UCL News


Spotlight on... Dr Becca Burns

17 November 2022

This week we meet Dr Becca Burns, Strategic Co-ordinator for the Environment Domain. Here, she chats to us about working to support UCL's expert team attending COP27 this year in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Dr Becca Burns

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Strategic Co-ordinator for the Environment Domain. I work with our Domain co-chairs Professor Nick Tyler and Dr Lakshmi Rajendran to support environmental research that transcends disciplinary and departmental barriers. This includes championing our cross-disciplinary NERC research interests and activities, facilitating community building for larger grant applications and working collaboratively to deliver UCL’s contribution to the COP Climate Conference. 

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been at UCL since July 2018. Prior to this, I worked at the Royal Society as a Scientific Programmes Officer. I’m originally from the northwest of England and before moving to London worked at Lancaster University.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Over the past two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work collaboratively with colleagues from across UCL to support our team attending COP26 last year in Glasgow and COP27 this year in Sharm El-Sheikh. 

COP is the annual UN Climate Change Conference, where almost every nation comes together with negotiators, observers, businesses and citizens for 12 days of talks focusing on what we can do to tackle climate change. I’m proud to work with such an enthusiastic group of delegates – it’s inspiring to follow their experience at COP and hear about the impact they are having. This has also been a chance to work closer with professional services colleagues from across the Climate Hub, Research Innovation and Global Engagement and Sustainable UCL, amongst others. Together we have developed a strong team bond and a greater awareness of each other’s roles. I am passionate about climate change and the environment, and being involved with UCL’s contribution to COP really helps me feel like I am making a difference to our planet.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

COP27 is very much at the top of my list right now, I am writing this just ahead of the start of COP and I’m really looking forward to hearing about our delegates experiences, what key themes and points of discussion emerge and most importantly what actions are taken. Alongside this, I am also managing some of our NERC grant processes. November is a very busy, but exciting month.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

  • Album: a tough choice between Can’t Stop from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Fall Out Boy's, From Under the Cork Tree. 
  • Film: super cheesy but Twister – it is what sparked my interest in geography and the environment when I was younger.
  • Novel: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Two windmills are standing on a wind farm. One asks, “What’s your favourite type of music?” The other says, “I’m a big metal fan”.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Sir David Attenborough, Preet Chandi and Steve Backshall.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Take the time to travel and see the world (sustainably of course).

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Possibly not a surprise to my team as it’s all I talk about, but I am a really keen runner, cyclist and swimmer. I’ve run eight marathons so far, completed a half ironman triathlon and swum six miles in the Serpentine just for fun. You’ll usually find me at parkrun every Saturday morning. 

What is your favourite place?

Iceland – I spent a great deal of time out there during my PhD, studying the glacial carbon cycle. It is a beautiful and fascinating country, I’ve also got my eye on a few trail races out there!