Mark de Jong

Since graduating in 2008 Mark de Jong has been employed as a Research Technician - at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS). Mark’s work on the Environmental Quality Programme is funded by the Bermudian government and he spends most of his time visiting field stations around the island. While he’s on-site he maintains the scientific instruments that are vital in the monitoring and evaluation of airborne pollutants and collects samples of rainwater, aerosols and particulate matter for analysis in the lab. Mark also contributes field data to the University of Virginia, collecting samples of atmospheric trace metals from the top of a 23-metre tower, “where the views are amazing!” he says.

Mark took A-levels in Geography, Biology and Chemistry and wanted to study environmental science; but he was keen to experience a variety of topics so that he could make an informed decision about his career. The Environmental Science programme gave Mark the wide range and flexibility that he was looking for, in an academic department that’s internationally recognised for the excellence of its environmental research. Mark also took up the Industrial Placement option on his degree and spent a year as an Environmental Engineer for a construction company, where he worked on brownfield land remediation. “My Industrial Placement was one of the best decisions I made about my degree”, he says.

After completing his year in industry, Mark’s interests began to centre on atmospheric science. With advice from teaching staff, he developed a method for sampling dangerous airborne pollutants, using gas chromatography. This research was the basis of his final-year dissertation. “The staff were highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about my project. They were always willing to listen and to provide help and support when I needed it”, says Mark. “It was both challenging and rewarding, and it helped me get this job with BIOS.

“I always felt that all the students were valued as individuals and were made to feel that this was ‘their’ department”, he added. “The staff were enthusiastic about getting student feedback – they always wanted the courses and the School to be the best it could be.”

“Being a student in Leeds was an education in itself – you can find every sort of activity on offer from departmental societies, such as EnviSoc, to the enormous number of clubs and societies that are supported by the Students’ Union. So you can make like-minded friends on your own course, or through the clubs, you join – I was a member of the Scuba-diving Club, which was a great advantage when I got this job in Bermuda!” Most students will also widen the variety of their friends through their residence – where there may be historians, medics, language students etc.

Mark sees the School of Earth and Environment as a powerful force at the centre of environmental research and knows that his degree has given him the tools to forge a satisfying career in his chosen field, including excellent scientific skills, and he’s thankful for the other skills he gained during his degree. “My course, especially the industrial placement, helped me to develop skills like communication, organisation and team working that are essential in the workplace.” Mark’s next move will be back to the UK to do an MSc in Environmental Modelling, and everyone here wishes him every success.