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Academic inspires scientists of the future

Posted on 18/05/2010

Dr James France helps to encourage more students to study science

Dr James France, from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, returned to his former school, Kirkbie Kendal, in Cumbria, to talk to students about his latest mission to Antarctica.

Dr France, who spent five weeks living at ‘Dome C’ on top of the Antarctica plateau to uncover crucial information about climate change, talked to students about how important science is and the difference it can make.

He said, ”It was great to have the opportunity to go back to my old school and talk to pupils about what was involved in my trip and to show them how science can be fun as well as educational.

“It’s so important to encourage young people to study science beyond GCSE level as there are so many exciting and rewarding careers in these fields. The UK is world-leading in science and engineering research and it’s essential more students choose to study subjects in these areas and continue this tradition.”

Dr France’s work in Antarctica involved measuring light penetration into the snow at different depths using fibre-optic probes as part of a £300,000 research enterprise, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

This new technique uncovered the photochemistry occurring within the snowpack, giving scientists unique insights into historic climate patterns. By correlating the amount of photochemistry in the snowpack with isotopic changes of nitrogen and oxygen, the team hope to use the data collected to determine whether nitrate in ice-cores can be used to understand the state of the atmosphere in the past.

Dr France says, “This research is vital to helping us understand the variability of the atmosphere in the past and in predicting future climate change. The nitrate trapped in deep ice-cores, such as at ‘Dome C’, potentially could provide us with new insights into the atmosphere of the last tens of thousands of years. Understanding how our atmosphere can rapidly change is vital for making accurate climate change predictions for the future”.

Royal Holloway’s renowned Department of Earth Sciences, ranked top ten in the UK by both the 2008 RAE and the National Student Survey, brings together leading experts across the field to embark on pioneering research enterprises.

To find out more visit http://www.rhul.ac.uk/Earth-Sciences/News-and-Events/news.asp


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