Tell us a bit about yourself – what stage of your PhD are you in and what’s your project about?I’m very nearly done! My Viva is at the end of February so it’s all hands to the pump making sure everything I can do to get ready for it is done. I’m nervous but will be glad to hit that milestone once it’s finished! My project was about finding bacteria living inside coastal plants that can help other plants grow in salt contaminated soils, and also characterising the bacteria in other ways.
What does a typical day or week look like for you?There hasn’t really been atypical day or week for the whole project, apart from in the final stretch with the writing when a typical day was eat sleep write repeat. It’s been a really varied and interesting project, some days I’d be in the microbiology lab, other days I’d be out in the greenhouse doing plant experiments or in the office or in biochem labs, it was very multidisciplinary and was always really interesting!
What’s one thing that you’ve enjoyed the most during your PhD?I love being in the lab, it’s my happy place. Whether I’m trying out a new experiment, making hundreds of agar plates or just having a look to see what’s happening with my bacteria in the incubators, time in the lab was always my favourite part. Also, getting out and talking about science! I got to do quite a few different outreach events throughout my PhD and they were really fun to take part in.
What’s been the most challenging part of it?Days when experiments go wrong, or you realise a mistake you’ve made that means you have to repeat things or rethink things, or when it all feels like it’s falling apart a bit. It’s easy to feel like everyone around you is having a perfect time and you’re having things go wrong, but really everyone has good and bad days and it’s important to remember that! Impostor syndrome is real and can really get its claws into you at times.
Where do you see yourself 5 years after completing your PhD?I love science, doing it and talking about it, so I’d definitely hope to still be involved in research. Whether that’s in the lab, or in some other capacity such as in science communication, I don’t know. I’d love to be able to make science documentaries, I think that would be really fun and rewarding! Being David Attenborough for Bacteria is the secret dream, but if I can’t reach that I’d love to be still getting stuck in in the lab doing hands-on research.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer students that are thinking of doing a PhD?Pick a project that in four years’ time you’ll still be interested by! It’s going to be a lot of hard work, and there will be times when it’s a real challenge to get through, but if you have a project that you love and that keeps your interest then it’ll be a lot easier. And remember why you love it, for any times when you may start to lose sight of that!
What makes your university a good place to study?The sea! Aberystwyth is in a gorgeous place, on the Welsh coast. There’s the beach, mountains, beautiful forests and nature reserves all around. Taking a break from writing by going rockpooling for an hour or so really helped me when I was in my final year. The university itself is great too, with the whole place having a very warm easygoing atmosphere. Awesome places to work like the National Library of Wales, the Harry-Potter-esque Old College on the seafront or the various study centres help keep things fresh too.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?I love getting out into nature! I’m always happy wandering round in the woods or on the beach looking into rockpools. There’s always something interesting and cool to see, and being out in the wild really helps reset my head when I’m stressed out or burnt out. Indoors I like watching movies and playing games with friends, I always love a board game evening!
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