation looking at the social aspects of office lighting, and a PhD, which used ethnography to understand the role of central heating installers in shaping domestic energy consumption. Through LoLo, I made a complete shift, from doing lab-based research, to using qualitative approaches which involve interviewing people and observing them at work. It is because of the diversity and varied approaches used in the LoLo centre that I even became aware of the possibilities of different methods, and have been able to make such a transition. Even better, despite having not used some of these research methods before, people in LoLo, and across UCL, believed in my ability to learn about them and supported my development in all sorts of ways. This has shaped what I do now, what I want to do in the future, and what I believe I can do.
When thinking about International Day of Women and Girls in Science and International Women’s Day, it is important to highlight that we are still working towards gender equality in the workplace and in our personal lives. This is especially true in academia, where there are still male dominated disciplines (energy being one of them!) and a higher proportion of men in senior roles, such as Professors. Centres like LoLo are incredibly valuable for ensuring that this changes. I was part of a cohort with similar numbers of men and women. We took on similar challenges and supported one another a huge amount. I was supervised through my masters and PhD by a fellow woman of LoLo, Michelle Shipworth. I found it incredibly valuable to work closely with her for understanding the nature of being a woman in academia, and recognising that there may be some specific challenges to this. Now, where if I do find myself in male dominated environments, I know that I belong as much as they do, and that I can achieve equally ambitious career goals, if I would like to.
I was also fortunate that both Michelle, and my other PhD supervisor, Russell Hitchings were incredibly supportive throughout my PhD. Aside from offering academic advice on my research, they taught me about how to work in an academic environment. This included advice about job applications, writing research proposals, and the importance and value of supporting others in academia. Since the PhD, I have gone on to a teaching and research role at the University of Edinburgh, which wouldn’t have been possible without the varied experiences I had in LoLo; beginning to get involved in teaching activities and organising events. LoLo also provided the beginnings of what I hope to be a long-standing network of colleagues and good friends. Despite having completed our time at LoLo, I continue to cross paths with people that I studied with there. For example, I have been in touch with Kate Simpson through the ‘Innovation in Construction Skills’ project that she is working on with the University of Leeds; whilst Sofie Pelsmakers and I have been working closely through our involvement in the journal Building Research & Information. I pop into UCL every time I’m in London, and always get chance to catch up with friends and colleagues that I worked with there. It really is a pleasure to keep seeing these friends as I continue with my professional career.
If you’re thinking about joining LoLo, I would thoroughly recommend it. Learning about energy demand and the built environment is really just a tiny part of what happens. There are all sorts of new skills, ideas, and great friends that you’ll make along the way. There’s also a chance that you’ll come out of your time in LoLo with some completely unexpected interests and things that you want to focus on next!