We work among extraordinary people doing extraordinary things; get to know some of them by reading these quick-fire interviews.
Name: Jenny Woods
Job title: Senior Research Facilitator; Mentoring Coordinator
What are you currently working on?
My main role is as part of the Physics Facilitation Team. We support applicants for research funding, both those already based in our Department and those looking to move here. I am currently working on a portfolio of very large collaborative proposals for multi-million European funding and smaller proposals for individual fellowships to give early career researchers their first independence. My original degrees were in physics, so I really enjoy this role as it gives me a broad overview of all the cutting-edge science going on in the Department – plus I get to work with some amazing researchers and celebrate successes with them.
I also support mentoring activities in the Department – matching postdocs with staff mentors to help them achieve their personal and career goals. This interweaves with my facilitation: understanding who is working on what gives ideas about where interesting matches could be made between people who might not otherwise meet. Details of the mentoring programme can be found on the Department of Physics webpages – and I would be delighted to be contacted by postdocs seeking a mentor or staff offering to be one.
I am also one of the Department of Physics' Mental Health First Aiders and available to talk confidentially to anyone at need.
Describe a typical day
Our facilitation role is driven very strongly by external funder deadlines, so my daily priority always has to be to help my applicants along their timelines for hitting those – but I also try to keep time for strategic activities too, like planning training sessions for early career researchers or catching up on government funding priorities to stay one step ahead of the game. I might have Zoom calls with the people I am supporting, work on budget costings for them or give feedback on the scientific case material they are writing and ensure everything is prepared according to funder guidelines – and for that last, you definitely need to be a good-humoured pedant in this role!
If you had an entire day at your disposal (not at work), what would be your ideal way to spend it?
It is nice to get creative in time off, so my hobbies are yoga, crochet and gardening. A little of each of those, a sunny walk over the hills, followed by catching up on the latest Marvel movie with my partner sounds pretty good to me.
What is your favourite place in Oxford?
Walking from the Department of Physics down Parks Road, past the Museum of Natural History towards the Bodleian Library is for me the most 'Oxford' thing. I remember doing that as a new student after my first astrophysics lecture in the Clarendon, being really inspired by the excitement of what I had heard and surrounded by all these beautiful buildings – it gave me a shiver down my spine that I continually replay when I walk that way.
(Also the cocktail bars on Little Clarendon Street!)
Plan B: what would you be if you weren’t doing the job you are currently doing?
I have already had what is known as a 'squiggly career'. Over the past 30 years, I have moved through astrophysics, renewable energy research, working for the UK funding councils, teaching in FE, running my own horticulture business and working for the National Trust, before returning to academic support at different universities (with a side play of standing for Parliament twice).
However, if I were given the chance to re-train in a research field now, I would love to study neuroscience. Understanding how conscious thought arises from a collection of cells is surely one of the most fascinating things to explore.