Prof Jay Mistry
“Try to get a mentor. Navigating academia is not easy and having someone experienced to discuss challenges and provide support can help you”
Which area of fire science do you specialise in?
I’m interested in different types of fire knowledge, and how these can be brought together for more effective and socially just fire management and governance. In particular, I’ve focused a lot of my current work on Indigenous peoples and smallholders, whose knowledge and practices contribute to sustainable fire use worldwide but is undervalued.
What do you like about working in fire science?
My research has involved both the natural and social sciences, and I really enjoy working at this interface. For example, Indigenous and smallholder worldviews and voices are seldom heard or incorporated into fire decision-making, and I’ve facilitated intercultural workshops bringing together local leaders, government agencies and scientists to explore ways in which we can better listen to each other’s knowledge.
What challenges have you faced in getting to where you are now?
Foremost have been the intersectional issues of gender and race. As a brown, female academic I have experienced the everyday lived realities of discrimination and microaggression in the university context. At the same time, promotion has been a battle against the structural inequalities within academia, for example, achieving professorial level took me double the time of my white, female colleagues.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to pot and grow food. I’m a practising ceramicist and have various commissions and collaborative projects going on, including with Indigenous potters in Guyana. My husband and I have four allotments and grow a huge diversity of vegetables and fruits to sustain our diet, including a growing collection of heritage beans!
Do you have any advice to give women wanting to pursue a career in science?
Try to get a mentor. Navigating academia is not easy and having someone experienced to discuss challenges and provide support can help you address the day-to-day issues, as well as the bigger picture, such as work-life balance, when to say no, and promotion.
Jay Mistry is Associate Director of the Leverhulme Wildfires and Professor in Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Read about other women in the Centre