Research and Teaching Technician
Tom is a Teaching and Research Technician in the Geography Department at The University of Manchester and his work sees him trying to tackle one of our world’s biggest challenges – climate change.
A key part of Tom’s day job is analysing sediment from up to 30 metres below the surface, which provides a snapshot of how the earth has changed over the millennia: “The stuff at the bottom is the oldest and stuff at the top is the newest. It’s like a 2-foot long time-machine!” This ‘time-machine’ can show Tom how our planet has changed in the last 20,000 years, and sometimes longer.
Tom uses a special non-destructive x-ray machine, alongside other laboratory equipment to analyse the chemical make-up of the mud and sediment that is retrieved from deep in the ground. Any significant chemical changes usually indicate that the climate at the time the sediment was deposited has had an impact.
Tom is one of several technicians in his team and working collaboratively with them is a favourite part of his job. “We help researchers to reconstruct past environmental change, so we can better understand and predict future climate behaviour; we monitor environmental pollution to measure the scale of the problem and develop a strategy. We teach students a scientific way to problem-solve which will hopefully lead to them arguing for evidence-based improvements to environmental policy. As technicians we try our best to be environmentally conscious, reducing energy usage and using materials that can be used again or recycled.”
His career has also allowed for plenty of travel. As a Field Technician, Tom travelled around the world extracting sediment from remote places: “I worked in Iceland, Patagonia, the South Pacific; drilling into lake, ocean, floodplain, and bog sediment – which is challenging, especially when you have to carry the extracts out on your back!”
Tom's career pathway
- 2005 Completed A-levels, including one in Geography, and left school
- 2009 Completed a degree in Geography at the University of Manchester
- 2011 Began a PhD in Physical Geography at the University of Southampton
- 2014 Became a Field Technician at the University of Southampton
- 2015 Completed his PhD
- 2016 Became a Teaching & Research Technician in the Geography department at the University of Manchester