Dr Laura Carter sparks discussions on contaminants, regulations and caring responsibilities

After a successful research trip to Australia, where she connected with experts and practitioners in water contamination, Dr Carter explores the difficulties of parenting while travelling for work.

Dr Laura Carter is an Associate Professor in Soil and Environmental Chemistry and a UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellow (UKRI FLF). 

She recently undertook a six-week research trip to Australia, supported by a fellowship with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). 

An unbelievable opportunity

There, she engaged with environmental regulators, water industry representatives, and academics to understand wastewater contaminants and their effects. 

She delivered seminars and held discussions about how to improve wastewater treatment and regulate the reuse of wastewater effluent and biosolids, with the aim of limiting the release of contaminants into our environment.

Dr Carter at CSIRO


Alongside CSIRO, Laura began an experimental study that explores the effects of climate change on the uptake of contaminants in agricultural systems. 

“This has been an unbelievable opportunity to connect with the water industry, regulators and academics in Australia to explore how our work on emerging contaminants can contribute to safe wastewater reuse,” she said.

Balancing career and caring responsibilities

Since her return, Laura has published an article with two other researchers and parents, Dr Laura Wolz (University of Manchester) and Dr Laura Pallett (University College London). 

It explores the difficulties these three and many of their colleagues face to balance their career with caring responsibilities. 

Travel is essential to research career development, offering opportunities to share research, collaborate, attend and deliver conferences, workshops and more. However, caring costs are not likely to be covered by funding or expenses.

Dr Carter's children at the airport


This results in “inequitable hurdles” for carers, they write. These include physical and mental workload and the financial hurdles of caring for children and dependents. 

The article, “Researcher parents are paying a high price for conference travel — here’s how to fix it,” is published in Nature Careers. 

A truly global challenge

The three researchers have now gained UKRI FLF funding to investigate the problem. They will create recommendations for funders and institutions to support researchers with caring responsibilities.

Dr Carter said: “I really am blown away by the engagement we have received, balancing caring responsibilities and travel is such an important issue and a truly global challenge faced by many academics.”