A day in the life: Professor of energy and environmental engineering

The “stubborn and tenacious” Marcelle McManus is a tireless campaigner for culture change in academia

What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Two things: we are facing a climate emergency and anything I can do to help is important to me. I have a young daughter and I hate to think that the world she and her children might inherit will be worse than the world we live in now. Also, I work with an amazing team of people who make it a joy to come to work and share ideas.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into work?

At the moment, with us all housebound, the first thing I do is spend some quality time with my daughter as my husband takes first shift (before breakfast) at doing some work. Then we swap over, and so it goes on until it is time to go to bed!

What’s the best thing about your job?

I get to work in a research area I am passionate about. I also get to work with wonderful researchers and colleagues. I see students progress through their degrees and then graduate and go out into the world to do amazing things. Some of them stay in touch, and we get to work together on solving interesting challenges. What’s not to love about that?

And the worst?

We’re all a little behind the curve when it comes to diversity and inclusivity. We won’t solve the global challenges we face without the most diverse group of people. For example, if you asked a pregnant woman or someone with small children to design a city, you’d get something that looks radically different. Similarly, if you ask people with different backgrounds, challenges and training to solve any problem you will be able to draw on a wide variety of ideas and potential solutions. Independently some will be great. Together, they might just solve the problem. So we need to be doing better at encouraging a diverse group of people into STEM. To do that we need to be far more inclusive at every level.

What is it about your personality that makes you suitable for the role?

I think I’m probably quite stubborn and tenacious at times – you need to be to see through finding robust solutions to a problem. But I also think very broadly; and I like to research things at a systems level, so that really suits me.

Which five words sum up your typical day?

If I’m having a good day they would be: fun, challenge, students, coffee, sustainability.

If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?

I wanted to be a balloon seller when I was a child – maybe that!


Marcelle McManus is professor of energy and environmental engineering, and co-director of the Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies, at the University of Bath.

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