MEET A SCIENTIST; Wales Has Produced an Amazing Number of World-Class Scientists Working in Many Different Areas. Perhaps One of Them Went to Your School?

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Byline: Erica Lewis

Discovery talked to Dianne Edwards, Professor of Paleobotany in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cardiff University, to find out what it's like to work as a scientist in Wales. Her research and teaching has helped increase our understanding of the earliest land plant fossils, and how the earth was colonised by early plant life. Professor Edwards has spent her entire academic career at Cardiff University, starting in 1969, and her research has made her one of the world's leading paleobotanists. In 1996, her recognition as one of the most distinguished scientists in the Commonwealth came about with her election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society.

Can you tell us about yourself?

I was born in Swansea and my family lived on the Gower peninsula. My father influenced my love of nature as he was a great bird watcher and a natural historian - and as a child I was always preparing a 'nature table'. I went to Glanmor County Girls School, where I owe a lot to my former botany teacher, Dr Elizabeth Bremner. She instilled in me a fascination for science - leading me to study Botany, Zoology and Chemistry at A-level. Not many girls went to Cambridge University from my school, but with the encouragement of my teacher, I secured a place at Girton College, Cambridge University.

What type of science do you study?

Paleobotany, which is the study of fossil plants.

What training did you need to do to get a job in science?

After I gained my degree in botany, I remained at Cambridge to study for a postgraduate degree, and I was awarded a PhD in 1967 (an incredibly busy time for me as my son Christopher was born in the same year). My thesis was based on a study of Devonian fossil plants, which survived some 400 million years ago. Wales has some of the best records of Devonian plants and I've spent many days in the Brecon Beacons collecting samples. I have always worked in a University environment - after my PhD I moved to Cardiff Sir Morien Morgan, FRS 1912-1978 Attended Bridgend Primary School, Aberdare Boys' School, and Canton Secondary School, Cardiff. Studied at Cambridge University. His field was aerodynamics.

Professor Phil Williams Born in 1939. Attended Bargoed Junior School and Lewis Boys' School. Studied at Cambridge University. His field is solarterrestrial physics.

Dr Hywel Price Born in 1946. Attended Pontardawe Primary School and Ystalyfera Secondary School. Studied at the University of Wales. His field is nuclear physics and applied science.

Dr Pam Lewis Born in 1930. Attended Llangennech Primary School, Howell's School, and Llanelli Girls School. Studied at the University of Wales. Her field is nuclear magnetic resonance.

Professor J Gareth Jones Born in 1936. Attended Radnor Road Primary School and Canton High School. Studied at the University of Wales. His field is anaesthesia and intensive care.

Handel Davies CB, F Eng Born in 1912. Attended Llwydcoed Primary School, Gadlys Secondary School, and Aberdare Boys' School.

Studied at the University of Wales. His field is aeronautical engineering.

Professor Delme Bowen Born in 1944. Attended Llanedi Primary School and Amman Valley Secondary School. Studied at the University of Wales. His field is cell biology with a particular interest in snails and slugs.

University and have been here ever since.

What does your typical day involve?

The joy of university life is that it's incredibly varied. My work is a combination of teaching, doing research, reading in the library, taking part in committee meetings and also doing fieldwork - in Wales and overseas - looking for fossil plants. …