My Phenomenal Professor

by Jemima Reynolds

‘It needs to stop being ecoanxiety, it needs to be eco-action and let’s save the planet!’ Professor Becky Parker tells me with the utmost enthusiasm. My physics teacher speaks with complete confidence and a huge smile on her face, which leaves no one guessing why this inspiring woman has been so successful throughout her life. Whilst telling me about the success of a powerful video the music and drama departments at school created along with her help; her passion is palpable!
The video, ‘Heroes and Dreamers’ was created as a part of the Encompass Project. It encourages young people to get involved in looking after our planet, using cross-curricular subjects such as textiles or music, as well as the sciences, which Professor Parker relishes. The project is a part of the Biojoyversity research project for sixth form students at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School. It provides a platform for new ideas and initiatives that could help solve the climate crisis. When Professor Parker talks about the Biojoyversity team she says, ‘You all have brilliant ideas. I just see my role as a way of getting your voices heard.’
The touching ‘Heroes and Dreamers’ video has had overwhelming support, Professor Parker tells me excitedly. It will be played at the next youth UN conference and, after sending a letter to Sir David Attenborough, Professor Parker has received a heart-warming, handwritten letter back. This gives her hope that we can make an impact, now and for later generations.
When she was about my age, Professor Parker drove along the cliffs at Seaton in Devon with her mother and arrived at an evening class that would shape the rest of her career. It took place at an observatory where she and her mother lay on the floor and gazed at the stars. Her interest in astronomy and physics grew and led to a physics degree at Sussex University. She says, ‘I’m just interested in the universe and how amazing it is. The more I learn about how worrying it is now, the more I want to protect it and of course everybody in it.’
Professor Parker fell ill, forcing her to miss a year of university, but allowing her to travel to work. Whilst in Salzburg, Austria, she stumbled upon a lecture named ‘Logic Methodology and Philosophy of science’. She found herself in conversation with those giving the lecture. This in turn led to an invitation to Chicago to do a Masters degree which she accepted after completing her UK studies.
After arriving in Chicago, Professor Parker made the most of an ocean of opportunities. “Everyone asked, ‘Are you doing a PHD in String theory or astronomy or philosophy? What are you doing Becky?’ And I said, ‘I’m trying to do everything, it’s so exciting and interesting!”
In Chicago, she also met the “inspiring”, “fearless” Katherine Priestley, who led her to teaching, is still one of her best friends and is an advisor on the Encompass Project.
When asked about the favourite part of her job, Professor Parker replies, “Seeing students get ideas and realise they can go on and do amazing things!”. The heroes and dreamers continue!

By Jemima Reynolds

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