Dr Jessica Wardlaw
Research Fellow (Member of FEDIB)
I have worked in the Faculty of Engineering for four years, first on a European Union Framework Programme 7 project in my first post-doctoral role, before I joined the cross-Faculty and inter-disciplinary “Rights Lab” Research Beacon of Excellence.
Moving to a new city where I didn't know anybody was daunting, but I needn't have worried. Within three weeks I found myself in the back of the Welsh beyond for the first of many happy wild weekends with the Human Factors Research Group (HFRG). HFRG has organised an annual bank holiday weekend residential for staff, alumni, PGRs and their families for over 25 years. The cost for individuals is intentionally kept low and ride shares are organised to encourage the widest possible engagement. Even though I don’t work with this group on a daily basis I have made lasting friendships from these weekends.
The Faculty was particularly supportive when I had to take time out of work for heart surgery in London. My contract was due to end just before my surgery, but the Faculty arranged an extension, and even successfully applied for an ESRC National Productivity Investment Fund Early Career Researcher Secondment, which gave me the opportunity to collaborate with a global satellite data provider in the United States, and an EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund Research/Knowledge Exchange project for me whilst I was on medical leave. There was no pressure on me to return before I felt ready, which really helped my recovery. I have regular medical appointments, many of which are in London, but these are always accommodated.
I've benefited from both the Faculty and the University’s training and development opportunities. The Faculty’s writing retreats have enabled me to significantly advance the progress of a first-authored paper and to ring fence time to writing in an environment where I knew I would not be disturbed. I completed the ‘Preparing to Teach in Higher Education’ Certificate after a discussion about my future development needs during PDPR. This puts me in a better place to apply for positions that require teaching in future. The Careers Service has been especially helpful, with resources and support targeted for research staff.
I have also been able to take advantage of various development opportunities, such as giving guest lectures, supervising PGTs and mentoring PGRs, which have been invaluable for my future career progression into roles with greater leadership responsibilities. I am active in public engagement, which has greatly expanded my research network. For example, internally, I have demonstrated at the Faculty’s annual Research Showcase and Christmas Lecture, and the University-wide community event (Wonder). Furthermore, thanks to the Faculty’s existing relationships with the local branch of the British Science Association, Fun Palaces, National Space Centre, Smallpeice Trust and University of the Third Age, I have been able to disseminate my research to a more public audience - including school children - and run workshops as part of my research.