‘I only came here for a stop-gap job’ – Tina hangs up her lab coat four decades later!

Date 20.09.2017

A much-loved University of Northampton employee retires this week after four decades’ service – after initially taking a job here as a stop-gap.

Environmental Sciences Technical Demonstrator, Tina Fairless, will hang up her lab coat for the final time on Friday, after clocking up 40 years with the institution.

Tina originally came to Northampton College of Education in 1973, to train as a teacher, but after qualifying she found a job at Park Campus, and the rest is history.

Here, Tina shares her memories of her career at the college and its latter guises, including the University of Northampton, which was founded in 2005.

She said: “At the end of my three year course, there was little movement in the teaching profession to get onto the probationary rung of the ladder. On a chance visit to Park Campus with a friend I was told there was a job being advertised for the newly formed Earth Science course in the Science Department for which my application was successful.  It was to be a stop-gap job until I found a teaching post. I enjoyed the job and eventually the impetus to teach waned and I put my energy into helping to build a vibrant department.

Tina is presented with retirement gifts by her Dean, John Sinclair


“The job revolves around servicing the courses in the now Environmental and Geographical Sciences Department, encompassing physical and human Geography, Ecology and Waste Management by providing practical sessions, risk assessments, fieldwork , helping students with their dissertations and keeping the weather data up-to-date for the Meteorological Office.

“The best parts though, are the odd-ball things I got asked to make; the Heath Robinson side of the job. One request which remains vivid was making pastry lizards for a research project in Tenerife. I always knew the green plastic crocodile which sat on my computer would come in useful one day, and believe me, never try to cook pizza dough mix in a microwave!

“Another time I made a sand dune ‘cake’ for a certain professor’s significant birthday. With a background in physical Geography and a Blue Peter badge, dare I say, it was piece of cake.

“STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) school  events allowed me to express my passion for rocks and minerals with groups of Key Stage 2 girls, explaining how we get from the raw materials to the crockery, cutlery and glass on the table. If I have enthused one girl to look upon Geology in a different light then I feel that I have achieved what I set out to do all those years ago, albeit by a very circuitous route.

“My memories are too numerous to mention but the overriding one is seeing students come into an alien, but welcoming, environment as a nervous teenager and leaving three years later as a confident young adult, some going on to doctorates and at least one professorship, but all successful. Being part of their transformation is very rewarding part of the role and my most treasured memory.

“I’ve had a great time working here which is all down to the people I’ve worked with over the years and I thank them all for their kindness and helpfulness, and the generous opportunities the University has afforded me to fulfil my own potential in so many ways.

“I’ve been through all the various changes in status from the College of Education days right through to the University we are now, and I wish the University success in its next major step change in its evolution with the move to Waterside campus next year. “

Thank you Tina, from everybody at the University of Northampton – you’ll be sorely missed.