Student case studies
An environmental science PhD can open doors into a wide variety of different careers, in academia, industry, business and the public sector.
Our PhD students are highly valued by employers - not just for their knowledge of their own specialist field, but also for highly transferable skills like numerical analysis and computer modelling, as well as the ability to work independently, solve problems and critically assess evidence.
The case studies below feature NERC-funded PhD students who are now applying their skills and experience in many different ways, from helping to ensure that we have clean water supplies in the future to advising the government on climate change policy.
Tracy's NERC-funded PhD was on a group of marine microfossils called planktonic foraminifera, which ultimately led to a number of well-cited publications, including the production of an important family tree. This led her onto a highly successful career - she is currently lecturer of marine micropalaeontology at the University of Leeds.
Gavin's NERC funded PhD studying parasitoid wasps confirmed his wish to become to be a taxonomist and enabled him to secure the role of senior curator of Hymenoptera at the Natural History Museum. His work covers managing the museum's collection of wasps, which includes 75,000 described species, and many more specimens not yet identified.
James' NERC funded PhD on plant competition revealed to him the awesome complexity of nature and as a senior conservation ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, he is able to use the skills he gained to make sense of complex issues using objective, evidence-based analysis. His work covers habitat restoration, control of invasive species, ecological farming and valuing nature.
Jill's NERC funded PhD to work on methods of improving water quality and reducing flood risk instilled in her "the confidence to stand up in a room full of experts and assert your opinion." Now, as post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, she works as a hydro-ecologist working on water quality, climate-change adaptation and flood-risk assessment in the UK, Alaska and Canada.
Mike's NERC funded PhD in physical oceanography had a direct impact on his career, leading to his current role as director at the engineering and environmental hydraulics company, HR Wallingford. Mike applies the skills learnt during his PhD to a variety of high profile environmental engineering projects; including tidal power, Thames Estuary flood defence, the Felixstowe container terminal, new habit creation, and dredging.
Lyndsey's NERC funded PhD reinforced her desire to make a difference and led her to apply for a NERC-funded fellowship, working at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), writing a briefing for ministers on deep sea industries.
Now, as a WWF project manager for the Celtic Seas Partnership, she works on making marine activities in the Celtic Sea more sustainable.
Katie's NERC funded PhD carried out at the University of Liverpool, in partnership with Chester Zoo, provided invaluable research into captive black rhino fertility. Her work has helped produce many offspring at the zoo.
Dan's NERC-funded PhD in geophysics gave him a taste for software development that has led him to a job in an industry he cares about: renewable energy. He currently works for DNV GL (formerly GL Garrad Hassan), a renewable energy consultancy, where he is in charge of developing the wind farm design software package WindFarmer, which his company sells.
Charles's NERC-funded PhD in political ecology was started when most people start thinking about retirement. He used this opportunity to travel to Vietnam for his research, which led to significant influence on Vietnamese agricultural policy.
Lera's NERC-funded PhD on the impact of climate change in tropical forests led to authorship on a paper in Nature that has been cited more than 1,700 times, and a job offer from her examiner. She now leads work on the forest carbon payment initiative REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) at the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, helping to ensure that this delivers not only carbon savings but also benefits for wildlife and local people.
Nicola's NERC-funded PhD in atmospheric physics and her subsequent Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) fellowship launched her on a highly successful career as a government scientific advisor on climate change. She is currently working as Scientific advisor for the Department for International Development (DFID).
Emma's NERC-funded PhD studying the evolution of caecilians' skulls, gained through a CASE studentship has directly lead to her becoming an expert in X-ray CT scanning as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University, a rare skill that has enabled her to pursue research in an area that fascinates her.
Duncan's NERC-funded PhD provided him with the expertise to join the Defence, Science & Technology Laboratory, combining his scientific and military skills. His career shows that a PhD can develop skills and techniques that are invaluable to prospective employers.
Kirsty's NERC-funded PhD in seismology has enabled her to build a successful career in the insurance industry, estimating the risk of earthquakes in different parts of the world. She currently works as earthquake risk scientist at Aspen Re. where her job is to understand the science behind the risk of earthquakes in different parts of the world and to communicate this to her colleagues.
Charles's NERC funded PhD in glaciology, lead to his career as a senior lecturer at the University of St Andrews and has enabled him to pursue his twin interests in glaciology and environmental management, as well as allowing him to impact significantly on government policy on renewable energy, conservation and land use.
Richard's NERC-funded PhD 'Effect of bedslope on desert sand transport' laid the foundations for a successful career leading applied sediment transport research projects for the civil engineering industry. He is an award winning scientist and an internationally recognised expert in his field, tackling problems related to the way sediments move in marine environments, estuaries and rivers.