UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


STEaPP Spotlight on...Dr Penny Clark

Dr Penny Clark is a Research Fellow Research Fellows for the Net Zero What Works Centre within STEaPP.

Penny Clark holding a cup of coffee
How long have you been at STEaPP? What does your role involve?

I’ve been at STEaPP for about five months. I’m one of three part-time Research Fellows who have been brought in to work on launching a Net Zero What Works Centre. This will be a centre which creates, collates, analyses and synthesises evidence for what works when it comes to net zero policy and practice.

What drew you to STEaPP and UCL?

It was actually the role itself which first drew me to STEaPP and UCL. It was hugely exciting for me to be able to work on net zero at a policy/practice level, as I believe that climate change mitigation and adaptation is the biggest global challenge that we face.

Having said that, once I arrived I was impressed and excited by the variety of disciplines in STEaPP, and the innovative and outward-facing approach of UCL in general. I feel very lucky to be part of STEaPP and UCL.

How does your research feed into your teaching (and vice versa)?

I don’t currently teach, though when I’m not in my part-time UCL role, I run my own consultancy and research company, which involves understanding sustainability and impact from an industry perspective. I have really valued how my role at STEaPP has given me a more policy and research-oriented perspective on net zero.

Conversely, the lessons I have learned from running a company have been helpful in working towards launching the Net Zero What Works Centre – tenacity, relationship-building and “spotting the gaps” have been important.

What inspires you?

The vision of a better world, and finding practical ways to get there.

What achievements are you most proud of?

A big moment for me was when I passed my PhD viva. It was a symbol of the work that went into my PhD, which for me was a huge process of confidence-building and coming to understand what it is that I stand for.

There are also some achievements which are harder to articulate, but feel very important too, like the achievement of keeping going when times are hard. I’d wish for anyone who relates to that to recognise it as something to be proud of.

Who influenced you?

Lots of people (an endless list!), but I’ll mention that through past research projects I’ve met quite a few people who live in ecovillages and intentional communities. From them I have gained different perspectives on how we (human beings) fit into and can relate to the world, different ways of doing things, and alternative visions on what a good life looks and feels like.

If you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?

You’re good enough as you are.

What piece of advice would you like to give to a student?

When I did my undergraduate degree, I remember I was sometimes afraid to speak up or ask for help. Now I look back and think of the times that I was in the room with amazing experts, and missed opportunities to learn from them because of that fear... so my advice is: give yourself permission to be curious, try out ideas and ask for help.    

Also, a mantra I was taught which you can repeat if you are feeling the sting of your work being critiqued: ‘Feedback is a gift’.

What three words would you use to describe STEaPP?

Interdisciplinary, self-evaluative, character!