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NASA star joins flight to schools

A DISILLUSIONED NASA scientist is desperate to trade his work studying the planet's oceans for a classroom full of teenagers in an English secondary.

Dr Robin Williams, an expert in climate change at NASA's headquarters in Maryland, United States, is one of the latest recruits to a government scheme to attract mature maths and science graduates to teaching.

The disgruntled researcher said: "I'm not going to the moon or anything with NASA. I just sit in front of a terminal and send e-mails back and forth.

"I got involved in oceanography because I wanted to go and look at the sunset and the whales, but now everybody just sits in front of satellite data. At least in teaching you have human contact."

Armed with degrees in mathematics, a Phd in oceanography, and a masters in meteorology, Dr Williams - originally from England - travelled to America in 1995 after finishing research at the National Remote Sensing Centre in Farnborough.

Even then, he was interested in teaching, taking up a temporary post at the town's Salesian College. But his lack of a postgraduate certificate in education was a major obstacle

Now, he has been offered a way in through MS600, a scheme run by private employment agency Time Plan. It is a way of side-stepping the prohibitive costs of a year of unpaid study, allowing Dr Williams to achieve qualified teaching status through on-the-job training in schools. He is now searching for a school in the West Country to take him on.

According to MS600 project manager Geoff Brown, Dr Williams is one of hundreds of recruits attracted to the profession by the relaxation of the qualification rules.

The project aims to recruit 600 maths and science graduates in one year. Mr Brown said the project was hitting its targets but would not release figures ahead of its half-year report.

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