Discovering a world of new opportunities
Dr Murphy Westwood's (née Thomas) (MSc Taxonomy and Biodiversity 2004) time at Imperial helped her discover a new avenue of STEM-related careers that she had never previously considered.
She now works as the Director of Global Tree Conservation at The Morton Arboretum in Chicago, USA.
"Being at Imperial opened my eyes to a whole new sector of STEM opportunities that I didn’t realise existed: museums, zoos and public gardens.
"These research institutions, biodiversity collections, and living museums attract millions of visitors a year around the world and provide a great opportunity to translate the results of science and conservation research for a wide audience."
My Imperial experience
Being at Imperial opened my eyes to a whole new sector of STEM opportunities that I didn’t realise existed: museums, zoos and public gardens."
I chose to study at Imperial as I wanted to learn more about the evolution of the amazing biodiversity of life on Earth.
The combination of the outstanding reputation of the College, its location in a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, and the fact that the course was taught at the Natural History Museum, were the key aspects that drew me to this MSc programme [MSc Taxonomy, Biodiversity and Evolution].
The bond that was formed between the students on my programme was amazing. We came from diverse backgrounds and many different countries, and all shared a passion for science and the natural world. It was a wonderful group of people, many of whom have gone on to exciting and prestigious careers in science.
Being at Imperial opened my eyes to a whole new sector of STEM opportunities that I didn’t realise existed: museums, zoos and public gardens.
These research institutions, biodiversity collections, and living museums attract millions of visitors a year around the world and provide a great opportunity to translate the results of science and conservation research for a wide audience.
These institutions host world-leading scientists and support vital research that contributes to our understanding of the natural world.
Imperial is leading the way by teaming up with this sector to advance STEM education in a cross-discipline manner that provides a unique opportunity to students.
Being a woman at Imperial
There were actually more women than men on my programme; it was really empowering and inspiring to be surrounded by so many intelligent and driven women.
However, the gender balance among our lecturers showed the opposite trend. It is clear that there is still work to do to support women as they advance through the hierarchy in STEM careers, so that gender balance at higher levels is achieved and women feel valued and empowered throughout their careers.
My career so far
I am the Director of Global Tree Conservation at The Morton Arboretum, a 1700-acre public garden in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, USA. It holds more than 222,000 live plants representing nearly 4,300 taxa from around the world.
I run the Global Tree Conservation Programme, whose mission is to save trees from extinction through global collaborations.
I work closely with colleagues from botanical gardens, universities, and other sectors in strategic regions like China, Europe, and Mexico, as well as throughout the United States, to develop research and conservation projects targeting key threatened tree species.
I am also a Global Tree Conservation Officer with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (London, UK), the world’s largest plant conservation network and a global voice for botanic gardens, helping to save the world’s threatened plants.
My career highlights usually involve travel to amazing places around the world to observe the great diversity of plant life. I have been to dozens of countries on every continent to visit botanic gardens, conduct fieldwork, or attend conferences. It rejuvenates and inspires me to see up close the rare and wonderful species I’m working to protect.
At the more challenging times, it can be stressful in a STEM career when you are working on a grant-funded project to not know where your next pot of money is going to come from. Working on “soft money” can definitely keep you up at night.
However, every day I feel like I have made a positive impact (no matter how small!) on the world through my work.