About CSci

  • Katharine Samms
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Katharine Samms
Featured Profile: 
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
Scientist Type: 
First Degree: 
BSc(Hons) Environmental Science
Flood Risk Management Technical Specialist
Works For: 
Environment Agency
BSc, MSc
Pet Hates: 
Burning Ambition: 
To see Polar Bears, Killer & Blue Whales in the wild. To see the Northern Lights. To dive with seals in the UK.
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
A vet.
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
Watching David Attenborough documentaries and the knowledge of my father on environmental issues (even in the early 1980s he was talking about global warming).
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
The feeling of satisfaction when months, and sometimes years, of planning and preparation finally result in a flood risk management or environmental project being delivered on the ground
What would you change? 
The heavy burden of bureaucracy involved with any activity to improve the environment
What qualifications did you take at school? 
A-Levels in Biology, Geography & Maths
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
Environmental Science – to learn how to combat the loss of species and habitat destruction, particularly in the rain forests
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
Yes a Masters in Water & Environmental Management
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
Since my little boy was born I don’t ‘do’ parties anymore, but if I did I would say that I manage flood risk management and environmental restoration projects
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
The area of flood risk management is high profile and evolving all the time. As the risk of flooding increases due to climate change and increased development, we are in an arms race in order to meet public expectations
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
On the Flood & Coastal Risk Management side my job should ultimately protect people from the worst impacts of flooding. I also manage Water Level Management Plan Projects, which should hopefully lead to a better understanding and management of some of our locally important wildlife sites
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
I enjoy visiting sites to see progress, when works are taking place
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
I had a tough start when I graduated at the height of the 1994 recession, when jobs were very hard to come by, never mind an environmental type job. So I worked in the local supermarket stacking shelves, and worked voluntarily for the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust to gain relevant experience. My ‘big break’ came when the Environment Agency was formed in 1996, where I have been ever since. I have mainly worked on Flood Risk Management projects, but I did spend a couple of years overseeing all aspects of the environmental management of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
In my job I need to understand many disciplines including, science, engineering, accountancy, legal to mention a few. I work with many specialists in these areas, and need to know who to talk with and when
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
Graduates can expect to start on around £20k-£24k rising to £34k for an experienced technical specialist
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
There will be a lot more collaborative working with Local Authorities and other partners to deliver a more comprehensive approach to all forms of flooding, not just river and coastal flooding as has been the case in the past
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
That even after a number of years in the job, each day brings a new challenge
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
There are 2 projects that I am particularly proud of – my first ‘solo’ project to create a reedbed in the Lee Valley to encourage the endangered Bitterns to breed in this area. Secondly my role overseeing the environmental management of the CTRL project, which was fantastic to be involved in such a high profile and amazing project
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
Not at the moment as the house project eats up all our free time, but hopefully I will in the new year
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
They think it is important work
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Cycling and walking are about all we get time for at the moment. Once in the new house I intend to start ‘growing my own’ in a veg. plot so that should keep me busy
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I felt that I wanted recognition for my level of qualification and experience similar to the CEng designation that my engineering colleagues were able to attain
What is the value of professional bodies? 
They provide a mechanism for keeping members up to date with developments in the field and provide a recognized level of competence for their members, which potential employers can use
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
CPD is very important in a professional scientist’s career. The nature of science is that everyday our knowledge and understanding moves forward, also the world as we know it is constantly changing. Without CPD an individual would become ineffectual in their field or in the worse case, a danger to the public and environment
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Take all opportunities that come your way, and actively seek out opportunities to maximize your chance of success. Voluntary work is a great way of gaining invaluable experience that employers are looking for
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
Very important, I benefited from mentoring by my senior colleagues and I myself am now a mentor to others working towards becoming chartered
How would you define “professionalism”? 
Keeping an open mind and making sure that you complete all tasks to which you are committed
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
I don’t necessarily want to be remembered, but would rather that people don’t experience certain events as a result of my work
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