About CSci

  • Sheila Siegler
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Sheila Siegler
Featured Profile: 
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
First Degree: 
Works For: 
Pet Hates: 
People who are always right whatever their opinions
The power to give all politicians an intuitive love and understanding of science
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
I don’t think I consciously thought about it. Probably an artist of some kind
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
When I stopped working at the Tate Gallery (as a conservator) I found I needed a lot more science to be a freelance conservator so I started a degree with the Open University
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
It gives me the ability to problem-solve at much greater depth. For example, when I chose an adhesive for a particular job I not only have the “feel” of how it will behave, I also know the adhesion science behind the product
What would you change? 
I would like my own analytical lab
What qualifications did you take at school? 
I took Art, English and French A levels. I failed French
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
My first degree was an Open University degree in chemistry. I needed some chemistry for my work and I thought I’d “do it properly” by taking a degree. The more I learnt, the more I became fascinated by the subject
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
I have a Ph.D from the chemical engineering faculty at Imperial College. Because of my chemistry and conservation experience the Science Museum in London asked me to examine the space suits in their collection. Later they sponsored me to take a doctorate investigating the deterioration of polymers
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I usually say I’m a conservator. The mention of chemistry or science tends to stop the conversation
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
The “cutting edge” part of conservation science is the problem of synthetic polymers, their ubiquity in everyday life and how fast they deteriorate
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
If we don’t at least partially solve the “plastics” problem then your children will have precious little to show their grandchildren about how you lived. It will mostly be gone
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
There is no average day. I enjoy answering science questions from former students. I enjoy taking a picture or document that is on its last legs and “mending” it so that it is beautiful and usable again
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
It seems to have zig-zagged randomly on parallel paths. When I am teaching I am a scientist. When I am conserving I am a craftswoman
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
You must be joking! When I teach conservation science I include basic organic chemistry, the chemistry/physics of adhesives, skins, leather tanning, polymers, modern paper, light, color, photography, enzymes, solvents and most analytical techniques
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
In the UK it is about 18,000 and can rise to around 50,000. In the USA it is more and if I worked on either of the coasts I would be very well off
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
With certain exceptions conservation science has tended to be scattered and confined to individual institutions or researchers. We are starting to come together and co-operate on much larger, cross discipline projects
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
Probably that, after doing conservation for 37 years and science for 23 years, I am still learning and find them both fascinating
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
Getting to work on my first Soyuz space craft
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
Yes to both
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
My family still doesn’t understand any of it. My friends love to hear about conservation and hope I won’t start to talk about science
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
sing in a cathedral choir. Sight reading music keeps your mind active
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I chose it because I am very proud of being a scientist. I’m not too sure anyone in America knows what it means
What is the value of professional bodies? 
They are exceedingly important. The ability to award chartered or accredited status moves a group from a learned society to a profession
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
Quite frankly, CPD keeps you on your toes. There is no room for complacency and that is a good thing
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Seize the opportunity. You are not going to come back to Earth and do everything you missed
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
I don’t know. I have never had a mentor
How would you define “professionalism”? 
A love of your chosen profession, a desire to see it improved and a collegiate appreciation of others in your field
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
I would insist they taught me math and science at school
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
I would like them to remember me as a good teacher
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