Photo:

Sian Thomas

Made it through - thanks to all who voted for me. It's appreciated.

Favourite Thing: To Learn! About food, tech, and a whole lot of other things. To use it to make a difference.

My CV

Education:

Neyland Infant and Junior schools 1977-84. Cardigan Comprehensive School, 1984-1989. Tasker Milward School, 1989 – 1992. Cardiff University (BSc) 1992-1995, Manchester University (PhD) 1995-1999

Qualifications:

11GCSE’s (including maths and 3 sciences), Maths, Chemistry and Biology A levels, Biochemistry BSc and Biotechnology PhD

Work History:

Post Doctoral researcher at University of Manchester, Senior Researcher at Biocatalysts (commercial biotech company), Range of roles at Food Standards Agency (Higher Scientific Officer responsible for drinks policy, Senior Scientific Officer responsible for science governance, Social Science team leader, Head of Analysis)

Current Job:

Head of Information Management

Employer:

Food Standards Agency (government department)

About Me

Love science – current passion for data (and data science) but background across biochem / biotech / food science & analytics / social science!

I am married (17 years!) and have 3 children Isaac (12), Nia (9) and Gwennan (5) – we live in rural Kent myimage4.

The children each have a Giant African Landsnail and we also have 6 hives of bees in the field behind our house myimage3.  A really great by-product of which is a large number of jars of honey which they provide in the summer months myimage2.

Last summer I took up running with Isaac – we attended our local parkrun and now go most weeks.  Recently, Nia has been coming with us too myimage1.  I am pretty old to have entered by first competitive run – but recently completed the Great Bristol 10k in 57.31 minutes and last week ran the Harvel 5 (miles) in 46.09 minutes.  This is an amazing achievement for someone who had not participated in such active endeavours since school!

As you might expect, I love food.  But I am quite fussy.  I hate mayo – can’t understand why people add it to everything.  I try (reasonably hard) to have a balanced and healthy diet – but this is regularly undermined by my love of cakes, biscuits and chocolate!

 

My Work

I am the Head of Information Management at the Food Standards Agency

My job is just the best.  I make sure that the Agency makes the most effective use of the science available to provide you all with food that is safe and is what it says it is.  This includes evidence from a whole range of science disciplines from toxicology to psychology, considering topics from animal welfare to diet studies.

As part of my role I make sure that the Agency makes the most effective use of the data that it holds.  One of my favourite parts of my job is to take Agency data to tech events like hacks and to help really clever people make innovative applications from it.  Probably our best dataset is the Food Hygiene Ratings data.

Probably one of my favourite moments was presenting at the Inaugural Social Data UK meetup at twitter in London (where the photo with the dalek was taken!).  I quite like presenting – which means that most often in photos there is a tiny me in front of a large screen where I have my mouth open!  Here is one from last week myimage5 – probably not helped by my dislike of photos of myself 🙂

 

My Typical Day

Is certainly not like yesterday

Usually too many e-mails and not enough time.  If I am lucky learning something new – today it was that we need a mixture of washing machines (mix it up and innovate) and ironing (planned, ordered, nearing perfection).  Tomorrow I will spend the morning at a workshop using my influencing and enquiring skills to determine how to make data about meat more accessible – by the autumn I hope you will be able to access this on the internet.

So you get the meetings (aka workshops, discussions, seminars) but I am also reasonably active on social media (twitter @drsiant, also LinkedIn and Yammer our internal social network).  So I find time during the day to check these networks.  Then phonecalls – including people trying to sell me stuff (usually that I neither want nor need) and people trying to find things out – I have a great network of food experts so can usually identify someone to help when I cannot!

And I love to eat with friends, colleagues and family.  If I don’t eat at my e-mail or in a meeting then I try and find someone in the office to share lunch with.  My preference at the end of the day is to share food with my family.  As they are pretty active I also get to do typical Mum stuff (great taxi etc) and spend time with my children before they go to bed.

My day usually concludes with a final check of my social networks and a call to my Mum!  I am lucky enough to work at home usually Thursday and Friday.  I am lucky enough to work for a progressive employer who encourages flexible working – which means I benefit from saving a couple of hours on the commute.

What I'd do with the money

I’m still working on this – something to engage you (students and teachers) with food – but on your terms!

Current thinking is something like:

  • engage with you (students and teachers) to work out how to get you to become more connected with your food
  • consider the skills within my networks and ask people to help develop resources to ensure that any money is used to best effect – including getting experts to contribute time and knowledge
  • Use the money to supplement expertise or to ‘buy’ the material components to develop the resources
  • Deploy these – including through STEM networks which already have links with schools if I can

My current preference is for a web service – so that you can access the resource on any device and use it in a way that fits in with your priorities.  Whether this is in the classroom or at home. To connect you with the part of the food system that most aligns with your beliefs and priorities.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, dedicated, conscientious

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Beautiful South – but I am quite a lot older than you all

What's your favourite food?

Chocolate

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Scuba diving in the Maldives

What did you want to be after you left school?

A doctor

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes, usually for standing up for others!

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Used a maths algorithm to predict when there will be a norovirus (sick bug) outbreak

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

The head boy at my secondary school – when I didn’t know what I wanted to do at 16 he helped me work out how to maximise my options!

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Something to do with human rights and advocacy

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Be taller; see the world through someone else’s eyes; be more understanding and sympathetic

Tell us a joke.

What did one snowman say to the other? Can you smell carrots?

Other stuff

Work photos:

When I am in London I use the hotdesk facilities in the Holborn office.  As I work at home most weeks my ‘office’ is often my kitchen!

But the connected world we reside in means that I can often be found making my office on the train – most of my team work out of our York office so I am a regular visitor (sometimes cursing the terrible train wifi)!  And while I love York, I often forget that it is ‘cold up North’ and that I should really bring an extra layer of clothing.