NAME: Lynda Yorke
CURRENT TITLE: Lecturer in Physical Geography
AREA OF EXPERTISE: My background is in fluvial geomorphology and reconstructing river response to change, but during my doctorate, I became much more interested in glacial histories, sedimentology and Quaternary landforms. So, my research tends to straddle the interface between deglacial and postglacial environments.
YEARS EXPERIENCE: I’ve had quite a potted history, working before my undergraduate degree and after my Master’s degree, but I’ve spent the last 15 years in and around academia.
EDUCATION: I have a BSc. (Honors) in Geography (Northumbria), a Master’s in Geomorphology and Environmental Change (Durham), and a PhD in Quaternary Geology (Hull). I did a Post Doctorate at Liverpool University, returning to my fluvial background before taking up a lectureship.
NEW! TV SHOW: Geographer, Dr Lynda Yorke appeared in an episode of Britain’s Biggest Adventures with Bear Grylls. Bangor academic features on Bear Grylls’ new TV series
What’s your job like?
I’m a lecturer, so that entails teaching, of course, but my job also requires me to be an active researcher and to play an active role in the life of my department – code for an administrative role! So, I spend some of my time teaching (let’s say 60%), some of my time on departmental administration (another 20%), which leaves me 20% for research activity. This isn’t a hard and fast rule and often research becomes the most squeezed during term. I teach modules in Geography through a mix of lectures, seminars and field classes and spend time on the prep, actual delivery, marking and writing feedback. As far as my administrative job, I’ve just been given a new role – Director of Student Engagement. As you can read from the title, my primary aim will be to work on better engagement with our student cohort. Finally, I spend time on my research, which for me is currently writing up work for publication and working on putting together some new projects.
What’s a typical day like?
A typical term day can consist of delivering a two-hour lecture, which is usually preceded by some last-minute checking of my PowerPoint slides and running off handouts on the copier. This is followed by dealing with email and student queries, meeting with students (I tend to work on an open-office policy) and probably some prep for a lecture the next day. I also spend time on Twitter, checking what’s going on with our departmental feed and tweeting links and follow ups to my lecture. Lunch is always at my desk (very bad, I know), but quite often I will nip out for late afternoon coffee with one of my colleagues. Days tend to be long. I like to be in the office by 8:15 a.m. and tend not to leave until 6 p.m. Then, I am usually found answering email or working later at home!
Out of term can still be filled with marking and prep when it’s mid year, but once summer vacation starts, I tend to base myself in my home office. I still put in a silly amount of hours, but somehow it feels like less pressure. And, of course, summer is also the time for field work. Currently, my research is based in Wales, so recently I’ve been out to see some new sites and to meet up with one of my collaborators to plan our next field campaign.
I get to do what I love. I’ve travelled to some amazing places in the world including New Zealand, Canada, and Australia and have done some amazing things. Recently, I had the chance to go to Norway to visit Bergen University. I got to play with a drone above a sandur, mess about in a boat taking cores, and do some extreme geomorphology (i.e. climbing down to see a fab sediment section above a raging river) all in the name of science. There are some great people in academia who are willing to share their knowledge and time. Last, but not least, teaching provides a chance to share my passion and excitement for my subject with the next generation. There is no prouder moment than when your student exceeds their own expectations, because you’ve encouraged and inspired them to do better.
For me, it’s often finding the time to do research. Even when you’re doing or want to do interesting and fun research, it can be quite challenging to find funding. Also, I think it’s important to not take criticism personally about my research or that paper I wrote where ‘Referee 1’ didn’t like it. You need to have thick skin. Pushing the frontiers of knowledge is always challenging, but equally, it is its own reward too. Teaching can be seen as a challenge sometimes, because it is so busy and demanding. I feel like term is never going to end. I’m about ready to collapse, but I know that I can’t. It can also be a challenge when I’m teaching stuff out of my comfort zone. I have been known to have to dabble on the dark side (i.e. human geography)!
What’s your advice to students?
Read, read, read! Lectures are the bare bones of your subject. You need to flesh them out by reading. Read articles your lecturer recommends, and read articles you just find interesting — don’t be put off. If at first you feel you don’t get what the article is saying, don’t just write it or yourself off — go back to it at some time later. Reading will help improve your written style, as well as your knowledge and understanding of your subject. Also, ask questions — lots of them. You should be inquisitive. Finally, read the feedback you get on assignments. Don’t just focus on the mark. Lecturers spend a lot of time and effort writing comments and suggestions on your work, so make use of it. It’s written for your benefit, not theirs!