Jane Robb talks to us about her inspirational Director of Studies, working with the mineralogical collections at the Natural History Museum, London and her hopes to use her Geology degree to help shape global development.
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
Edinburgh, for me, was a clear choice for Geology. I started university when I was 16, and this meant that I wasn’t really ready to move too far away from my family and friends who were all still in school. Also, both my parents went to and met at Edinburgh, so it was almost destined for me to go there too. Being so young for my year, it took a while to make real friends, but the friends I made in my course are still counted among my closest, even though we are scattered across the globe.
The course was great, it was well taught by some of the most renowned geoscience scholars, in addition to having some fantastic geology right on our doorstep to investigate in the field. The mapping dissertation project is one of my best memories to date, although stressful and a lot of work it was amazing living on the Isle of Skye for a month with 4 of my course mates, and is an experience I will never forget.
My Director of Studies, Colin Graham, was fantastic and a real inspiration. I worked in the Our Dynamic Earth science centre throughout the 4 years of my undergraduate, so was very interested in geoscience education and communication. Colin Graham also ran the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum (SESEF), and offered me a job to work alongside him doing geoscience outreach to schools. This was fantastic, and has helped shape my career. He also encouraged me to take on the Geoscience Outreach course that he offered, and this formed a core part of my knowledge about education since.
Take the subjects that interest you most at the time, and let your knowledge and interests evolve naturally, rather than trying to shoehorn yourself into a career path so early on.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
After my Bachelors, I wasn’t convinced I wanted to go into a pure geoscience career, so I took on a masters by research at University College London in heritage science. I worked with the mineralogical collections at the Natural History Museum using social science techniques to understand how people value the collections (i.e. their social, historical, and educational value). My thesis was published a year later in a peer reviewed journal.
Following my masters, I worked at UCL as a research assistant in student experience and pedagogy, which enhanced my knowledge of education, particularly at the higher education level. This role, my work with SESEF and background in geology was key in securing my next job as educational fellow at the European Geosciences Union in Munich, Germany. Here I developed new geoscience educational initiatives to be delivered across Europe and worked with UNESCO delivering teacher training in South Africa.
During my work at UCL, I set up a social enterprise with my colleague at the time, which aims to enhance social mobility by working with young people from all backgrounds to help make their aspirations a reality. In 2014 we were awarded £15,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Big Lottery to continue our work into 2015.
While working towards my masters I became a member of the executive committee of the not-for-profit organisation Geology for Global Development, working with geoscience students to help them contribute to international development issues. This experience piqued my interest in development issues and what geologists can do to help, and led me to volunteer through the United Nations Online Volunteer Service where I am now working with an organisation in Sierra Leone to develop an ecotourism project there.
This varied, slightly haphazard experience led me to get a better understanding of where I want to go with my career - I always knew I wanted to remain in the geosciences, but wanted to work with people and the social science too. I am now about to begin a PhD in Natural Resources at the University of Greenwich, looking at drivers of deforestation in Guatemala. With this I hope to then go into the international development sector, combining my knowledge of geoscience with experience in social sciences.
It is easy to worry too much about what career you should take while working towards your undergraduate degree, but my advice is don’t fret too much. Take the subjects that interest you most at the time, and let your knowledge and interests evolve naturally, rather than trying to shoehorn yourself into a career path so early on. What is important is getting a good degree and enjoying it, and there is plenty time to hone your skills and experience after your degree, regardless of your age. It is highly likely that your ideas of what you want to do will change drastically throughout your degree anyway, so a good idea is to volunteer or work summer jobs in a range of different areas so you can get a feel for what you enjoy, and where your skills fit best. This will also be a great starting point for your CV, demonstrating willingness to explore and learn new skills independently.