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Nik Cunniffe

Dr Nik Cunniffe, University Lecturer

Cunniffe-Nik.jpg I first came to the Department of Plant Sciences in 2004 as a PhD student. My background was non-standard for a PhD student in this Department, in as much as my undergraduate training was in mathematics, and I had worked for a number of years between undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the information technology industry. From this perspective I was immediately struck by two aspects of the working environment that I found very refreshing: its supportive and nurturing nature, and the relatively large number of women in high-profile roles.

Over the years I have progressed to become a University Lecturer – and so a full-time, permanent member of academic staff – via a series of short-term teaching-focussed contracts. At all stages of my career I have been very impressed by – and very grateful for – the support provided by the Department of Plant Sciences in developing my career, be it via informal mentoring or via more formal advice delivered as part of the appraisal scheme.

I have started a family with my partner relatively recently, and I am currently co-parent of three girls under seven. The support from the Department has been instrumental in allowing me to achieve work-life balance despite the pressures of a young family, allowing me to work flexibly from home when necessary, as well as allocating me a parking space on the crowded main site in the centre of town (which allows collection of children from school or nursery at short notice if required). The birth of two of my children coincided with scheduled undergraduate lectures; in both cases I was nevertheless able to take two weeks paternity leave at full pay, with the Department finding the funds to pay for temporary teaching cover.

In chairing the Equality and Diversity Committee I have been impressed – although in the light of my experiences thus far entirely unsurprised – by the enthusiasm within all levels of the Department for carefully looking at how practice can be improved. I am very grateful to the Department of Plant Sciences for the opportunities they have given me, and am delighted to be in a position now to steer further changes which will ensure these opportunities are available to all.