James took part in one of our Summer School programmes back in 2008, and it set him on a path to a career in research in geoscience.

We heard from James on his memories of that Summer School week in Cambridge, and to hear more about his current career looking at the effects of climate hazards.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you heard about the programme?

“The Sutton Trust summer schools were mentioned by a careers advisor at college as a way of experiencing University for those whose parents had no university experience themselves. The idea of being able to experience university life and do so in a topic I was interested in made applying a no-brainer.

I grew up in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. I went to school at Bedale High before going to QE college in Darlington for A levels, studying Maths, Physics, Geography and Chemistry. I did my undergraduate at Edinburgh University in Geophysics and Meteorology, before moving to the University of Reading in 2013 to do a PhD in Aerosol Climate Modelling. I spent a further 4 years working as a postdoctoral researcher at Reading, working on projects analysing the Indian Monsoon, African aerosols, satellite data and future climate simulations, before moving back to the University of Edinburgh in 2021.”

What do you remember about your time on the programme?

“I remember thinking it would be a bit intimidating, especially being at Cambridge, but within an hour of people arriving, I felt completely at ease. The programme mixed work with play really well, and it felt like we’d known each other much longer than the week when it came time to leave. I still am in contact with several of people I met there, and regularly meet up with a couple as well!

I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, which involved going to university, although I think that my ideas for a career were refined and evolved over the course of my University degree. The Sutton Trust programme definitely confirmed that I both wanted to and could manage going to university.

The summer school was brilliant for me in so many ways – I was able to meet like-minded people, dip my toe into the expectations of university and experience so many new things.”

Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

“I am currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Geoscience at the University of Edinburgh, analysing the effects of climate hazards such as flooding, heatwaves and cyclones. I do this for two projects, the Children’s Climate Risk Index (with the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF), which assesses children’s exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, and the Tomorrow’s Cities project, which brings multi-hazard disaster risk management techniques to Urban planning and policies in rapidly developing cities across the globe.

If, like James, you’d like to share your story with us – just get in touch with the alumni team via [email protected].

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