Ann-Marie Jay
Final year earth sciences student

Ann-Marie was in foster care when she applied to study at the University of Oxford. She’s keen to encourage other children and care leavers to follow in her footsteps.

I’ve always been curious. My parents were very encouraging when I asked how things worked and why things happened. If they didn’t know the answer themselves, they helped me look it up elsewhere.

Science and maths sparked my interest because they helped to answer my questions. Now I know that scientists are still trying to answer as many questions as I asked when I was younger!

While I was applying to university, I moved in with a foster carer. She had not been to university but she was extremely supportive. Although she didn’t understand much science, she was prepared to hold conversations with me to maintain my enthusiasm.

There is a lot that geologists don’t yet understand about our planet. My course covers everything from earthquakes and volcanoes, to oceans and the Earth’s core. It’s pretty awesome being able to say that I’m trying to find answers that other scientists haven’t figured out yet!

My degree is challenging, but I am determined to succeed. I have completed some fantastic projects, including making my own geological map of an area. Right now, I am working in a laboratory where I get to melt rock chips with a very powerful laser – pretty cool! It’s one of the ways geologists find out what different rocks are made of.

I have been involved in a lot of outreach events through the university and various charities. My original plan was to work for a mining company as an exploration geologist, but that has changed. Now I hope to help support looked after children and care leavers like myself, and encourage them to choose university as an option.

BEST ADVICE?

Don't just go by what your teacher says. Ask how things work and why things happen. Be inquisitive and try to find answers online if you can - the internet is a great resource.

HOW DO YOU RELAX?

I enjoy being part of an orchestra. At one point I was considering studying music but I decided that my true talents lay in science.

Ann-Marie-Jay
Anne-Marie Jay's Journey

Activities

Create your own rocks

Time: 30 minutes

You need: Wax crayons (old stubs are perfect), butter knife, cheese grater, muffin cases, hair dryer (or hot water in a mug), rolling pin

Activity 1. Make sedimentary rocks
  • Imagine that your crayons are rocks. Use the cheese grater to grind them down into small pieces. These are like the sediments, sand and silt, created when rocks are worn down by erosion.
  • Sprinkle the sediments into a muffin case, in different coloured layers.
  • Pop another muffin case on top. Apply pressure by pushing down on the sediments with the end of a rolling pin.
  • Remove the top cupcake case to reveal your sedimentary ‘rock’.
Activity 2. Make metamorphic and igneous rocks
  • Heat and pressure can turn one type of rock into another, creating metamorphic or igneous rocks.
  • Warm your sedimentary ‘rock’ gently with a hairdryer, or by asking an adult to float it on a mug of hot water. When the wax starts to soften, carefully remove the heat source. Pop the other muffin case on top.
  • Press down with the rolling pin to apply pressure. Remove the top muffin case to reveal your metamorphic ‘rock’.
  • To make igneous rock, repeat the steps above but let the wax ‘rock’ melt completely before you remove the heat source. Igneous rock forms when molten rock cools and sets.

Enjoyed This? What’s Next…

  • Rockwatch is the UK’s nationwide geology club for children. Visit www.rockwatch.org.uk to find out more.
  • Find out more about earth sciences at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Visit their minerals learning zone online at bit.do/thezone
  • The Geological Society has lots of information about education and careers in earth sciences: www.geolsoc.org.uk/education
  • Visit bit.do/oxfordsupport to find out more about support for Care Leavers and UK undergraduate students from a low- income background.

Talking points

#1 Question

Encourage your child to ask questions. There is no shame in not knowing the answer. You can always search for answers online or at the library together!

#2 Explore

The best questions come from observations. If something captures your child’s interest – from rocks in the garden to fossils at the beach – explore it together.

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