Helen Williams is a University Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. From 2006 to 2010, she conducted her research in the Department of Earth Sciences here at the University of Oxford, intially as a Postdoctoral Researcher, and then as a NERC Research Fellow.
We asked Helen to describe aspects of her academic career in order to motivate and inspire others contemplating the same path.
Q: What was your role at Oxford, and whose lab did you work in/who did you work with?
A: I worked initially as a postdoc with Alex Halliday and subsequently I got an Advanced NERC Fellowship combining novel stable isotope analysis with high-pressure experimental petrology.
Q: What was a particular highlight of your time here?
A: Working in the experimental petrology lab with Bernie Wood and Jon Wade was a huge bonus. They taught me so many new things and supported me and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Q: How did you approach finding your next role after Oxford?
A: Mid-way through my IRF I realised that I should capitalise on the upcoming REF and having my own salary funded so I decided to start exploring my options at other Universities. It’s frightening to have to think about your career prospects in such pragmatic terms but it’s something one needs to do.
Q: What aspects of your work do you think helped your career progress in academia?
A: There’s a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time, but you have to work to create those opportunities – luck plays a role but it only goes so far. I think you have to be receptive to (and grateful for) other people’s ideas and criticism, yet there will also be times where you have to trust your own instincts and take risks.
Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to work here as a researcher?
A: Use the fact that you are in a very well-connected University to build your own network of contacts and collaborators. Make the most of the large postdoctoral and student community!