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Women in Science

Tamsin studied natural sciences as an undergraduate at Cambridge University followed by a Masters in History and Philosophy of Science. She worked abroad before doing a PhD at Cambridge in earth sciences. She gained a Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship and moved to Oxford where she is now a Professor of Earth Sciences.

Tamsin Mather


at the time of the interview - 2017

Tamsin is a Professor of Earth Sciences and a Fellow of University College. She has two children. 


at the time of the interview -  2017

Tamsin particularly liked maths at school because she liked problem solving and both the practical and abstract application of maths. Her father had a maths degree, so they were able to talk about maths and he could show her different aspects of the subject. She describes having a curiosity about the world and liked the idea of being able to apply well formulated principles to try and understand things better. Tamsin also thinks her science teachers were very encouraging and not afraid to say when they didn’t know the answer to a question.

After a four year degree in natural sciences (chemistry), Tamsin did a Masters in History and Philosophy of Science which she enjoyed because it taught her new skills and it was a different way of working. From there she worked in Brussels and Berlin for a year before deciding to do a PhD in earth sciences. She was drawn to volcanology and studied the tropospheric chemistry of volcanic plumes at Cambridge University. 

So I think the real advantage actually is the flexibility of academia and I think this is something that we don’t sell enough. And I think that is really useful. So if you do want to stay and see your child’s nativity play, you just arrange your diary so that you can go.

Tamsin thoroughly enjoyed her PhD; she enjoyed the freedom, independence and she found working at the research frontier very rewarding. She was awarded a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship and soon after applied for a post at Oxford, where she began as a RCUK Fellow in 2006.

Five years later, Tamsin became a University Lecturer and, in 2014, she became a Professor through the recognition of distinction exercise.

Ten years ago, Tamsin was the first permanent academic member of staff in Earth Sciences to go on maternity leave, and then work part time and it was stressful ‘breaking that new ground’. She led the 2016 Athena SWAN initiative in her department and has found that this has generated improvements within her department, although inequalities remain at faculty level.

In 2014, Tamsin’s son became unwell and has needed to spend periods of time in hospital. The flexibility of academia, for both Tamsin and her partner, has meant they have been able to work around these periods, for which she is grateful, although balancing everything has been extremely stressful at times.

Tamsin strongly encourages young people thinking of a career in science because “it’s fascinating and can take you in so many different directions”. Ethnic background: White British.