Staff Spotlight: Mara Dougall

Published: 15 September 2021

To celebrate Mara Dougall joining the School of Physics and Astronomy as a Student Support Officer, we sat down for a chat to find out more about Mara and her role.

To celebrate Mara Dougall joining the School of Physics and Astronomy as a Student Support Officer, we sat down for a chat to find out more about Mara and her role. 

What does your role involve?

As Student Support Officer for the School I’m a first point of contact for students who have questions or problems concerning any non-academic aspect of student life.  I’m someone students can talk to if they are having personal problems, or feeling isolated, but I can also help signpost them to university and specialist services, or help with practical issues – such as, where do I get this form stamped? 

Can you tell us a little about your career up to this point?

My career has many threads to it (typical arts graduate!) but I’ve been working in Education, in some form or other, for almost 14 years now.  I’ve been a teacher, a youth worker, and a student adviser, and have worked for the Ministry of Education, and several universities – in Scotland and New Zealand.  Before coming to the School of Physics and Astronomy I worked for three years in the university’s central Student Services team, so that has given me a good overview of how the university works, and the types of services we have to support students.

Did you always want to work in Higher Education?

I think I initially wanted to be a high school teacher, and I have taught in a variety of settings over the years – from language schools in the Czech Republic to universities in Scotland.  I always enjoyed the pastoral side of teaching and chose to combine it with roles focussing more on student support and wellbeing, eventually moving primarily into this sort of work.  I recently found an old primary school project in which my career goals only got as far as, ‘to work in a skyscraper’ (!).  I’m pleased to report that I have since achieved this lofty ambition!  Though unfortunately I was living in quite an earthquake-prone country at the time, so it wasn’t that great.

Do you know much about Physics/Astronomy?

Not a thing!  So I’m very easy to impress in that regard.  I love watching documentaries about Physics, but they always leave me with more questions than answers – which, of course, is no bad thing.  It would be great if I could absorb some knowledge of the universe just by being around so much exciting research, but I’m not sure there’s a thermodynamic system for that.    

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

I really enjoy working in a front-facing role, meeting students, as no two days are ever the same.  I’m also excited to be working with so many staff members in the School who are really passionate about supporting and engaging students.  As my role is a new one there’s lots of scope to creatively respond to the needs of our students – so I’m always happy to hear ideas, from staff and students!

You can reach me on or find me each Monday in Room 515b (Kelvin Building).


First published: 15 September 2021

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