As one of the UK’s most eminent geologists, she has uncovered climate secrets from hundreds of millions of years ago.

Now, former University of Southampton student Professor Dame Jane Francis is sharing some of her career highlights and tips in the hope of inspiring the scientists of the future.

“My biggest pieces of advice are to say ‘yes’ – it opens up doors to new opportunities. Being a successful scientist is all about networking and making connections,” said Jane. “A passion for your topic is also vital."

Daily Echo: Professor Dame Jane Francis on an expedition

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Jane's first hurdle came as she neared graduation.

“I got a shock at the careers event where companies came to recruit graduates,” Jane recalled.

“Most geology graduates started their careers core logging for oil exploration companies, and these jobs were in the Middle East or on oil rigs – both places where women weren’t allowed to work.

"I remember a poster advertising jobs in geology and at the bottom it said ‘women need not apply’. I remember feeling depressed seeing that.”

She reluctantly applied for non-industry jobs, until a PhD opportunity arose, studying rocks and fossil forests on the Dorset coast.

“I learned about fossil forests and what they mean in terms of ancient climates and past environments,” she said. “Having that expertise led to the rest of my career that took me all around the world.”

Daily Echo: Professor Dame Jane Francis on an expedition

Jane is this year’s President of the British Science Association (BSA) – a role she is using to promote the importance of women and diversity in science.

She added: “One of BSA’s priorities, which I wholeheartedly support, is that children are exposed at school to more hands-on science activities, to do their own experiments and their own research.

"In my career, the most exciting moments have been when I have discovered something new to me or new to the world – that feeling is what can really capture young people’s love of science.”

Many of Jane’s pioneering discoveries have been during field camps in the Arctic and Antarctica.

 “Working in snow and ice, hitting open a rock and finding a fossil leaf that’s exposed for the first time for millions of years, which tells me that Antarctica was once covered in forests and the climate was once tropical – discovering that is an amazing feeling,” she said.