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A day in the life of ... Sheila Kanani
Sheila Kanai
Image Credit: RAS

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Dr Sheila Kanani is an inspiring female Astronomer working at the RAS, encouraging and promoting the study of Astronomy, Space Science and other closely related branches of science at schools and universities.

My role at the RAS is an Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer; so I look into diversity issues as well as doing public engagement, which is quite good as all three tend to overlap quite a lot.

My background is research; I did a PhD in Planetary Science using data from the Cassini spacecraft to analyse Saturn’s magnetosphere. However during that time I realised as much as I enjoyed doing research I also enjoyed telling people about Astronomy and Space Science. A friend of mine suggested that I go into teaching, so that I could talk about science all day long. Therefore I went and got my teaching qualification and became a secondary school science teacher up in Preston, Lancashire where I was teaching Physics GCSE and all sciences up to Key Stage 4. During that time the job advert at the RAS came up and the reason I wanted to apply for it was because it brought together my science research background and my teaching and I could use both those skills in this new job. I joined the RAS in September 2014 but I took 9 months off in the middle for maternity leave.

Every day for me at the RAS is different. Often a day will be spent answering emails and queries, usually from students; I might have a couple of meetings or I might be using social media; in terms of education I teach 15 students GCSE Astronomy, which takes about an hour and a half on a Tuesday after school and they are due to take the exam in June. I sit on various educational boards for the Institute of Physics and the National Schools Observatory. For outreach I do public outreach, keynote speeches, science festivals, music festivals and sometimes I write resources that teachers can use. Within diversity I look at things like the gender diversity in Physics and Astronomy and the team have set up a LBGT+ Physics and Astronomy Group with the Institute of Physics.

A good day at the RAS varies. Sometimes a good day could just entail me sitting at my desk typing up a policy or report. However sometimes I find that a bit slow, so then I prefer when I go to visit schools which I really enjoy, or when I have students in, or perhaps when we have a primary school visit into the RAS and we show 60+ primary school students around the lecture theatre and the library and we do various activities with them. I like when schools come here because they love Burlington House and looking in the library as it’s got that “WOW” factor, but I quite enjoy going out to schools as well because it gets me out the office, gets me to places in London and the South East that I haven’t been to before.

I like the fact that my job is very varied and that I come into contact with all different people, from students (my youngest student being the age of 9) to professors who have been working in the space industry for 30 years or more. I also like that every day is different, which keeps me on my toes and things really interesting.

Sometimes the travelling is difficult; there can be a lot of travelling to different schools and locations but also the fact that I am essentially the only person at the RAS doing education, outreach and diversity sometimes means that there is not enough time to do everything that I want to do. Quite often I get emails saying ‘could someone from your team help us with this?’ and I have to reply saying I’m the only person in my team so it’s a bit difficult sometimes if there’s things I want to do but I can’t.

What I particularly like about Burlington House is the library, I think it's a really interesting room in the building and it's got that “WOW” factor of being a very old library with old books but also all the current research as well, and I just like the fact that people don't realise that you can come inside this part of Burlington House because often when they come into the courtyard they see it as the Royal Academy of Art.


Sherell Cherish Salmon

Author Biography

Sherell Cherish Salmon

Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics Graduate from the University of Kent.

Currently living Kent/South East London Volunteering at the RAS.

Suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, BPD, Anxiety and OCD.

Hoping to go back to university in September to study a Postgraduate degree in Astrophysics.

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