About CSci

  • Ashleigh Fletcher
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Ashleigh Fletcher
Featured Profile: 
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
North East
Works For: 
University of Strathclyde
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
A variety of things from a professional runner to a high court judge, but I finally decided I wanted to follow a career in science (chemistry in particular) when I was about 12
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
My father was an engineer and brought me up with a keen interest in that area, but it was my secondary school chemistry lessons and my very enthusiastic teacher (Mr dulling) that inspired me to take up chemistry
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
I love the fact that I can do independent research into areas that interest me and in which I can see the societal impact, that has always been a key part of the work that I undertake
What would you change? 
I would like to see a change in the mechanisms by which academic researchers obtain funding
What qualifications did you take at school? 
I was educated in England and took several GCSEs (including maths, English, chemistry, biology and physics), before ‘A’-levels in maths, chemistry and physics
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
I studied chemistry at the University of Durham, which was a great degree for me. I had decided long before reaching University that I would like to study chemistry in more depth, and felt that the best way was to take a degree in the pure subject
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
I obtained a PhD from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne working in the Northern Carbon Research Laboratories, under the supervision of Prof. K. Mark Thomas. This was a great opportunity, not only to advance research and my own experimental knowledge and techniques, but also to develop a lot of key transferable skills that have stood me in good stead during my career, such as networking, presentation skills and scientific writing
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I tend to know most of the people I go to parties with, but when I meet new people I say I work in a University as a chemical engineering lecturer, and I undertake teaching and research. I sometimes avoided saying the subject area I work in as I previously had patronizing comments in reply but I am proud of my job and extremely proud to be a scientist
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
I work on adsorption systems looking at a range of materials that have potential in filter technologies and hydrogen or carbon dioxide storage.
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
There is the possibility of designing a material that can store hydrogen safely at room temperature, which has huge implications in improving the safety of using hydrogen as an energy carrier for mobile applications
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
I have the opportunity to teach and undertake research most days and I get a lot of satisfaction from both. It is very rewarding to see students understand a concept or advance their learning as a result of something I have taught them, and it is very fulfilling to perform an experiment and see the results and the meaning that they have to a larger picture
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
I started with a degree in chemistry at Durham University in 1994, graduating in 1997 to take up a PhD at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. I knew I wanted to do a PhD early in my first degree and was fortunate enough to find a place where I was involved in research that really interested me. I graduated in 2000 and stayed in the same group to gain post-doctoral experience, with a temporary lectureship (2005-2006), I was there till September 2008 when I moved to the University of Strathclyde to take up a permanent lectureship
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
I am a chemist working in an engineering faculty, which requires some crossing of disciplines, but I have recently been a participant in two Crucible programmes (national schemes aimed at promoting interdisciplinary research) and involved in a successful ‘Bridging the Gap’ application, so my research is quite cross-disciplinary and I hope that it will continue to be so
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
Starting salaries vary on when you enter a lectureship, once you have a PhD (currently £13,900 per year for engineering students) you can take on a post-doctoral position and this will see an increase in wage to somewhere in the £20k-£25k bracket, this increases with experience and if you are awarded a lectureship you generally enter at the next pay step or a bit higher on the scale. Again progression is experience related till you reach a cap and then promotion to senior lecturer (the reader) is required to increase your wages further
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
Chemical engineering has become increasingly popular in recent years here at Strathclyde and I can see it continuing as it is a very useful degree for a lot of different jobs. My research is an expanding field, which I use to inform my teaching, and I imagine this will be the case for the next 5-10 years, the new types of materials being developed have many unknown applications and this will be a great area to investigate
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
As an academic we take on many administrative roles, such as research website office, and this can change the way you perceive things or interact with people
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
Being appointed as a lecturer and starting my own, independent, research group; I was extremely proud when my first two PhD students started in October
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
It is difficult to manage my work-life balance as my family all live in England and I have to make regular trips to see them. A problem with academia is that jobs are not always available in certain geographic areas and sometimes a move is required.
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
My parents and immediate family are very proud and have always taken a keen interest in what I do. Some of my friends are scientists too so it’s not anything different for them but my other friends seem to think it’s a good job, though I’m not sure how many would swap for theirs!
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Historic properties, walking, live music
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I have been a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry since I was a first year undergraduate and have always felt professional membership and status to be important for myself and promoting the scientific community. I became a Chartered Chemist after graduating with my PhD and then heard about CSci status, which appealed as a broader application of my background.
What is the value of professional bodies? 
I believe professional bodies help to promote the subject and inform their members of developments and opportunities. I have been involved with promoting science, especially chemistry, through the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the work of engaging the wider community in scientific endeavour
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
I believe that we all continue learning as we progress through our careers and should embrace opportunities offered for us to do this, and ideally keep a record of the skills developed. I find the revalidation process for CSci helps me keep track of my CPD and to actively update records for future validations
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Look into the area in depth before deciding if it is for you, take the opportunity to visit science workers or get involved in science workshops and science can be very enjoyable and hugely rewarding
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