Rebecca Hemingway (@beckyhemingway9) is a scientist at the Met Office where she carries out research and works on the development of the Hazard Impact Model. Here she tells us about how she got into this fascinating and challenging role and why science is for everyone. Rebecca was one of our 2016 Exeter speaker. During the event, she talked about “How the weather and natural hazards affect you”
SS: Rebecca, how did you get to your current position?
RH: I started at the Met Office as a three month summer placement in 2012 never expecting to continue working there. I’d finished my Masters degree in Oceanography and the plan was to go home and look for jobs after the placement. During the placement the science admin team asked if those of us were going back to university would be willing to extend our placements to work on other projects. So I said yes. I was contacted a couple of weeks before the end of my placement about a job in the Weather Impacts Team, it sounded interesting, I was enjoying working at the Met Office and while the job was in a totally different area than what I knew I thought I might as well go for it. So I did – I filled in the application form and went for an interview. Three hours after the interview the team’s manager was at my desk offering me the job! I couldn’t believe it! I started 5 days later in my new team so it was a bit of a whirlwind, I moved to Exeter for 3 months and I’m still here, loving my job, nearly 4 years later!
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
RH: I’ve been interested in science since I was quite young. I remember watching programs and movies about severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes and thinking they were great and so interesting. As I got older I found that I was interested in the oceans, although I still liked the weather, and originally wanted to be a marine biologist. This evolved into wanting to study Oceanography at university. At school I always found sciences interesting, especially physics, and I really liked the climate change aspect of geography. Sciences are logical, they have a methodology and (usually) an answer, I liked that, they’re objective not subjective.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
RH: I find the challenges I encounter while researching weather impacts fascinating. I talk to a lot of people about what I do and it’s only when I start explaining the challenges I face creating impact models that they realise the difficulties in this work. Even collecting reports of weather impacts, in order to check the models are correct, is challenging. It’s an extremely new area of science and I like that I’m doing things that haven’t been done before and also that they can help people on a day to day basis.
SB: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
RH: I liked the idea of shouting about my work to the public and communicating in a way that I don’t usually get to do. Having no PowerPoint slides but instead having props is very exciting and a novel and unique way to communicate science.
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
RH: The scientific stereotypes of what scientists are and should be. Science is so vast and varied, it’s just getting the message out there that anyone can do science and it’s brilliant and fun and there is something to interest everyone at every age.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
RH: I’m slightly different to a lot of the speakers at Soapbox Science in that I don’t have a PhD and I am not planning to get one. I work as an applied scientist so use science to help our meteorologists make decisions about the weather and the impact it may have. I feel that you don’t need a PhD to be extremely successful in science, it’s enthusiasm, grasping every opportunity and fulfilling it to the best of your ability and being interested in what you do that makes a great scientific career.