Francesca Carr is a Master’s student at Newcastle University, specialising in deep-sea research. She also holds undergraduate degrees in Law and Marine Zoology, and so has a real interest in the links between policy and conservation. Francesca is hoping to subsequently complete her PhD and go into lecturing, so she can share her passion with others.
Briefly describe your current work and your research
I am an MPhil student at Newcastle University, specialising in the deep-sea. I am looking at the deepest place on Earth – the Mariana Trench! My work involves looking at small crustaceans called ‘amphipods’, and identifying which species live where in the trench and what this means in comparison to other deep-sea environments! My days tend to consist of alternating between the microscope lab and writing my thesis, but I like to try and do as much outreach and public speaking as possible too.
What do you love the most about your job?
I love studying the deep-sea, as it is so unexplored. The group I work with is constantly discovering new species and making really substantial breakthroughs, and it’s amazing to witness that happening! Weirdly, I also really enjoy how challenging and unpredictable working in research is – I’ve experienced setbacks which have seemed insurmountable, but getting past these obstacles is really gratifying!
How difficult was it to get where you are today?
I have had a really unusual career path, as I originally studied Law but changed to Marine Science as it is something I am far more passionate about, so it has been really challenging to get to this point in my career but also wholly worthwhile. I have also always worked alongside my studies, so that has been difficult but certainly manageable with the help of a good diary…!
What was the biggest obstacle in your way before your career reached where it is today? How did you overcome it?
I think I probably haven’t experienced half of the potential obstacles that come with a career in science yet…! However, as cliché as it is, I would say my biggest obstacle has probably been myself. Keeping disciplined and organised in a research degree is hard – you have to really love what you’re doing, and some days you just don’t! But taking time to look after yourself, recognising when you’re burning out and stepping away for a little while has helped me immeasurably. Recognising that you’re human and bound to make mistakes also helps! I did have a huge issue with my project recently, where I had to redo a large portion of my data, but sitting down with my supervisor and making a plan of small, attainable targets to get back on track soon rectified that.
What are you looking forward to the most in the future of marine science?
I think, particularly with the field I work in, I’m most looking forward to the developments coming out of deep-sea research. It’s so rare nowadays that we are able to build a knowledge base about a subject from the ground up, and there are so many more pioneering studies to be done! I am also hopeful that conservation awareness will continue to grow, and the increasing public interest in the stewardship of our planet alongside the work of amazing scientists will affect some good.
How do you think we can get more women involved within marine science?
I would say that visibility is half the battle, just seeing women in science challenging the existing stereotypes makes a huge difference. There are also great events such as Soapbox Science, which I spoke at recently, geared at raising awareness of women in science and engaging the public. Cities such as Newcastle, where there are so many free museums with amazing interactive exhibitions, also play a really important role.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring female marine scientists?
That’s a really difficult question, as I feel so underqualified to be giving advice…! I suppose I would advise not shying away from standing up for yourself/your position in science. It can sometimes feel like a never-ending battle to challenge ‘little’ acts of sexism in the workplace, or previously accepted stereotypes, but keep challenging them and keep being vocal about things that you feel need to change! Also, and I can’t stress this enough, surround yourself as much as possible with other women in science – you can learn so much from each other, and it’s great to have a support network who can appreciate what you may be going through.
In one sentence, why do you think a career within marine science is a great career option?
A career in Marine Science is a great option if you love being at the forefront of really pioneering research, and looking at global issues through a really cool lens.
I would like to give a massive thank you to Francesca Carr for participating in this interview. I cannot wait to share more of your stories and I hope that you find inspiration in learning of other journeys within marine science.
Are you a woman working within marine science? Would you like to share your story and inspire the next generation? Please get in contact with me at email@example.com if you would like to be involved with the Leading Women in Marine Science Interview Series.
Disclaimer: All responses to the interview questions and the biography belong to Francesca Carr. All photographs have been used with the permission of Francesca Carr.