I never knew science was for me, for everyone: Meet Kelly Jowett


Kelly Jowett is a PhD student at the University of Reading and based at Rothamsted Research. Her work investigates the distribution of beneficial beetles in farm landscapes and how they can help us move towards efficient natural pest control in crops.

You can catch Kelly on her soapbox as part of Soapbox Science Milton Keynes on 29th June, where she will be asking: “How do beetles help farmers to feed us?”

Follow Kelly on Twitter: @kelly_jowett


I’m quite an introverted person. I like people, and working in a team, but I’m hardly a chatty breezy open type of girl. At a party, I’m the one in the kitchen, fussing the cat and/or dog. So why am I going to stand on a soapbox in the middle of a shopping centre blathering on about beetles? Because I love it! And here’s why…

As a little girl growing up I loved the natural world, romping about the fields, diving through the hedges, and getting my hands dirty. I was pretty good academically, but I never even considered that the two might interconnect, and I never dreamed I’d be a scientist

When I got to the world of work, I fell into a career of gardening and later trained as a tree surgeon. Unfortunately/fortunately I developed muscular-neurological problems which meant I had to give up my practical career. Still I never considered higher academia – I just went to university to get the qualification I needed to become an ecological surveyor.

However, when I got into my Foundation Degree Sciences undergraduate course, a new world opened up to me. I learned about the problems humans have created for themselves by altering natural systems, and the myriad of ways that I, as a researcher, could contribute and help to mitigate this. I soon fast-tracked onto a BSc Environmental Conservation course and received the school award for best dissertation project for my work on beneficial beetles. I still never considered I might become a doctor though!

When I wanted to take my work further I undertook an MRes course in Global Agriculture and Food Security. This equipped me with the knowledge to make a difference to the area where human concerns meet with the environment most keenly – agricultural and food production systems. Though it pains me to know all the things that have gone wrong, globally, with our food systems, it’s so inspiring to know that I, as small and inconsequential as I often feel, might make a difference to the world.

After getting top marks for my statistics module, and winning the prize for top MRes student, I was told I should really take research as a career, and pursue a doctorate. So I did! I’m studying at Reading Uni, and based at Rothamsted Research, in my project on beetles as pest control agents. I love my work. Tramping through the fields and getting my hands dirty (though I do a lot of computer work too).

I never dreamed I could have this career, doing what I love, and helping others too. I never thought being a scientist involved this.

I never knew science was for me, for everyone. And I want to let everyone know that it is. So I’m going to get up there and tell them! Maybe I will be able to inspire the next future generation of budding scientists and demonstrate that anyone with a passion for something can make a difference.

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