Excel in science: recap

December 4th, 2020

On Wednesday 25 November 2020, the University’s Excel in Science initiative hosted the National Geographic Society for an evening of inspiration, chaired by dream-maker-in chief, Dr Claire McNulty (Senior Director for National Geographic Europe).

The Excel in Science programme aims to inspire and empower future generations of scientists from all backgrounds and ethnicities. It aims to tackle the lack of representation that exists within academia and beyond today by ensuring careers in science and research are demystified and increasingly accessible to those who may not have previously considered it. We know that each and every one of our students is capable of extraordinary things – not only in relation to academic ability, but more widely as future leaders of societal change.

Almost 300 people from all over the UK and beyond listened in to four National Geographic Explorers tell the tale of how they’ve achieved just that. They told us what they are researching currently, how they have overcome obstacles, what their advice would be to anyone considering a career in scientific research and how their experiences have shaped and led them to where they are today.

We heard from:

  • Lydia Gibson (Anthropologist and Ecologist) who is currently looking at the impact of Jamaica’s growing conservation scene on forest-based traditional practices using interdisciplinary approaches.
  • Ricardo Rocha (Biologist) who conducts interdisciplinary research at the interface of conservation science and ecology. His research has taken him to the tropics and subtropics, working extensively in the Central Brazilian Amazon, Madagascar, Kenya and throughout the Madeira Archipelago.
  • Natalie Sinclair (Biologist and Conservationist). Her work in conservation policy, with Scottish Natural Heritage, led to the implementation of remote time-lapse photographic monitoring of seabirds in the Northern Isles of Scotland. Her passion for interdisciplinary research has brought together researchers from biology, music and philosophy to create collaborative studies of both human and non-human cultures.
  • Kasim Rafiq (Wildlife Biologist). He studies African large predator behaviour and conservation, including the understanding of the impacts of climate change on wildlife behaviour and developing new tools for species monitoring. This includes undertaking extensive fieldwork in remote bush camps in the Okavango Delta.

Thank you to those of you who made it – we hope you all enjoyed the event as much as we did. A huge thanks must go to Dr Claire McNulty and Sophie Tew for organising this event in partnership with the University of Nottingham, to the National Geographic Explorers – Lydia, Kasim, Ricardo and Natalie – for coming along and sharing their reflections and insights, and to our very own Drs Maria Arruda and Sara Sleigh without whom Excel in Science would not be!

To conclude, here are some of the best quotes from the event:

 “Science gives you permission to follow your curiosity” – Kasim Rafiq

 “There is a parrot on your shoulder BUDDY!” – Lydia Gibson

“There is a scientist in all of us” – Maria Arruda

“My main advice if you are at university – a really good idea is to speak to lecturers, show that you are keen, willing to learn and are open to opportunities” – Natalie Sinclair, sharing her advice to audience members seeking opportunities in Marine Biology

“If you could be anything, what would you be?” – Kasim Rafiq, reflecting on a conversation he had had with a friend at school which prompted him to pursue his passion for wildlife research.

Due to technical issues, there are 2 links to the recording of this event below:

  • For anyone who does not have a University of Nottingham account:


  • For anyone with a University of Nottingham Account:

Recording (1).mp4

If you have any questions about Excel in Science or have difficulty accessing the recording, please email Kat Hart.

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