About CSci

  • David Bowdley
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David Bowdley
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
The Science Council
Scientist Type: 
West Midlands
First Degree: 
Applied Sciences (Physics)
Teaching and Learning Coach & Education Officer
Works For: 
Institute of Physics (IOP) & National Schools’ Observatory (NSO)
BSc Applied Sciences (Physics), PGCE with Qualified Teacher Status
Pet Hates: 
People who speak to others disrespectfully. I don’t care what someone has done, there Is no need to be disrespectful. On a less serious note, I hate mushrooms!
Burning Ambition: 
To write and publish a science fiction novel or play
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
There was never anything in particular that I wanted to be, but I always liked talking about my interests and had a vague interest in becoming a teacher. It is probably these 2 things that led me in to education and actually being a teacher.
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
I enjoyed learning about how the world around me worked, and learning interesting things I could tell people about. Nobody in particular inspired me; I am pretty much my own person and make my own decisions
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
My training as a scientist has given me the skills to look objectively at the world around me. I now apply this approach to the education work I do and use my training to identify solutions to both scientific and educational problems. The skills you develop as a scientist are often unique to yourself, and that means you are often left alone to do your work in the way you know best. This gives me a lot of autonomy in the work I do and I like the freedom that this gives me. Science is a very liberating subject.
What would you change? 
The main thing I would change about my jobs is the fact that a lot of the work I do is based on grants and the jobs are not permanent. I would like to see government make a permanent investment in the kind of work that others and I do so that we could work towards a long-term aim.
What qualifications did you take at school? 
I only studied 1 science at school; I was very much of the mind that physics is what I wanted to do. I did not even study biology or chemistry beyond the age of 14. At A-level I studied physics and mathematics
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
My first degree was in Applied Sciences with a heavy focus on physics. I enjoyed the “applied” nature of my studies as it allowed me to see how physics could be applied to problems in the world around us
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
I don’t have a masters or a PhD, but I did do a PGCE, which goes some way to showing Masters level equivalence. As one of the first CSci holders I actually used the grandparent route to CSci having already used my qualifications and experience to gain CPhys with the IOP
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I have 2 jobs but both have the same kind of aim. I usually say my work is with teachers and students with the aim of making science and specifically physics more fun, relevant and exciting as a subject.
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
For my NSO astronomy education work I get to use some of the world’s largest robotic telescopes. They use pretty cutting edge technology and I am able to bring this in to the classroom for students and teachers to use. In my IOP work I feel that what we are doing is cutting edge because we are placing physicists and educators like myself in schools to work alongside teachers to make science more fun, interesting and relevant to students. I don’t believe that this has been done on such a scale before in the UK
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
The implications of the work I do are massive, and that really excites me. Because I am working with the future scientists, engineers, technologists, IT professionals etc… the work I can do has wide ranging potential. This could be from as simple as making someone smile when the look at something and realize they understand how it works, to helping a future genius who will invent something that will change all of our lives forever. Education is crucial to developing a sustainable future in which we can all live and thrive, and science education provides our future scientists with the start to their career that they need.
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
I don’t really have an average day, each day is different and often involves me working with different people. I enjoy meeting new people and learning new things and my job is challenging in both of those respects. My job involves a lot of people skills, and I enjoy working with people from a wide range of backgrounds. The things that I work with these people on are scientific, and almost every day there is something new that I have to learn and understand so that I can bring it to the teachers and students I work with. These are the highlights of an “average” day
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
After graduating I worked in a school doing support work for teachers and students. It was then that I decided I definitely wanted to take the plunge in to becoming a qualified teacher. I completed my PGCE and then got a job as a science teacher. Whilst teaching I developed further interests in physics and education and started looking for ways in which I could combine these 2 interests to make science more fun and engaging for students and their teachers. I left full-time teaching to work for an organization that was using cutting edge astronomical technology that would allow students to obtain their own images of the night sky. My aim was to help teachers bring real scientific data in to their lessons and show them how they could use astronomy for teaching a wide range of aspects of science (not just physics) and also use it across the curriculum. Following this work I then moved on to the 2 employers that I current have.
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
My job requires me to have an understanding of now only physics, but also of education. In addition, I have to keep up with the latest developments in technology as they could be the next things we are using in education. I have to work with a wide range of people and organizations, and as such I have to understand how different organizations are managed and structured
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
This is a difficult question to answer as my job is not really a common one that you would come across and does not have a specific scale. As a beginning teacher (which is how I started down this route) you would expect to earn in the region of £21,000 and this would rise to around £31,000 in 6 years without taking on any additional responsibility. With additional responsibility, or by receiving training for specific types of teaching role it would not be unusual for a teacher to be earning over £40,000 In my own work I also enjoy being able to take on various freelance work, and that adds to my overall annual income. Whilst working for universities I was able to ensure that what I would have got paid was very roughly in line with where I would have been on the teachers pay scale. The disadvantage of leaving teaching is that if I returned to classroom teaching I might return on the same pay scale point that I left on unless my additional experience was taken in to account.
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
I can’t really answer this as my “field” is hard to define. I see my career developing in a way that allows me to spend more time training beginning teachers so that I can have the maximum influence on teachers entering the classroom for the first time. This would be by working in a teacher training institution such as a university. The education sector is very variable at the moment and I hope to see governments taking the problems with recruitment in physics more seriously and giving the education sector the resources it needs to promote physics more
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
The most unexpected thing about my job is that it exists as a job at all. I always wanted to help make science education better, and I never realized that opportunities such as the ones I have could exist. Things that surprise me in my job are the resourcefulness of educators and the level of commitment that students give to their own development and education. I consider myself privileged to have this job
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
I think this is a question only those I work with can answer properly. I think the thing I am most astounded by in my job is that my work was recognized enough to be invited to take part in the NASA Deep Impact mission in 2005 and I was flown to Hawaii (twice in one year) to take part in the educational side of the mission using the telescopes and facilities available in the Hawaiian islands. It was certainly very exciting and was a once in a lifetime chance. Possibly the biggest achievement is that the work I do seems to be valued enough for it to receive continued funding. That in itself is an achievement.
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
Yes, I believe that I am allowed to have a good standard of living and work-life balance, but as I enjoy my work I often find myself working more hours that is probably good for me. I am allowed freedom to organize my own hours and work schedule, but this requires a lot of self-discipline to ensure that a balance is achieved.
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
They think that it is a job that I clearly enjoy and they feel it makes a valuable contribution to science, education and society more widely. They know I enjoy doing the work and they offer support where they are able. My friends and family are very supportive of what I do
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Science, Technology, Music, Photography, Performing Arts, Writing. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, watching films, performing arts and going out in to the countryside and walking (with my camera naturally). More recently I have started running and using weights as my job often means I am quite inactive sitting at a computer and I like to be more active
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I decided to apply for CSci as it would be a widely recognized status to have and would recognize the experience I have. The thing I value most about it is that it has to be renewed and that means I have to take my professional development seriously. This is something that is currently lacking in education at the moment as teachers in the UK are not required to attend a certain amount of training per year in order to maintain their registration as a qualified teacher
What is the value of professional bodies? 
I am a member of a number of professional bodies that represent different aspects of my work. I believe that professional bodies are a good way to meet others doing similar work, and to find out about opportunities for professional development and training. They are a good way to form networks that you can use to obtain support but also as importantly offer support
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
CPD for me is essential as those I work with expect me to have the latest knowledge and techniques at my fingertips. This applies not just to my subject knowledge, but also to the technology I use and the interpersonal skills required. I would have thought knowing what is going on in your own area of science would be an absolute must for all scientists as funding is often targeted at cutting edge research. I think the 5-year revalidation was too long. However, I feel the 1-year revalidation might be too short. 2 years would have been my choice. I think the fact that revalidation is required is a very important characteristic of CSci as it does show current competence
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
If someone was considering going in to education, I would suggest they at least get some experience in a school before making a final decision. Teaching and education are very demanding and you are going to need help and support along the way to be able to develop to your full potential. To do the job I specifically do now at least requires you to have a number of years teaching experience so that you know what goes on in schools and in the classroom from an educational point of view
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
Difficult to answer. I never had a specific mentor as such, but I have been very lucky to have people who have been supportive of me throughout my entire career. I have always had people I could turn to for help and advice, and I think this is very important. I would not be doing this job now without those people.
How would you define “professionalism”? 
To me professionalism means doing your job to the best of your ability, doing it honestly, openly, without causing harm to anyone or anything and with respect for others in your field and those you work with outside of your field.
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
Nothing. I have no regrets as regrets are something that waste your time when you think about them and you could be using that time productively and positively.
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
That I did something worthwhile for someone or for society.
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