Cat Scott ?

so excited to have made it into the final of I'm a Scientist 2016! thanks guys!! ?



University of Leeds (2008-2013), University of Manchester (2003-2007), Kesteven and Grantham Girls School (1996-2003), National Junior School (1992-1996)


PhD in Atmospheric Science, MSc in Environmental Engineering, MChem in Chemistry, A-Levels in Maths, Chemistry & Physics

Work History:

University of Leeds (2013-present)

Current Job:

Research Scientist


University of Leeds

Me and my work

When you walk through a forest you can smell a strong piney odour which comes from chemicals being emitted by the trees ? – I use computer codes ? to understand how these emissions affect the air around us, and the climate of the whole planet!

There are many forests in the world ? ?, in fact they cover one third of the Earth’s land surface. It’s really important that we can understand how they affect the weather and the climate, and how they might be impacted by climate change.

For my research, I am studying how the smelly gases emitted by trees (called “biogenic volatile organic compounds”) affect chemistry in the air. Even though they are just tiny molecules, these gases can go on to affect clouds and the global climate.



My Typical Day

My typical day involves writing computer programs to simulate the processes that are taking place in the air. Some of the computer programs we use are so complicated that we have to send them to a special “super computer” in Edinburgh as it would take our normal computers many weeks to do the calculations.

I also meet with other scientists to discuss the results of our work, and figure out what we should do next; sometimes we are working with scientists in other countries so we have our meetings over Skype.

This is my desk (sorry about the mess!) where you can see my computer, I have two screens ?? so I can write codes on the left and look at maps and graphs on the right:




As well as being a scientist, I work for a charity called the United Bank of Carbon whose aim is to try and protect forests around the world. We try to protect forests in tropical countries, but also the trees and woodlands in towns and cities in the UK. This photo is from a day when our charity was helping to plant some new trees in Leeds:




What I'd do with the money

I’m setting up a project to twin a forest in Leeds with a forest in Tanzania in Africa ? (like when you ‘twin’ a town) so I would use the money to make some activities for school children in Tanzania to learn about why their forests are so important and encourage them to preserve the forests for as long as possible. ?

Making sure tropical rainforests stay standing and don’t get cut down is a really important way to fight climate change, as well as saving the habitats of lots of animals ? ? ? I would make some educational activities to send to Tanzania so that children there can learn about why forests are so important, because they don’t have access to as much information as school children in the UK do. ? ?

Other things I’d like to do with the money (let me know if you like any of these ideas)!

  • buy some tree themed toys and activities to take on visits to schools in the UK
  • develop a comic about climate change.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Independent, caring, sleepy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Queens of the Stone Age

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Going on safari in Kenya and seeing lions in the wild

What did you want to be after you left school?

Forensic scientist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Mmmm…..maybe! Mostly for my interpretation of our school uniform……

What was your favourite subject at school?


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

Presenting my research at international conferences in Spain, China and the USA.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My Dad – he is a Maths genius!

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

Yoga instructor / national sleep champion

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

To be able to sing, to be more organised and to get less nervous about things.

Tell us a joke.

What did the tree wear to the pool party? Swimming trunks!

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is my boss, Dr Dominick Spracklen (he’s slightly larger in real life):




Whilst I spend most of my time working at the computer, sometime I escape from the office – here I am planting trees in Leeds!




…and this picture was taken when I had just completed my PhD thesis – a very proud day!