Meet a researcher

Throughout Researchers' Night members of the public took the opportunity to find out more about a day in the life of a researcher by meeting researchers in the University Library. As well as speaking to the researchers and discussing their experiences attendees were also able to view a new photographic exhibition focusing on and celebrating the women who work in research.

The women featured in this exhibition represent just a small selection of the fantastic women we have working in different areas of research at different levels across the whole of the University of Reading. It is hoped that their stories will inspire others, and show how they have coped with the challenges and rewards which come with this type of career.

Women researchers who featured in the exhibition:

Further researchers at event:

Professor Emma BorgProfessor Emma Borg

Professor Emma Borg is Head of the Department of Philosophy, and her research specialises in issues concerning mind and language.

'Academia is very male dominated in general, and can be quite a difficult environment for a woman - mental images of academics are of middle-aged men with beards, and women are often very under-represented in the workplace.

I'm just back from three months in America, where I had a visiting Professorship in Chicago. I took my children with me and they attended school over there, which was a great experience for them. It was daunting at first, but I'm glad we did it. The
American city experience was really different for the kids and broadened their horizons, so I feel we were very fortunate to
get the opportunity to do that.

My spare time is taken up with my children. It's a busy life, but I
feel I have the best of both worlds. Academia is good because you can organise your own time to an extent and the hours are fairly flexible. Academia is a great job, and I couldn't imagine doing anything else!'

For further information on Professor Emma Borg.

Noor Mat NayanNoor Mat Nayan

Noor Mat Nayan is a PhD student in applied linguistics. She is
originally from Malaysia, and came to Reading to do her PhD as
a single mother of 2 boys aged 15 and 11.

'I brought my two boys here with me to do my PhD, which was
a challenge as there was a lot of pressure from my family to
leave them behind in Malaysia, but I couldn't. Juggling full
parental responsibility with a full-time PhD is not easy - it's
tiring and challenging, but I'd rather be busy than away from
my children.

I live with a chronic medical condition, which means I have to
be especially aware of my health, and look after myself properly. I have to be careful of physical and mental fatigue, and know my limits, so finding a balance between my work and well being is especially important.

Essentially, I think what keeps me going is the excitement of learning and discovering new things in my research area. You need to be passionate and love what you do - you shouldn't just do a PhD because you have to. A PhD will not just challenge your intellect but also test your inner strength. Discipline, perseverance and determination are crucial qualities. At the same time, you also need to have a lot of common sense and be realistic. All this helps me to cope with the challenges that having a family and doing a PhD throw at me. It is tough, but I'm enjoying it.' 


Professor Sue WalkerProfessor Sue Walker

Professor Sue Walker from the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication undertakes research in the analysis and description of graphic language, and in the history, theory and practice of information design. She has held a number of senior positions within the University, most recently as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. She has 5 children and is a partner in the design consultancy, Text Matters.

'My most recent role has been in senior management, which has meant that I have had the opportunity to learn about other colleagues' research, and to support them in this; I've done a lot
of work with women at different stages in their career and who want to advance further. My advice has been to be ambitious,
to take risks, and be prepared to work collaboratively with other researchers - a skill that women often utilise more successfully
than men.

I was a student at Reading, did my PhD here, and then worked as a part-time Lecturer in Typography before eventually going on to become a full-time academic in 1997 when I became Head of Department. Working part-part time was important: first, I believed that to effectively teach design I needed to practice as a designer, and secondly, having 5 children between 1985-1993, meant I wanted to combine family life with being an academic.

The best advice I could give to other women pursuing a career in research is to go for it! For me it has been important to flexible, to be organised and to keep calm. In keeping a reasonable work/life balance you need to find a system that works for you, and that provides the 'head space' that you need: when my children were young I often got up at 5am in order to have peaceful, productive time in which to think and write.'

Professor Catriona McKinnonProfessor Catriona McKinnon

Professor Catriona McKinnon works in the School of Politics and International Relations in the area of political theory and philosophy.
She has two young children aged 2 and 4.

'I came to the University of Reading partly because of its reputation, and partly for personal reasons. I have a large number of family connections in London, and wanted to work somewhere a bit closer to them. I have two young children and I think when your children are youngest is the hardest time to be a working Mum, especially as my husband also works full-time.

Having my children later in life fitted in well with my career in academia. Conferencing and networking are a vital part of a successful career in research, and having children later in my
career meant I already had well-established connections before I went on maternity leave.

It can be quite daunting re-entering the workplace after maternity leave: there are many structural barriers for women. I think time management is perhaps the biggest challenge after having children, as they force you to be creative and innovative with the structure of your day.

You have to be realistic and set achievable goals. A major challenge is when your children become ill: this has to take priority, but it results in a day's work being sacrificed. You can't get that time back. Luckily, my husband is extremely accommodating - without him I would be limited in my ability to keep a balance between work and home.

Organisation is the key to having the best of both worlds, micro-managing your time at home in particular. We have two academic wall planners at home, which means we know exactly who is committed to what on any given day.'

For further information on Professor Catriona McKinnon.

Dr Paola NastiDr Paola Nasti

Dr Paola Nasti works in the area of medieval literature and biblical traditions in the School of Literature and Languages . She is Italian
and originally from Naples, having moved to the UK permanently in 1996.

'I took my first job in Manchester, whilst finishing writing up my
PhD which I had done at Reading, and I gave birth to my
daughter within 6 months of starting. I spent a few years there,
and then came back to Reading. I love the department here - it's very prestigious, but also very welcoming.

Accepting that I need help to look after my children and not
feeling guilty about it is something that helps me to cope with
the challenges of being a woman in research. I also accept that sometimes when I have a tight deadline, I need to work in the evenings, rather than enjoy a nice meal with my husband! So, I choose what I do wisely and make the most of it and I realise that I can't be everywhere at once!'

For further information on Dr Paola Nasti.

Dr Paola Nasti speaking at Researchers' Night

Download the Dr Paola Nasti speaking at Researchers' Night audio file (right-click to save)

Dr Martin Parsons

Dr Martin Parsons speaks about his research on the evacuation of children during WWII

Download the Dr Martin Parsons speaks about his research on the evacuation of children during WWII audio file (right-click to save)

Professor Andrew Knapp

Professor Andrew Knapp's bombing talk

Download the Professor Andrew Knapp's bombing talk audio file (right-click to save)

Professor Peter Kruschwitz

Professor Peter Kruschwitz speaks onLanguage, text and power

Download the Professor Peter Kruschwitz speaks onLanguage, text and power audio file (right-click to save)

Things to do now

  • Find out about the language, text, and power research theme

Contact us

Prof. Peter Kruschwitz
Head of Classics

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