Jessica Baker | School of Geography | University of Leeds

Jessica Baker

Funding: The National Environmental Research Council (NERC)

Supervisors: Professor Emmanuel Gloor, Dr Roel Brienen

Why did you decide to study for a PhD, and why Leeds?

I didn’t have any firm career goals when I decided I wanted to study for a PhD, but I did had a keen interest in environmental research and understanding the impacts of climate change. I knew I wanted to find a project that I felt passionately about, with a combination of field and lab work. I chose Leeds predominantly because of the internationally excellent Ecology and Global Change research group based in the School of Geography. A great range of PhD projects were on offer, tackling exciting and important problems facing the world today. When I visited the department it was great to meet so many other PhD students and it seemed like a stimulating environment to pursue research.

What is your experience of PhD study in the School and what skills have you learnt?

I find the School a fantastic place to study and have enjoyed my time so far immensely. My supervision has been excellent, with the right balance between structured guidance and independent learning. My research group meets once a week, providing an opportunity for students and staff to present work, discuss papers and challenge one another in a supportive environment. This close integration between students and academics creates a great atmosphere to generate ideas and further our research. The community of PhD students is friendly, and people are always willing to help one another out.

Since I started there have also been endless opportunities for personal development. I have been on language courses, attended statistics workshops and been introduced to coding. I travelled to Brazil and Ecuador for fieldwork and presented at an international conference. Through these experiences, I have acquired a range of transferable skills that will be extremely valuable once I have completed my PhD.

What are your career aspirations?

I really enjoy the process of knowledge discovery and finding out new things about the world, so a career as a researcher appeals to me greatly. I have not yet decided whether I would like to remain in a university environment and follow the route to academia or to work in a different kind of organisation. Alternatively, I may decide to apply the skills I have learnt in a new field entirely. Whichever I choose, I know that having a PhD will significantly improve my job prospects and enable me to pursue a career in the direction of my choice. When the time comes, I will visit the University Careers Centre to take advantage of their advice and support. 

What would you say to someone who may be considering studying a PhD in the School of Geography?

Go for it! Since I began my PhD in October 2013 I haven’t looked back. I have had so many incredible experiences, travelled to remote parts of the world, met a wealth of interesting people and been part of a thriving academic community. Studying for a PhD is undoubtedly hard work, but it can also be exhilarating, and the School of Geography is an ideal place to study and learn in a fantastic, nurturing environment.