How long have you worked at the Uni? What does your role involve?
I’ve been here for just about a year now in the Public Engagement Unit. Our role is supporting researchers to engage the public with their research, and the public is any non-academic voice. So we don’t actually do public engagement ourselves, it’s about building capacity, upskilling and providing opportunities for researchers to do public engagement.
What would you most like to achieve while at the University?
For us, in public engagement, it’s about 2-way, mutually beneficial interactions. One of the things for me is to bring non-academic voices into a university setting; not only so they can benefit from our world-leading research which is relevant to them, but so they can influence research which is more effective and relevant for the people it should be serving. I think all research, ultimately, should be about societal good, so it’s about bringing in those voices to make sure that we’re achieving ‘good’ in the world.
For me, it’s about seeing those partnerships be built and see a research project change in response to those non-academic voices coming in.
What piece of advice would you like to give to a student?
You’re not stuck in all the decisions you make, and you can change your mind if you decide something isn’t for you. You’re never trapped in something and you can go and do something else.
Who was your most influential teacher/educator, and why?
My history teacher in secondary school, Mr Brechin. I think through learning from him, it taught me how to think about evidence, how to structure that into an argument and how to evaluate different sources to bring that all together. Also, I think studying history gives you an enormous amount of context for the world and that’s really important for anything else you’ll go on to study in the future.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a palaeontologist, so I had loads of toy dinosaurs when I was growing up. I wanted to spend my life digging up new species of dinosaurs and have them named after me!
What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you were younger?
It’s similar to my advice for a student, but it’s knowing that you’re not stuck into the course you go down and that you can change your mind when you find things aren’t for you. That’s a really hard decision to make though, particularly when you’ve dedicated a lot of time to something, and to decide it isn’t working. But I think it’s so important to know because you have more time than you think you do.
What was your first job?
I worked in a reptile shop in Cambridge. So I had to feed and water the snakes, spiders and everything else we had. But what I really remember is that we had a Goliath bird-eating spider and each morning she would sit over the water bowl, so you to tickle her on the abdomen so she would run away and you could fill the water.
If you could start your own dream business, what would it be?
It would be making and selling board games and role playing game modules and manuals. So it would be the design process, selling them and then getting the feedback. I’d love to do modules for Dungeons and Dragons, which would be really fun.
Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?
The one I’ve been to most and I’ll probably keep coming back to is Lyme Regis in Dorset. I used to go there loads when I was a kid and get my parents to take me to both of the dinosaur museums! I also love going down to the beach to hunt for fossils and to get an ice cream while I’m there. You find so many fossils too, when you know what you’re looking for, you can find loads.
What’s your favourite book or album and why?
So I’m a huge heavy metal fan so there’s loads of albums I really like, but if I had to pick one it would probably be London by a band called Voices, a UK-based band. It’s a progressive blackened death metal album, and it’s a tale of isolation and difficulty adjusting in a modern city like London. It also deals with infatuation as well. It’s quite a haunting album, quite sad, but it’s also really extreme. The song writing is just exceptional and the musician’s performances are outstanding. I recognise it’s not to everyone’s tastes but I keep finding myself coming back to it.
When are you happiest?
Probably when I’m sitting down to play a board game or a roleplaying one like Dungeons and Dragons with my family and friends, or when I’m playing music.
If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and why?
A voice actor called Matthew Mercer who is a dungeon master for an online Dungeons and Dragons game called Critical Role. He’s really creative, a fantastic voice actor and he just seems like a really nice guy. I think a lot of heroes people have, you’d be worried they’d turn out to be not very nice, but from what I can tell Matthew is lovely so that’s something I’d really value. You want to sit down with someone you’d actually like! (Find out more about Dungeons and Dragons here)
Which one superpower would you like to possess?
I’d like to be able to turn into an animal and experience the world in so many ways. You could turn into a fish and see what it’s like living underwater, if you’re a bird and see what it’s like to fly or a mole to burrow into places. It would let you see so much more of the world. The first one I’d turn into would probably be a bird to fly around and get an aerial view. You also get the flying superpower too!
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
It depends who you talk to, but I’m a vocalist and guitarist in a death metal band, called Void Titan, in Bristol. I don’t think most people at work would think that’s what I do at the weekends. We released an EP last year and we hope to release an album this year.
Tell us your favourite joke
Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? Because the “P” is silent.