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Research Fellow in Astrophysics

Name: Cynthia James

Job title: Research Fellow in Astrophysics

What education and qualifications do you have?

12 O-levels (1956-1957), Membership of the Society of Radiographers (diagnostic) (1961), BA Open University (1st Class; 1987), PG diploma in Computing for Commerce and Industry (OU, 1993), MPhil Astronomy (UCL, 2001)

Give an outline of your career so far

Left school, 1957: A-level dropout; because I wanted to do A-level Pure Maths, Applied Maths and Physics, but I wasn't permitted to do physics in less than 3 years.

Scientific assistant in the Met. Office, 1958: Intended to study for A-levels at evening classes and then go on to university. Left when I realized that (at that time) there was no hope of service on a weathership for a woman!

Radiography student at Guy's Hospital, 1959-1961: Chose radiography, because it was applied physics and I was interested in photography and people.

Radiographer (full and part time), 1961-1978: Worked at Guy's, Eastman Dental, East Surrey Hospital, Redhill General and Crawley hospitals. Enjoyed my work, but finally found its scope was rather limiting.

Studied for a 1st degree with the OU (part time), 1975-1988: Studied Maths, Physics and Computing. I needed to raise my level of general education so that I could find fulfilling work outside of radiography. The OU way gave me this opportunity whilst still supporting my family.

Computer Analyst Programmer in the Civil Service, 1978-1983: Found that I enjoyed my computing studies so I made my career change in this direction.

Systems implementation officer and then systems programmer (British Gas), 1983-1987: My intended career path was towards more scientific applications, and I hoped that these posts could help me in that direction. Sometimes one follows a rather meandering path towards one's goals!

Studied for a post-graduate computing diploma (OU) (part time), 1985-1994: To increase my effectiveness in my work and to help me move to more scientific applications in due course.

Database Administrator (BT), 1987-1996: Well paid, secure job with good pension deal. I now needed to consider such things seriously. I wasn't getting any younger!

Studied for an MPhil in Astronomy at UCL-MSSL, 1996-2001: A very good voluntary redundancy package from BT gave me the opportunity to finance myself through a higher degree. Astronomy seemed to be a good choice, because I had enjoyed the astronomy-biased modules during my degree studies. Also it is a field with the potential for opportunities beyond normal retirement age.

Research Fellow at UCL-MSSL 2001-2005. This position has given me the opportunity to further my interest in space and satellites which I have found exciting since the time of Sputnik in the late 1950s! During the last four years I have been part of the calibration team for XMM-Newton's Optical Monitor with specific responsibilities for the wavelength scale of the V grism and the flux scales for the UV and V grisms. More recently I have also been involved in a similar capacity with the UVOT grisms aboard the Swift satellite.

What does your current work involve?

In a few week's time I will retire. I have achieved many of my ambitions and have been lucky enough to enjoy my work throughout my working life. I have no doubt that I will miss both it and my work colleagues. As to the future, I have many plans amongst which is the intention to actively pursue my early interest in photography. I already hold LRPS so who can tell....

Cynthia with full-size model of the XMM-Newton Optical Monitor/Swift UVOT

Mullard Space Science Laboratory - Holmbury St. Mary - Dorking - Surrey - RH5 6NT - Telephone: +44 (0)1483 204100 - Copyright © 1999-2005 UCL

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