Favourite Thing: I like to understand how people interact with science and technologies. Sometimes scientists and engineers develop great ideas but people don’t use them in the expected way – sometimes this comes up with great new ideas, and sometimes it means the best invention has no use….. I research future climates and what our buildings, infrastructure and transport systems will look like in the future ….. people and their preferences make this challenge just a bit more tricky.
Wallace High School, Stirling (1984-1989)
Energy Engineering, Napier University 1989-93. Technology Management, University of Stirling 1993-94. PhD, Napier University 1995-98.
Energy Management Engineer, Central Regional Council 1994-95. Blyth & Blyth Consulting Engineering 1997-2000. Heriot Watt University 2000-now.
The School of the Built Environment, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh
I am a lecturer – I teach students and carry out research
Me and my work
I am a lecturer in Environment and Climate Change at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh
At school I was always interested in geography, chemistry and physics most. My geography teacher was very inspiring and taught us about degradation of rainforests and how people don’t use resources responsibly. My physics teacher was also fantastic – he encouraged us to be independent and find the “why” to all our questions. With my love for the environment and physics combined I graduated from Napier University in 1993 with a BEng in Energy Engineering, and then studied Technology Management at Stirling University before taking my first professional job as an Energy Management Engineer for a local authority in Scotland. I was responsible for reducing the amount of energy used in schools and created incentives to encourage school managers to think in a more Eco way. In 1998 I completed a PhD in Environmental Engineering and took my second paying job as an Engineering Consultant. I used computer models to estimate how much energy new buildings would use. In 2000 I became a lecturer at Heriot Watt University. I teach my students about sustainability, climate change and the need to adapt our buildings, roads, bridges, and cities for a warming climate with more frequent freak weather episodes (windstorms, floods, heat waves etc).
My Typical Day
cycle to work – emails – lecture – chat with PhD student – more emails – write a research paper – cycle home
Alarm goes – ignore it – alarm goes again – have shower – get my kids up and dressed – breakfast – pack lunches and school bags – get bikes out of garage – cycle to school with kids and lock up bikes – cycle to work.
At work there are never two days the same. I really like this. Every day has a range of e-mails to deal with – some fun – some not so fun!! Each week during semester there are lectures to give – the students expect a high quality of teaching with a good understanding and knowledge behind lectures, so I need to keep reading up-to-date science journals to keep my teaching fresh. Every day students come and knock on my door for a chat – most of them just want a bit of advice about their studies. I have three PhD students to guide – they have to be independent and find their own answers, but usually they need a bit of guidance to do this. I also have to do my own research and publish papers about energy use in buildings and carbon emissions.
Cycle back to school to collect kids – cycle home – make the dinner – help kids with homework – read bedtime stories – collapse and have a cup of tea, then watch a bit of telly or go for a run with my friend.
What I'd do with the money
I would create something very visual that would motivate people to save energy …. each individual counts …. the world is made up of individuals.
People often feel that their actions won’t have any impact on the world’s environment. Turning out one light has no impact, switching the television off stand-by overnight has no impact, boiling less water for a cup of tea has no impact…..
But they are wrong. 50% of the world’s energy is used in buildings, and over half of that is in our homes and houses. So, around 30% of the world’s energy is used by individuals. We are all responsible and we can all make a difference. It’s about getting people to change their behaviour, as well as creating technologies and products which use less energy.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
energetic – optimistic – caring
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Not sure – my local radio station (Forth 1) plays lots of stuff I like…..
What is the most fun thing you've done?
That’s tricky – either parachuting lessons in Finland, or cycling Lands End to John O’ Groats :-)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Live a long, healthy life – invent something really cool that saves lots of energy (and Patent it) – cycle across Europe
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wasn’t sure exactly, but always knew it would be about energy and the environment – I’m doing what I wanted :-)
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
Yes – loads – I was always chatting at the back of the class (sorry teachers)
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Carbon Crucible – a chance to meet with the top 30 energy people in the UK and interview politicians and government advisors
Tell us a joke.
If you live in an igloo, what’s the worst thing about global warming?………… No Privacy!