Jackie Stevens

What job/study are you doing right now and tell us a little about it?

I work for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (dstl) which is part of the Ministry of Defence, and spend my time between Porton Down and the Institute of Naval Medicine in Gosport. I've held a number of posts within the organisation since I joined in 2003, including a stint with Defence Intelligence (unfortunately, no Bond-esque gadgets though...) and now lead a team of Health Physicists who provide Radiation Protection advice across MoD and the military.

Did you do any further/higher education?

After leaving St Cuthbert's, I studied A-levels at Carmel College (Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Further Maths) and then went to UMIST (now merged with Manchester University) where I graduated with a M.Chem in Chemistry with Industrial Experience in 1999. I then stayed on at UMIST where I obtained my PhD in 2003. In the new year, I am set to start a Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship with the Open University - a big departure from my technical specialism.

How did you decide on your career path and what is/was most interesting about your work?

I originally wanted to study veterinary science, but chemistry was always my back-up choice. Although not always the easiest subject, it was the one that most challenged and interested me. During my degree, I did a year-long placement with ICI in Runcorn where the 'glass ceiling' was evident, and I returned to UMIST for my final year already decided that I would stay on for the PhD. My research group had links with dstl Porton Down and I secured a job there as a research chemist after completion of my studies and submission of the thesis. I completed a secondment to Defence Intelligence where I worked as an intelligence analyst and gained international recognition as an expert in my field (chemical warfare Defence). This post also gave me the opportunity to see the world, attending meetings in Israel, USA, Australia and across Europe.

Can you share a couple of fond memories of your time at St Cuthbert's?

I participated in the French Exchange, travelling twice to Carcassonne which was always good fun, albeit a long coach journey. Another big highlight for me was being able to play rugby with the lads, in a time long before girls rugby really took off. I also played hockey (I was the only one daft enough at the time to agree to be in goal).

Did you have a favourite/influential teacher? What made them so important to you?

Mr Archer was the stand-out teacher for me, and was the first one to make science interesting for me. I even acknowledged him in my PhD thesis to this effect. Mr Wellens and Mrs Gifford always supported my music efforts, and gave up their time to help my clarinet practice. Mr Cairns and Miss Gore were always very supportive of my rugby efforts.

What advice would you give our current students?

Enjoy your time at St Cuthbert's and make sure you grab those opportunities that come your way. Work hard, play hard and reap the rewards later.