Be prepared, network, and grab every opportunity: Meet Kathryn Harriss

Dr Kathryn H. Harriss (@KentImpactGroup), is a Research Associate at the School of Physical Sciences, University of Kent.

You can catch Kathryn on a soapbox on 23rd June as part of Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018, giving a talk entitled: “Planetary Science with a Big Gun!​”




SS: how did you get to your current position?

KH: I am currently half way through my second PDRA position at the University of Kent. Upon finishing my PhD at the Open University, a job opportunity opened up of the University of Kent in a similar but not the same field. I knew the PI and spoke to them about the position while at networking events. I then applied and was successful and the position was extended for another 3 years and we have recently submitted for another extension of the position.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

KH: My father and mother are both scientists and science was always my favoured subject at school. I studied geology at university level when I discovered it covered all aspects of geography that I enjoyed. I knew I would be a scientist merely because I enjoyed it and wanted to continue asking, questing and discovering the solar system around me.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

KH: My research allows for a great deal of variety, fundamentally the work focuses on shock mechanics and fracturing which are all of great interest to me from my background in geology, but it can be used in investigate various aspects of planetary sciences, from shock features in silicate materials to astrobiology and the survivability of different simple organisms. Also I get to fire a very large gun most days.


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

KH: I enjoy talking to the public about my research and planetary and Earth sciences and have done so in many different ways, Soapbox Science offers a new challenge and exciting way to discuss and inform the public about my research and aspects of planetary sciences.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day

KH: Fun


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

KH: There is an idea that more is better, that more papers, especially first-author papers, mean a better scientist when the culture should be pushing for better quality collaborative research, allowing those in similar fields to work together to get the best data rather than competing for REF, funding and esteem.


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

KH: Learn everything, take every opportunity to network and improve your skills. Finding a job at the right time (end of your current position) is down to luck, but you need to have the skills ready behind you to grab those opportunities when they come. Life in academia is hard and most fall before reaching the fabled permanent position but be prepared, network, and grab every opportunity.

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