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Johanna Laybourn-Parry (BSc Zoology 1969)


I graduated from Reading with a BSc in Zoology in 1969 and a DSc 1994. I am retired holding a visiting Professorship at Bristol University (Geographical Sciences).   I ended my career as the Pro Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Tasmania in Australia, after being Executive Dean of Science at Keele University, prior to which I worked at Lancaster and Nottingham. My research has taken me to Antarctica and the Arctic, where I have worked on lakes and glaciers. I count myself very privileged to have worked in these extraordinary places and to have enjoyed a rewarding career

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

Reading was the only university to offer me a place. Long story -I failed the eleven plus and did not meet entrance requirements. Prof Graham obviously saw some promised and made an exception to the rules. A lovely man, to whom I am eternally grateful. The gamble paid off!

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I was so excited by my subjects and being given the opportunity to go to University. I gained a lot socially. I arrived a gauche working class girl from South Wales and left an educated sophisticated woman with a good degree.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

Do not waste the opportunity, work hard but also enjoy the social life. Strike a sensible balance between work and play. Be well organized so that you meet your deadlines. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it, the University it there to support you.

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

I am now retired enjoying things I did not have time for when I was working seven days a week! I am still research active, publishing articles and books and am a co-PI on a number of grants. I have taken up horse-riding and enjoy travelling to warm places and walking the Welsh coastal path.

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

Be opportunistic, grab every opportunity, it may come to nothing or it may pay dividends. Academia is not an easy career path, especially for women, so think carefully about what you want from life before embarking on it. It can be incredibly rewarding if you are successful.

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

My tutor was my source of career advice while I was at Reading. She gave me very sound advice. Being given a place at Reading changed my life – it launched me on an exciting journey. 

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Be prepared to be flexible, even going overseas where there may be opportunities. Learn how to sell yourself, by producing good quality applications and developing interviewing skills.

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

Reading University was an important milestone in my life. As my profile shows I did not start out with many advantages. My three years at Reading gave me an academic and a broader education. Best memory- my Mum’s pride on graduation day.





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