What subjects did you study prior to arriving in Durham?
A level: Geography, Environmental Science and English Language. AS level: French and Science for Public Understanding.
Which degree programme did you study at Durham and why?
I studied the BSc in Geography because I was interested in science and understanding landscapes, but the most interesting thing about Geography for me was the interaction between the physical and social worlds in issues such as climate change, tectonic hazards and coastal management. I also really enjoy the outdoors and wanted to undertake a degree that allowed me to explore and spend time outside. In addition, I thought that Geography would allow me to develop a wide range of skills so I could keep my options open for future careers.
What were the highlights of studying at Durham?
Firstly, the fieldwork opportunities were a real high point of the degree. I liked learning more about the local area on day-long field trips, but particularly enjoyed the residential trips to the Lake District and to the Swiss Alps. The chance to explore the beautiful glacial valley of Arolla in Switzerland was a great way to see natural processes at work and learn practically in a place I had never been before, but also an opportunity to get to know fellow-students and staff; the sense of community was fantastic and I still value the friendships I made though those field trips!
Secondly, I really valued being taught by world-leading academics at Durham. Their expertise and passion were invaluable in inspiring my own interests and opening my eyes to the complexity and relevance of Geography, and I particularly enjoyed working more closely with academics during the third year dissertation project.
What was the topic of your third-year dissertation?
My dissertation was a mapping project which used lichens on trees to indicate air pollution patterns around an oil refinery in Cheshire; it also explored the relationship between the spatial pollution patterns and the health of the local populations.
What are you doing now and how did your degree help prepare you?
Having completed my undergraduate degree I was employed in project management and communications work for a start-up company, and subsequently volunteered for an environmental charity, for two years before deciding to undertake a research masters and begin a PhD. I am currently working as a PhD researcher in the Geography department at Durham, focusing on understanding and developing ways of engaging stakeholders in environmental decision making about issues around water pollution and flooding. My degree in Geography helped inspire my interest in the environment and how it is managed, as well as giving me valuable wider skills in critical analysis, how to question the world, data manipulation, writing, GIS and working closely in small groups. These are valuable for undertaking a career in research, but have also allowed me to branch out into other sectors and will continue to be foundational for my personal and professional development.