The Sele School

Alumni of the 2000's

Alex Pugsley (2005), Dr Emma Liu (2007), Claudia Ferlisi (2007) and Michael Adams (2007) 

Alex Pugsley, Executive Assistant for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer - left The Sele School in 2005

I left Sele in 2005 after staying on for sixth form. With no idea of what I wanted to do, I decided against university, and headed out to the world of work. Starting locally in various HR admin and recruitment roles, I then moved into London and started working in resourcing for a large professional services firm called PwC for a number of years.                                                                                                                                                  

In 2014, I was lucky enough to be given a six-month career break from PwC, which I decided to use to go travelling on my own around Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and South East Asia, which was amazing.




 Nowadays, I live in London with my boyfriend and work as an Executive Assistant for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, a worldwide magic circle law firm, supporting a Partner who is the head of the department. It’s a busy and very rewarding role. I still love to travel, and last year went on a road trip in the USA which included New Orleans, Las Vegas and LA.

During my days at Sele, I was lucky enough to have the best group of friends. Since leaving in 2005, and despite the fact that the four of us have all chosen different paths in life and now live far apart from one another (one even in Ireland), we are still the best of friends and get to meet up regularly which I’m so thankful for.

Dr. Emma Liu, Volcanologist - left The Sele School in 2007

I look back fondly on the years I spent at The Sele School (2001–2007) and realise just how much those years really shaped me both personally and professionally. Almost 15 years after I left Sele, I am now a fully-fledged volcanologist working on some of the world’s most active volcanoes. My research focuses on understanding how, why, and when volcanoes might erupt – and when they do, being prepared to mitigate the impacts on society and the environment. I also teach; as a Lecturer in Earth Sciences at University College London I have the opportunity to train the next generation of earth scientists to tackle some of the urgent environmental issues facing our planet.

Research expedition to the South Sandwich Islands near Antarctica - the boat was our home for six weeks

This journey to becoming a volcanologist began with an intense curiosity for geology (ie. the study of rocks to understand Earth’s history). Unfortunately this was not a subject commonly offered at high school level, so I channelled all my efforts into Geography and Chemistry/Physics. I went on to study Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford in 2008, which introduced me to how geology, climate, natural hazards, oceans and atmospheres interact in holistic way. I had my sights set on volcanology very early on, and by the time I specialised in the 4th year of my undergraduate degree, I was researching the gas emissions from one of the most hazardous volcanoes of the time: Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat. Through much lobbying, I secured a placement to work at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory for three months. These three months were transformational; I was able to take part in the day to day monitoring of the volcano, learning how to measure gas emissions, detect ground deformation, and interpret seismic signals. I even got to fly in a helicopter for the first time – although for anyone who knows my fear of flying, this was a mixed blessing! 


Sampling gas emissions at Pacaya volcano, Guatemala. The gas mask protects us from breathing in potentially toxic gases. 


After graduating, I moved to the University of Bristol to study for a PhD in Volcanology. For four years, I worked on improving our understanding of volcanic ash: how it’s generated and how it is transported in the atmosphere. This was in the years following the disruptive Icelandic eruption of Eyjafjalljokull, which alerted the scientific and aviation communities to the hazard posed by volcanic ash and stimulated much of my research. I spent a lot of time in a darkened room with a scanning electron microscope, looking at tiny ash particles smaller than the tip of a needle. But I also got to see the world. During my PhD, I visited volcanoes in Guatemala, Japan, Italy and Iceland and had the opportunity to work with some truly inspiring scientists in my field.


Standing on the crater rim of Etna volcano, Sicily






Fast forward several more years, and I now have a permanent academic position at UCL. I’ve found a unique research niche working at the intersection of earth sciences and engineering, developing new drone technology for remote sampling of volcanic gases. Drones are now enabling scientists to collect data from directly within the gas cloud from an erupting volcano – something that would have been unimaginable several years ago! My most recent project is called ABOVE (Aerial-based Observations of Volcanic Emissions), an international project developing drone-based strategies for volcano research and monitoring. We were based in Papua New Guinea, at a fascinating volcano called Manam, which is one of the strongest gas sources in the world, as detected by satellite, yet we lack any ground-based measurements; several thousand people in local communities are at risk. We produced a video documentary on this incredible expedition, showing the trials as well as successes of working in the field is such challenging environments.

Drone view of Manam Volcano, Papua New Guinea from 3000 metres altitude

If you are interested to find out more, you can find the full documentary here ( or a short two minute trailer here (

I am inspired in my job on a daily basis - no two days are ever the same! It combines my love of travel and exploration, with my deep desire to understand how the natural world works. By interacting with volcano observatories around the world to advance volcano monitoring, I also get to make an impactful contribution to people’s lives. The support I received during my time at The Sele School kept me moving forward on a path that seemed so out of reach all those years ago - the start of an incredible journey. 

Claudia Ferlisi - left The Sele School in 2007

At Sele I started to understand my own strengths – I’m a writer and an arts enthusiast by nature. At the time I didn’t fully understand how these interests could translate into a career, but I went on to study English and Art History at the University of Nottingham and find my way from there.

After some part time work at the University’s Arts Centre, I was accepted to do an arts internship, learning how to market gallery exhibitions and theatre productions. The internship paved the way to my next job as Communications Officer with a small theatre company. The bread and butter of our company was bringing theatre to rural communities who may not otherwise have access to the arts. It was here that I really understood that my job satisfaction comes from knowing my work makes a difference in the community.

It may seem like quite a jump, but I went from the theatre company to the web content team at Hertfordshire County Council. I’d enjoyed maintaining the website for the theatre company, so I followed this interest and used it to serve Hertfordshire residents. After 2 years of honing the trade, including user research, data analysis, content writing and web design, I am now the Content Lead for Hertfordshire County Council’s special educational needs and disabilities website, the Local Offer.

The great thing about website work is that there are parts of the job which suit any type of mind – whether you are artistic, or driven by numbers and data. I get stuck into the writing and design; other members of my team analyse the data and performance of the site. The best thing is that we all get to work with Hertfordshire families, speaking to them nearly every day to create digital services just for them. 

Michael Adams - left The Sele School in 2007

After leaving The Sele School in 2007 I went to Writtle Agricultural College, Essex to complete my BSc Hons degree in Conservation Management.

On completing my degree, I started work in the Wildlife, Forestry and Environment department on Woodhall Estate where I have been for 10 years.

My role at Woodhall is to carry out practical countryside management tasks that contribute to the upkeep of the whole estate; spanning forestry; farming and events enterprises, with a focus on delivering dynamic conservation within our woodlands, agri-environmental and recreational areas.

In an age where there has never been more pressure on our environment and its wildlife, it is a great challenge to balance the commercial forestry, farming and recreational uses of our land as well as serving the wildlife within it by carrying out varying conservation tasks.

Just a few of my tasks include: collecting tree seeds to grow to saplings to then planting to create new woodlands and habitats; constant monitoring, surveying and the control of certain species to allow a greater diversity of wildlife on the estate and now also allowing areas to ‘re-wild’ and minimising the impact people have on these areas is vital so nature can thrive.

I am very proud of the work I do and the professional start The Sele School gave me as a young adult.