Isabella McNamara-Catalano

Isabella, also known as Izzy, was born in Tranmere on the Wirral and is half English, half Italian. With both parents in the navy, she spent the first 16 years of her life in different cities and towns of Italy before moving to Maryland, USA in 2012. Izzy returned to Merseyside in 2015 after applying to study criminal justice at the University of Chester and was the first in her family to attend university.

Following completion of her undergraduate degree, Izzy began applying for jobs in her field of study but found the job market difficult.

“It was hard applying for related jobs and opportunities, mainly because I lacked any UK references, having lived in Italy and the USA for so long and only being back in the UK for a short period of time. This was also exacerbated in 2020 by the onset of the pandemic.”

Izzy then began working with nurseries and primary schools during the COVID-19 outbreak and was faced with many new and different challenges, including caring for anxious children, wearing a mask daily and following strict rules on bubbles.

She believes that caring for and entertaining the children brought out her own inner child and made her reflect and think about her own next steps. It was then that she applied for the MSc in Forensic Anthropology postgraduate course at LJMU.

“It was daunting at first, having previously studied criminal justice, I had no osteological background. The two are distinct fields but they can be complementary in the context of forensic investigations. Forensic anthropology focuses on the analysis of human skeletal remains. To transition to forensic anthropology at master’s level, it’s ideal to have a foundational knowledge in anthropology, human anatomy, and related subjects, which I did not have. However, the quality of the course and the support from my lecturers was invaluable. Some academics leading the programme happen to be Italian, therefore having the opportunity to converse in my first language, with Italian professors after a nine-year hiatus from the Italian school system, brought a sense of comfort to what was a brand-new subject.”

Izzy committed to many long study sessions, in both the library and in the labs, to learn about the different bones and features, methods for determining sex, age, and ancestry and was ecstatic when she received 86% on her first skeletal report, just three months into the programme.

“I have never stayed somewhere as long as Liverpool. I used to move every two to four years growing up. For me, the key to my future lies in discovering a path that not only aligns with my studies or past experiences but also brings me happiness, curiosity, stability, and a sense of safety.”

– Izzy on what she plans to do in the future

During her MSc, Izzy juggled her studies with working for Unitemps, LJMU’s part-time job agency. Her first ever role was as an international student ambassador, helping international students before they arrive and during their studies.

She then went on to work as a research assistant for the Public Health Institute, with the Student Advice and Wellbeing team as a customer adviser, then alongside the Admissions team helping with health course enquires, and finally another research assistant post for Liverpool Centre of Advanced Policing.

During her various temporary roles, Izzy found that she really enjoyed writing, interviewing and researching, so much so that when a 12-month graduate internship position came up in the Corporate Communications team, to help with Bicentenary projects and student communications, Izzy applied.

“Two days after my postgraduate graduation, I joined the Corporate Communications team as a graduate intern and have been involved in different projects including assisting at graduations, writing news stories and articles - including many of these Bicentenary profiles you are reading - and creating social media content to help engage and support students.”

On why she decided to stay at LJMU and what’s next, Izzy says: “LJMU feels like a very inclusive and accepting university with plenty of opportunities to get involved if you put yourself out there.

“I'm currently juggling my internship alongside studying for a Certificate of Higher Education in Archaeology at the University of Oxford. When my internship ends, I’m not sure whether I will step into roles connected to my studies, or if I will continue working in student-based settings.

“I also need to decide whether to remain in Liverpool or the UK in general. I have never stayed somewhere as long as Liverpool. I used to move every two to four years. For me, the key lies in discovering a path that not only aligns with my studies or past experiences but also brings me happiness, curiosity, stability, and a sense of safety. I believe that as long as I find something that fulfils these criteria, I have already achieved success. These preferences may evolve over time, depending on the person I become and the changes I undergo throughout my life, and I know I'm not afraid to try.”