Carys Cook

NO WAY!!! Thank so much guys, this is an amazing feeling! I will put the money to very good use, you'll see!! Love you all!!!!

Favourite Thing: Using my brain to try to improve our understanding of how our actions as humans may cause melting of Antarctica’s ice sheets in the near future, and about how these massive ice sheets have behaved during the Pliocene Epoch, which was from 5 to 3 million years ago….I honestly can’t think of a more rewarding thing to do!



Abersychan Comprehensive School, Pontypool, Wales, from 1994 to 1999.


Cardiff University, Master in Earth Sciences

Work History:

Pubs, restaurants and at the British Antarctic Survey


Imperial College London

Current Job:

I am studying for a PhD.

Me and my work

How do we know when Antarctica’s ice sheets are going to melt in the future? By looking at how it behaved in the past! Officially, I am an isotope geochemist, but also a paleoclimatologist – in fact, my work involves many different aspects of Earth sciences!

So, on with my work….Antarctica. It’s the Earth’s largest, driest ice desert, and nothing really lives there….except hardy penguins and scientists! This is because despite its desolation and isolation, there are parts of it that are very very important, more important than most people realise – its ice. Antarctica’s ice sheets are really humongous, and unlike the ice in the North Pole which floats on the sea like an ice cube, Antarctica’s ice sits on top of the worlds fifth biggest continent. This map shows how Europe compares to the Antarctic continent in terms of size: myimage1

If any of the ice that sits on Antarctica melts, it will flow into the oceans and sea level will rise all over the planet.  Unfortunately for us, Antarctica’s ice contains enough water to raise sea level globally by around 60 meters – thats about the height of the clock face on Big Ben! 

Now, as I’m sure most of you know, us humans are contributing to global warming. There are still lots of unanswered questions about what effect this will have on the Earth – this is because our planet’s climate (which is a system made up of the ocean, atmosphere, ice and land) is probably the most complex thing we have ever tried to understand. I am trying to figure out how Antarctica’s ice sheets will respond to global warming, so that we can be prepared for what the future might hold. 

How do I do this? Well, I study marine sediments, or muds, that lie all around the continent of Antarctica. (Watch this video about the Intergrated Ocean Drilling Program, an organisation made up of hundreds of scientists who get to go to  really cool places to dig muds up from the ocean floor! ). These muds are deposited by ocean currents or carried in icebergs from the land, and they show us a window into how the ice sheets of Antarctica have behaved in the past. They are extracted as cores, which are really long (sometimes thousands of metres long). This is a photo of one of the cores that I am working on right now: myimage2

In particular, I study muds from a time from between 5 and 3 million years ago (called the Pliocene Epoch) when the Earth’s climate was very similar to how it is going to be at the end of this century. By building a picture of how the ice sheets behaved during the Pliocene, we can more accurately predict how they will behave in the future. 


If you want to know anything about climate change, or Antarctica or about the Earth, or prehistoric life or anything sciencey, I would love to recieve a question! Fire away! 😀

My Typical Day

Lots of lab work, using mass spectrometers and geochemistry to separate interesting things from muds! Woop!

So, a typical day for me involves missioning it across London to get to South Kensignton, where I work (right next door to the Science Museum AND the Natural History Museum, where I get to work behind the scenes sometimes!). I get to my office, and read a million emails from colleagues and people I am working with all over the world. My work involves lots of laboratory work, so I head downstairs to the basement to our ‘clean lab’ to check on some experiments. A ‘clean lab’ is a completely enclosed room with its own seperate clean air supply, which prevents any dirt or dust from getting in – this means people can work in a very very clean environment. You have to wear head-to-toe overalls, with a hat and rubber shoes, and gloves. A bit of effort but it is required! After checking on any experiments, I go to our mass spectrometer laboratory – a mass spectrometer is a very loud and expensive machine that seperates different elements (e.g. potassium, iron) by their masses, meaning we can work out what a compound is made of….quite nerdy stuff but pretty cool! I look at the elements neodymium and strontium…..After the labs is lunch, and then on to a meeting with fellow climate change researchers about an exhibition we are helping to design at the Science Museum….thats about it, although I can say that everyday is different, and I also get to go all over the world (New York, Texas, Spain, the Czech Republic to name a few) with my research…

What I'd do with the money

Probably use it to bring you guys to Imperial College to see some of our climate change research!

If any schools are interested, I would love to bring some of the students who took part in this round of IAS to come to London to see about some of the climate change research we do…

Another idea: Aside from improving the education of non-scientists about climate change in the UK, another very important way to improve our chances of minimising the damage climate change might cause is through the education of girls and women in third world countries. This is because overpopulation is a very serious problem, and the more people on Earth, the more greenhouse gases will be produced. Sir David Attenborough is very passionate about this problem – he explains this very well in his recent documentary series ( When women and girls in third world countries are educated, they often become more interested in running their own businesses and becoming scientists than having lots and lots of children, meaning their quality of life also improves considerably etc. So, if I win the money offered from winning ‘I’m a scientist..’ I would like to donate it to a charity that helps to educate girls in third world countries, especially about science! Alternatively, I would also like to visit schools in the UK to encourage girls (and boys!) to become scientists – not a traditional job but life changing and inspirational!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Hilarious, passionate, curious

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I love any GOOD music, from drum and bass to jazz…

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I got to interview Sir David Attenborough when he visited Imperial College London – what a dude!

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Ok, it’s really nerdy but I really want to go into space!! I also wish I could help more girls go into science, we need more of us! I also would like to go to Antarctica, which isn’t a surprise really!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A vet! That, or a dinosaur hunter!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes actually, I am not very happy to admit it! I am a good girl now though….

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I got to live in New York city for 2 months!! I hope to go to Antarctica though, which would be very cool (literally!)

Tell us a joke.

Helium and Oxygen were sitting in on a bench, when up walks Gold. Helium says ‘A-U! Get lost!’…..badum dum….