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Justin Judge: Studying an Access course and gaining recognition as a leading scientist

News and Features
Justin Judge tells us about his story at Belfast Met, his journey into managing all marine species data in Northern Ireland and gaining confidence while he studied with us.

Current role in the National Museums Northern Ireland
My current role encompasses managing all marine species and habitats data for Northern Ireland, collating this into comprehensive datasets which is then available to the likes of governmental departments to help drive environmental policy and decision making. It is a very important position for the Northern Irish marine environment, natural heritage and economic services and I get a real sense of worth from doing my job. Outside of my day job I am on the Board of Directors for a number of various conservation charities and international associations bringing my skills to these teams to help improve conservation efforts from domestic and international perspectives. These collaborations not only help me grow by expanding my knowledge, but let me reach outside the parameters of Northern Ireland to see what I can bring back to help implement greater protection for our marine environment. I also have a heavy background in marine mammal (whales, dolphins, seals) surveys and have spent many months on ships in the North Atlantic and beyond. All of these roles integrate to help me continuously grow and learn as a professional in my field, which is what I strive for.

Studying an Access course at Belfast Met
I was above the average age for when I began my Access course at Belfast Met, and this was largely due to me waiting to be absolutely sure the career path I was going to follow was the one I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I have friends who went straight into university after school without giving much thought to the long-term in their interests and ended up unhappy with their choices. I didn't want this to happen to me. After school I took some time away from studying and worked various jobs, trying things out to see what "fitted best". It was with one job working in a laboratory where I realised my underlying and existing interest for science was more than just an interest, it was a desire to learn more and thus from there I knew I would be happy pursuing a career in this field. I also always enjoyed learning about animals and the natural environment, so merging the two disciplines where I could work towards protecting and conserving species was a no-brainer. This is when I began looking into where I could begin my career path and found that the Belfast Met Access course was the perfect first step.

Belfast Met support
Without sounding too dramatic, my whole life opened up once I achieved my Access Certificate. I had a feeling of being a little lost before I started the course, not sure how the future was going to be. Once I passed the course and knew I secured a place at university, however, it gave me a great boost in confidence and a sense of direction that I didn't have before.


Biggest achievement 
It is hard to pick one as I have been lucky enough to experience so many great things during my career. I would say however my biggest career-related achievement, which would not have been possible without completing the Access Course, is finishing my PhD at the end of 2020 and gaining recognition as a leading scientist. This was one of the ultimate goals of my career to place myself directly at the forefront of my field, and the feeling of achieving a PhD is beyond what I ever could have expected before I started at Belfast Met.


My advice to students
It is never too late to start pursuing your goals. Everything starts with a first step, and the Access Course at Belfast Met is a great platform to help you with that. Knowing what you want to do and knowing how to get there are two fundamentally different things. Studying at Belfast Met helps put these factors together.

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