PhD student Prem Gill
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PhD student sets up new group for minorities in polar research

When he’s not monitoring seals from space, Fitzwilliam College PhD student Prem Gill is using ‘Seal Grime’ as one way to encourage people from a wide range of backgrounds to take up polar science. 

Prem wants to encourage more people from ethnic minority or working-class backgrounds to consider a career in polar science. He explains that diversity of experience is crucial if we are to fully understand the global implications of climate change and how we respond.

He says: “I know from experience that a number of factors can stand in the way of young people like me pursuing a career in a subject like polar science – this could be cultural expectations, financial pressures or quite simply not having role models that look like you.

“Some research areas in science can be hard to break into as work experience may be costly. I remember that during my undergraduate degree in Marine Geography at Cardiff University, some of my cohort paid to spend their summers doing conservation internships abroad in tropical regions, whereas others worked locally earning money.

“At the time I wasn’t fully aware of how much household income can act as a barrier to pursuing certain careers, however seeing the split between the students who pursued conservation and those who didn’t was a wakeup call. Given that this field has implications for the wellbeing and livelihoods of people from all social classes, this is a real concern.

“When I began my PhD, I was surprised to discover that there weren’t any support groups for people from ethnic minority backgrounds in polar science. So, I set one up - Polar Impact - which provides a platform for people from ethnic minority backgrounds to speak with each other and share their stories. It’s been heartening to see how many people and organisations have reached out to connect and offer support.”

This article was originally published on the University website - see the original version.

Read the Optima article featuring Prem's research on seal populations in the polar regions.

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