Featured People

Tom Mason

Name: Tom Mason
Job: Director, Armagh Planetarium

Subjects taken - Geology and Zoology

How would you describe a typical day in your current job?

Every day is different - working with children and adults, special needs children, technical maintenance, administrative duties, staff training, answering phone queries, writing articles for our in-house magazine, Astronotes.

What made you decide to study your degree subject at university?

I had read a lot of books about digging up dinosaurs when I was at school and figured that would be a cool thing to do.

I wanted to travel the world and was unsure about being a geologist or a zoologist so I signed up for both and eventually blended the two when I ended up teaching palaeontology and sedimentology.

What attracted you to your current job?

I wanted to return to Northern Ireland - I had been a professor of geology at the University of Natal in Durham, South Africa from 1974-1996. It was an opportunity to make a mid-life change from being a research professor to being more involved in an international organisation like the Armagh Planetarium.

What aspects do you find most satisfying about your current job?

New information about space and the cosmos appears on our computers every day. I get a buzz from teaching people and explaining scientific phenomena.

How did your time at Queens equip you with the personal and professional skills for your chosen career?

Excellent training by great teachers provided a foundation for a lifelong learning experience and the confidence to tackle anything. I was given the opportunity to learn from people who became my role models and I found that their techniques with my own modifications to suit my personality helped me in my teaching career. I was at Queen's with a great group of people who all wanted to excel. The peer pressure to succeed was also an important factor in keeping me focused.