NAME: Professor Neil Glasser
CURRENT TITLE: Director of the newly formed Institute of Geography, History and Politics, and Professor of Physical Geography in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University in Wales.
AREA OF EXPERTISE: My research covers many aspects of climate change and its effects on ice sheets, glaciers and sea-level. I have been lucky enough to undertake fieldwork research in many parts of the world including Greenland, Antarctica, Patagonia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Svalbard, the Andes and the Himalayas.
Prior to taking up the role as Institute Director, I held a number of roles in the Department, including various aspects of teaching, research and administration. I have also held the position as Dean of the Faculty of Science. In 2006-07, I was a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. Most of my teaching is in Physical Geography, including Glaciology, glacial geomorphology and glacial geology.
YEARS EXPERIENCE: 25
EDUCATION: My background is in Physical Geography (Degree and PhD from the University of Edinburgh).
What’s your job like?
It is incredibly varied. The Institute of Geography, History and Politics (IGHP) was set up in August 2013, so it is still very new. IGHP contains the Departments of Geography & Earth Sciences, History & Welsh History and International Politics. I knew the Department of Geography & Earth Sciences very well because it is my “home” Department but I have had to learn fast about the other two Departments. IGHP is large – with over 100 full-time academic staff, 20 support staff and a thriving Postgraduate community – so one of the challenges has been to get to grips with the great variety of work that goes on and how to use this to develop an academic strategy for the future. I guess you could say that my job is now mainly academic administration, rather than teaching or research. I am really lucky because I am surrounded by great people, and this makes the job so much easier.
What’s a typical day like?
It is probably a cliché to say there is no such thing as a typical day, but I can give you a list of the types of activities that I get up to. I spend a lot of time meeting and speaking to people as well as writing and answering emails, and I spend a lot of time in face to face meetings. These could be anything from planning meetings, meetings to set and review budgets, dealing with Human Resource issues, staff mentoring meetings, dealing with student enquiries, or sitting on University-level appointment panels, promotion panels and many other University committees. I am also a member of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Peer Review College, so I spend a fair bit of time reviewing research grant applications. I serve as an editor for two large academic journals (the Journal of Glaciology and Quaternary Science Reviews) so that also takes up a fair amount of time; reading manuscripts, finding reviewers for manuscripts, dealing with authors and making decisions on papers. I have a number of PhD students in various stages of their graduate studies, so I also have regular progress meetings with them and spend time reading and commenting on their work. I also continue with my research interests in Glaciology; I am currently working on a number of research papers with various collaborators and writing a research grant proposal to fund my research in Antarctica. We have a new project called MAGIC-DML. This is a new Swedish-UK-US-Norwegian-German project that will look at past vertical ice thicknesses in the Dronning Maud Land (DML) area of Antarctica. MAGIC-DML stands for Mapping/Measuring/Modelling Antarctic Geomorphology and Ice-elevation Change in Dronning Maud Land (DML). We have assembled a major international team who will travel to Dronning Maud Land in 2015/16 to undertake fieldwork, with full logistical support from the Swedish Polar Secretariat (http://www.polar.se/en/expedition/magic-dml). You can follow our expedition plans and progress on Twitter: @MAGICDML and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MagicDML. We also have a webpage on the Aberystwyth University site at http://bit.ly/1nRfJN8
It is all fun if you make it that way!
You have to remember that you are supposed to be focusing on the ‘bigger picture’ of strategy and you should avoid spending too much time ‘fighting fires’ (i.e. dealing with issues that spring up quickly) or doing routine things.
It is easy to go home at the end of the day having answered lots of emails and sat in lots of meetings, thinking you have been busy and effective but that is not always the case…I guess that applies to many different lines of work.
What’s your advice to students?
Make the most of your time at University or College. Work hard, find out what really interests you and get stuck into it, read widely around your subject and keep an open mind at all times. You should also make the most of all the opportunities that independent study provides you with; for example getting involved in Student Societies, attending Departmental talks and seminars, and generally being a good citizen in your Department. I would also recommend doing everything you can to “stand out from the crowd”, for example taking advantage of opportunities for Study Abroad, taking Work Placements, etc. This is especially important when it comes to graduation and it will serve you well when it comes to interviews as you look for work or further study.