Alumni

Alumni profile - Justine Tizzard

I was headhunted on LinkedIn by Chatteris Educational Foundation in Hong Kong to start working for them in January 2020. Since then, I have been based in the beautiful city of Hong Kong working as a STEM Project Coordinator. My work is very interesting and difficult to explain to people because every day is very different.

(Chemistry BSc, 2018)

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Why did you study BSc Chemistry at Queen Mary? Did you have a particular career path in mind?

I had always loved Chemistry and really enjoyed it as a subject, so I decided to pursue it as a degree. Queen Mary was my first choice when I applied through UCAS. The Chemistry department had a great research impact and I will always remember when I came to the 2014 Open Day and witnessed a demonstration by Dr Tippu Sheriff which was very encouraging and gave me a taste of what it would be like to study at Queen Mary.

When I applied, I didn’t have a specific career path in mind, which is the case for most people, but I knew that I loved Chemistry and science and that I would eventually figure it out.

What did you enjoy most about studying Chemistry at Queen Mary? Was there anything that surprised you in your studies?

I enjoyed a lot about my time at Queen Mary and studying Chemistry. I made the most of the opportunities offered by the Chemistry department and the University. I have always been a very hands-on person, so I particularly enjoyed the laboratory and practical sessions in experimental Chemistry. I thoroughly remember the lectures given by Dr Gregory Chass on computational chemistry and thermodynamics, concepts that were very new yet very interesting. I currently use some of the ideas and knowledge taught by Dr Chass for my cryptocurrency investments! I was surprised at the level of autonomy I had during my third year research project on C-H bond activation catalysed with a Co-Catalyst with Dr Stellios Arseniyadis; he certainly tested my researcher limits and I can guarantee I tested his patience as a supervisor!

Were there any academics that had a strong influence on shaping your time and studies here?

I was inspired by so many academics for different reasons. Dr Stellios Arseniyadis definitely encouraged me to pursue a Master’s in Research at Imperial College London so that I could experience research without a PhD commitment. Dr Chass gave me reality checks every single lecture that I attended; he was not your regular lecturer as he had some of the best ‘street smart’ mentality I have ever encountered in my life. He once said, ‘Get two jobs, so they never know where you are’ and since last year I can completely agree with this. Dr Maxie Roessler was an amazing lecturer and researcher, and an inspiring figure for female chemists, which I later had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand during my masters.

Some of the projects I have worked on so far include a 3D Food Printer collaboration with the Institute of Technical Education in Singapore and Chilatrada Technology College in Thailand, and the DJI Robomaster S1 Robotics Challenge.

Can you describe your career path to date and touch on your current role at Chatteris Educational Foundation in Hong Kong, as a senior STEM Project Coordinator (English Facilitator) at the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK)?

Since I graduated from Queen Mary, I did a Master in Research in Catalysis at Imperial College London. I had the opportunity to do a long research-based project and get a taste of research and life as a PhD student. After I finished my master’s in 2019, I needed a break from full-time education, and I was fortunate enough to get a British Council Generation UK scholarship to do a fully funded internship in Shanghai in the healthcare and green technology industry. While I was doing my master’s, I was headhunted on LinkedIn by Chatteris Educational Foundation in Hong Kong to start working for them in January 2020. Since then, I have been based in the beautiful city of Hong Kong working as a STEM Project Coordinator. My work is very interesting and difficult to explain to people because every day is very different. I manage different projects from various STEM subjects and departments and develop them. Covid-19 has definitely made the work that I do more challenging as I have had to transition all of my work online and work remotely. Some of the projects I have worked on so far include a 3D Food Printer collaboration with the Institute of Technical Education in Singapore and Chilatrada Technology College in Thailand, and the DJI Robomaster S1 Robotics Challenge.

What are some of your daily responsibilities in this role and how has this job confirmed what you feel passionate about?

Some of my daily responsibility is to check on the progress of projects, schedule meetings with potential collaborators and keep good communication going with the local institutions and organisations we work with. This job has made me realise how much I like to have variety in my schedule in terms of challenges and responsibilities. I have confirmed that I am passionate about science communication and how I would like to pursue this further in the future. Despite the pandemic and its challenges, I have discovered that I love remote working!

What inspired you to work in another country and why would you encourage other people to do the same based on your own experience?

I have been learning Chinese (Mandarin) since I was in primary school as my mum insisted on taking me to a Chinese School. Ever since I have been learning the language, culture and customs, so I have always wanted to go to China but I was way too young previously. During my first year at Queen Mary I applied for the Sichuan University summer programme which was a partially funded 2 week language and culture course, but I got an email from Queen Mary saying that they had a new partnership with the Confucius Institute at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE) for a two months fully funded language programme. I replied immediately as it was the opportunity that I had been waiting for.

During my second year I re-applied and the Confucius Institute generously granted me another scholarship and a language study scholarship to continue doing Chinese alongside my degree for the academic year of 2016-2017. During my third year I applied for another scholarship managed by the University of Manchester and funded by the UK government’s Department for Education to study at East China Normal University in Shanghai. I also got the opportunity to go on a Leadership Programme by Common Purpose in Kuala Lumpur, which was a collaboration between Queen Mary and the University of Malaya. Through these exchanges and opportunities, I have met inspiring people, become more culturally aware and appreciated how cultural intelligence could help us in the future as a society. I would encourage everyone to go abroad, learn at least one language besides your mother tongue, join one of the cultural societies and to be more inclusive with the international students at Queen Mary. Only by doing this you will change your Eurocentric point of view.

How has your degree helped you in your career?

My degree has helped me to ‘knock the door’ for the next opportunities but my experience and exchanges have ‘opened the door’. Doing a Chemistry degree and any science degree teaches you so many transferable skills that unfortunately you won’t learn elsewhere. The concept of journaling at the lab, writing down observations and making parameters are things that can be done in any job. My degree also made me become more critical and made me question resources and where information was coming from which I think is crucial in this era of misinformation. I certainly became more organised in my undergraduate studies by keeping an organised schedule for studying and meeting deadlines, which I still use to this day.

I would encourage everyone to go abroad, learn at least one language besides your mother tongue, join one of the cultural societies and to be more inclusive with the international students at Queen Mary. Only by doing this you will change your Eurocentric point of view.

What was special about your time at Queen Mary?

There were so many special times at Queen Mary, but I remember having the best times at the lab and the library. I would always study on the second floor on the quiet area single desks with the unconventional views of the Portuguese Jewish Cemetery. I don’t think another university can offer such ‘unique’ views. It got to the point that I was spending so much time there, particularly during my final year, that I brought a proper mug to have my tea in because I discovered the free ‘hot water’ button on the instant coffee machine! The friends I made at Queen Mary are friends for life; despite being scattered across the globe we are in very good contact still.

I volunteered at multiple events and with multiple organisations while I was at Queen Mary, including as a meal server at the Whitechapel Mission. I was so shocked when a homeless man asked me to make him a caramel macchiato - I only had instant coffee, tea, milk, Cadbury hot chocolate and sugar!

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering studying Chemistry at Queen Mary?

Make the most of this opportunity, go to every lecture and ask those questions. It doesn’t matter if you think they’re “silly” questions, ask them. Challenge yourself every day to learn something else besides your degree. Apply for all the scholarships available, what’s the worst that can happen, that they say no? Do all the things that you would like to try even if you’re scared. Chemistry is a wonderful degree that will help you as a scientist but also as an individual.

Why would you encourage more women in particular to study a STEM based subject and pursue a STEM based career based on your own experiences?

I would encourage more women to study a STEM degree because it will definitely help them to develop skills that they were not even aware they had or needed in the first place. Science and STEM is a male dominated sector, but it is slowly changing, thanks to more young women deciding to pursue a career in science. There's also the idea that all scientists work in a lab, wear a white lab coat, and stress out about results and research (believe me I was there once) but there's so much more you can do with a science degree. I have undergraduate classmates that have taken so many different routes and they all still use the knowledge gained during their BSc Chemistry degree. I have had amazing work opportunities thanks to my STEM degree and combining my degree with my passion for languages has taken me all the way to Hong Kong! Overall, the STEM industry is an industry that is constantly evolving and adapting so there are plenty of opportunities for everyone!

Lastly, what are your future aspirations in terms of your career and in life?

Recently I have been reflecting on my future career, particularly with the pandemic allowing us to have the extra time that we don’t spend commuting. I really like living in Hong Kong and China, I feel very secure and I like the daily challenges that I face here since they’re so different to the ones I encountered in the UK. I see myself living in Asia long-term as I think it is the future, maybe not Hong Kong but another East or Southeast Asian country such as Malaysia, seeing as it truly stole my heart when I went. I would like to work remotely and continue working in the STEM sector in future projects and events. When I gain enough experience in the sector, I would like to start my own adventure dedicated to STEM education, communication and events.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Officer, Nicole Brownfield. If you would like to get in touch with Justine or engage her in your work, please contact Nicole at n.brownfield@qmul.ac.uk.