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NEWS > Former Staff > 5 Questions With...Jane Allen

5 Questions With...Jane Allen

Miss Allen would have a full house if she could have her dream dinner party, but let's also read about why she won a medal in 2009 and saved the public from being poisoned!
26 Nov 2020
Former Staff
Jane Allen and the school skeleton
Jane Allen and the school skeleton

Length of service to Prior's Field (in 2020): 11 years

1. Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing after you left school?

No, not at all! I thought I would end up working in Pathology, but I was quite ill during my A-Levels and so just getting through these was an achievement in itself! I ended up taking a job in the Chemistry Department of a local iron foundry (Stanton and Staveley) who would pay for me to study (day release and two evenings per week). Clearly they were not going to allow me to study Biology, so I did an HNC and then a degree in Applied Chemistry (a total of 5 years). Our products included iron pipes to carry drinking water (water mains) and much of my work was project based in the development of new products and processes of the coatings applied internally and externally to the pipes, as well being involved in drinking water quality standardisation. I had a wonderful time at Stanton and there was great camaraderie amongst the technical personnel. However, after about 13 years I knew that I would always regret not studying Biology if I did not do so, so I enrolled with the Open University (OU). Three years later I gained my degree in Biology and then managed to 'wangle' being made redundant (rather than resigning) - that way, I received a comfortable payment to continue paying my mortgage and go back to uni full-time and for one final time to complete my PGSE. 

2. What would you say is your biggest achievement, the thing you’re most proud of professionally or personally? 

Professionally - Pre-teaching: I designed a manifold system for applying a two-component epoxy paint to the inside of the pipes which we made at Stanton. As a result of the damaging implications of organic solvents to the environment becoming clear, we were developing a solvent-free coating system to be applied automatically to the inside of the 5.5m long pipes. The two components had to be mixed within a narrow tolerance otherwise the chemical reaction between them would not be complete and an excess of one or the other would remain, so contaminating the drinking water and poisoning the general public! We had been working on this, along with the engineers, for some time with worrying issues about controlling the ratio, when I came up with a solution. Initially, the engineers did not believe me at all, so I was chuffed to bits when we ran the tests and they were convinced. This might sound a bit dull or nerdy, but it was huge at the time and saved the project - the result of which is still in use today.

Professionally - teaching: I won a Good Schools Guide award several years ago for results at A-Level, but I can't exactly remember the detail - and I guess that is the point ... because the greatest reward in teaching is undoubtedly to see the everyday progress of the students who we work with, irrespective of whether Biology is their thing or not. Sharing in their journey of discovery is priceless.

Personally - Being a part of the winning team in the National Team Time Trial Cycling championships 2009 was quite something. There were only a handful of women's teams, which helped, but still, I got a mention in Cycling Weekly and a medal! 

Also, I am very proud to be an active member of the Surrey & Hants Animals Asia group, raising funds to rescue and look after moon bears from bile farms. Each year we have surprised ourselves with our continued success and now have two bears to sponsor. 

In terms of gratitude, I am extremely grateful to have my Robin as a partner, who has always been so supportive of me (put up with me!): professionally, personally and in every project I take on!

3. If you could have an inspirational leader to a dinner party, who would it be and why?

The obvious choice is Sir David Attenborough, although I think I would rather invite him to come in and inspire our students - that would be amazing.

So, I would have to start with:

Rachel Carsen, considered by many to be the founder of the environmental movement. Her book 'Silent Spring' documents the indiscriminate use of synthetic chemical pesticides in the US during the last century. Sadly, she died in 1964, but it would be great for her to see how her brave work has progressed, although I think she might be horrified at some of the other destruction we have wrought.

James Hansen - an American space scientist and climatologist, who had a pivotal role in changing awareness on climate change and continues to work hard on this issue.

Mark Post, Chief Scientific Officer at Mosa Meat, a company that is developing cultured meat grown in bioreactors. Imagine a conversation that could range from the application of laboratory stem cell tissue culture to resolving significant global issues such as: farming land use, zoonoses and climate change.

Lori Marino, a neuroscientist specialising in the evolution of the brain and animal intelligence - I would particularly be interested in her work on the intelligence of cetaceans (the whales and dolphins).

I would invite all these people and a whole bunch more who are passionate about protecting our planet and our integral position within the global ecosystem.

It would be wonderful to listen to their debate and well as join in, of course.

These are to name but a few and as the list is huge, I would have to have lots of dinner parties! 

4. Do you have a favourite quote, expression or mantra which inspires you to keep going?

I'll limit this to two: 

'There's always a way!' (If there is a problem, there is always a way around it.)

'Be kind - to all beings'. After spending a whole year of my Biology degree studying the brain of all types of animals (including human-beings and other animal-beings), I believe we must not under-estimate non-human beings' psychological capacity and sentience. A discussion to be had with Lori Marino. at the dinner party.

5. What advice would you give to today’s girls who may be wondering which path to take beyond school?

Either 'work backwards' - i.e. if you know what you want to do in life, work backwards from that goal to find out what choices you need to make now in order to achieve it,

or 'work forwards' - if you do not know specifically what you want to do, then work forwards by choosing options that inspire you and your path will evolve.

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