Carrie Lear (@CarolineLear) is a Reader in palaeoclimatology at Cardiff University. She uses the chemistry of deep sea fossils to reconstruct past climate changes. Here she tells us how the world around us inspired her to become a scientist, and how she enjoys the collaborative nature of her discipline. Catch Carrie on her Soapbox in Swansea, on June 6th 12-4pm, where she will be talking about the chemistry of fossil shells, and how it shows that the Antarctic ice sheet melted when climate warmed in the past. Her talk is sponsored by a Summer of Science Award to Soapbox Science and Cardiff University.
SS: Carrie, how did you get to your current position?
CL: After my PhD I spent three years working as a researcher at Rutgers University in the United States. It was there that I started mentoring other researchers, which made me realise that I wanted to pursue a career in academia. My post-doctoral advisor encouraged my independence, which gave me the confidence to set up a new lab when I returned to the UK as lecturer at Cardiff University.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
CL: I spent a lot of my childhood looking at nature with my family. Probably to start with I was just impressed by how beautiful a kingfisher is, for example. But after a while I wanted to know why the kingfisher is beautiful, and then how the kingfisher came to be beautiful. Once you ask questions like these you are a scientist.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research?
CL: I always used to enjoy reading Sherlock Holmes stories, I liked the way Sherlock could unravel the whole crime from the smallest detail. My research is a bit like that. I look at subtle changes in the chemistry of fossils to reconstruct large changes in the ice caps on our planet back through time.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
CL: It was recommended to me, and I thought it would be a fun experience. Crazy, but fun.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? fear? thrill? anticipation?
CL: It depends when you ask me! All of the above!
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
CL: Realistic targets and expectations for a normal working week.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
CL: Mentoring and supporting others pays dividends.