Tell us a bit about yourself. What are you researching? What School are you based in? What did you study prior to your PhD?
I’m researching the population dynamics of grass snakes and the effects of the emerging infectious disease, ophidiomycosis. This research is based at the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology, within the School of Anthropology and Conservation. Prior to studying at Kent, I completed a BSc in Zoology at Anglia Ruskin University and an MRes in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation at Imperial College London. It’s no secret to anyone that I am absolutely obsessed with amphibians and reptiles.
How do you spend your spare time when you are not studying?
When I’m not working on my PhD, you can find me going for a walk in one of the many green spaces in Kent, reading a book, or enjoying the range of ales at one of the myriad of pubs in Canterbury. I also enjoy writing in my spare time, particularly about nature.
Why did you choose to do a PhD at Kent?
Thankfully, I was lucky enough to already know my main supervisor from previous academic activities, such as conferences. This really helped when it came to settling in, as that academic relationship had already been established. I was keeping a close eye out for any further opportunities to study amphibians and reptiles at the PhD level, when this opportunity came up.
How did you hear about the studentship opportunities?
I was alerted to the opportunity through FindAPhD.com, and after consulting a few friends, decided to apply. The project was right up my street, combining skills that I’d gained through my undergraduate and master’s degrees, applying them to a new topic that I am extremely passionate about.
What are you particularly enjoying about your experience at Kent so far?
The biggest thing for me, has been the opportunities to meet new people whilst completing my PhD. A PhD takes a significant amount of time, which gives you plenty of time to interact with a number of diverse people, be them from within your own department, or at conferences and other events.
What support/opportunities do you receive as a research student from the University and doctoral training partnership?
There have been a number of opportunities from both Kent and ARIES, to complete additional training needed for my PhD journey. ARIES has also helped to fund my attendance and travel to a major international conference (pre-COVID), which I am very thankful for. When it comes to publishing chapters of my thesis, there is also the support in place to pay for the publishing fees.
How does postgraduate study differ from undergraduate study?
The biggest difference is the fact that I can chose when to complete certain tasks. Unlike an undergraduate degree where you have to be in a certain place at a certain time for a lecture, postgraduate study is more flexible. It allows you to work at your own pace and when you want to. I’m not exactly a morning person, so it’s great to be able to start a little later and finish a little later, whilst being surrounded by so many people that are working towards similar things as yourself.
What benefits have you gained from your research community?
Being part of the research community has helped me gain a number of new skills, particularly within the statistical programming language of R. This has also had the added benefit of expanding my knowledge of different ways to analyse and model data, how to compile data ready for such analysis, and how to present the results afterwards. Everyone has this idea that ecological PhDs mean that you’ll spend days in the field. This may be true, but you also need an advanced understanding of how to analyse your data afterwards. Kent has helped me with this.
How will your PhD support your future career aspirations?
My PhD has helped to give me the technical thought and know-how to continue my career in research. The daily change is barely noticeable, but reflecting on progress over longer time scales is quite profound. I’ve discovered a number of new ways to model population data that I was completely unaware of at the beginning of my journey. I’ve also continued to gain skills and confidence in the lab, which I hope will assist me with my chose future career.
What are you planning to do next?
I’m planning on studying a post-doc next, however I’m still yet to decide whether to pursue this in the UK or abroad. With the combined effects of Brexit and the COVID pandemic, the number of opportunities here in the UK are few and far between. As long as I’m able to continue working with amphibians and reptiles, I’ll be happy.
Any advice for those thinking about applying for a PhD studentship at Kent?
The main thing is to make sure that the project is right for you. A PhD is a serious commitment, and it makes sense to ensure that you’re doing something that you love. I’d also advise prospective students to make contact with their potential supervisors, to ask any questions they may have, and to try to get to know them on a more personal level. For finding opportunities in the first place, I’d keep a close eye on the ARIES website, or set up alerts on FindAPhD.com (or a similar platform). Best of luck!