Biomedical Sciences

Karina Jakobsen: Gaining confidence and taking risks

For Karina, from the UK, the Masters programme was integral to helping her move from entry level environmental positions, into more senior roles.

What is your background?

I wanted a career in environmental science, particularly marine science, and chose this programme to help me achieve this. I completed a few internships/seasonal entry level roles, but I had to divert into hospitality for a few years for financial reasons. A family move then gave me an opportunity to get my environmental career back on track.

I worked as an admin for an environmental consultancy, which then led me to a role as an environmental regulator specialising in water quality. In the final year of my MSc, during the pandemic, I got a role as a Senior Marine Environmental Scientist. I specialise in Water Framework Directive investigations of transitional and coastal waterbodies where we examine environmental issues and reasons contributing to those issues.

What have you been able to do since completing the MSc that wasn't possible before?

Before this MSc programme, I struggled to envision how I would make the jump from entry level roles to more senior level positions in environmental science. However, I now hold a senior position and it directly involves making positive environmental changes.

What opportunities have helped shape where you are now? 

One of the most notable opportunities that has helped shape where I am now, was my entry level position as an environmental regulator. It gave me a phenomenal foundation in environmental legislation, water quality, investigations, and pollution incident response. The role gave me practical field experience and a knowledge of key topics such as how different pollutants impact the environment, legislation, water and waste management. 

What were your biggest take home lessons from the MSc?

The MSc programme was extremely helpful in developing a broad knowledge of ecosystem functioning, global climate/environmental issues, skills in GIS mapping software, finding and digesting peer reviewed literature, and confidence in my ability to discuss and present on topics I research. These experiences have all proved very helpful in my career progression.

What advice would you give to students looking to get experience in conservation but aren’t quite sure where to start?

My advice to students seeking a career in environmental science is find some organisations or government agencies you are interested in and try to get any role. It doesn’t matter if it is not exactly right, because it is a great way to just get your foot in the door and show them what you are capable of. Every role will get you closer to where you want to be and if unsuccessful at first, keep trying and ask for feedback from your interviewers so you can improve for next time. I took a big risk switching jobs when I did, but sometimes you just have to go for it when opportunities arise, even if the timing doesn’t seem right.

What advice would you give to students coming to the programme from a different background?

My advice to students worried about coping with a career change or long break from academia is talk to your fellow students and your teaching team. They are a great support system and often they are going through, or have gone through, what you are experiencing. And while it is scary, no one grows from staying inside their comfort zone.