James Bell

James Bell

Supervisors: Dr Clare Woulds, Professor Lee Brown
External supervisor: Dr Adrian Glover (Natural History Museum)

  • NERC Quota studentship (3.5 yrs FT)
  • Travel bursary to New Zealand
  • Equipment bursary to purchase OpenROV
  • Prize money for winning I’m a Scientist: Get me out of here
  • NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility grant.

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

For me, choosing to do a PhD was a pretty natural step. I’ve always been greatly interested in marine biology, particularly in the deep-sea and my decision to do a PhD follows on from that. I found during my Masters project that I really enjoyed the challenges and rewards offered by scientific research in something that you find stimulating. I chose Leeds in part for the chance to work in a new environment and with different people.

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

My experience of PhD study is that it affords you a great deal of freedom to pursue aspects about your chosen research that interest you. Over and above my own project, I have also got involved in other research projects including research cruises (joining a deep-sea mining environmental impact research cruise in April) and building a remotely operated vehicle (http://www.openrov.com/products/2-7.html) for marine research. The highlights of this kind of work are the opportunities for travel (for fieldwork or conferences) and the intellectual rewards you get from being on the frontier of research. It’s challenging work but then again, it should be.

I’ve found the school to be a friendly place to work and there are good opportunities for collaboration and hearing about other projects if you are interested. Academic support from the university and my supervisors is good and for me it works best to be allowed to work with my supervisors rather than for them (you’ll have the chance to form your own working relationships to suit you).

What are your career aspirations?

I hope to continue in research in some way after I get my PhD, either academically or in environmental consultancy. To do this I will be aiming to develop a suite of personal skills (e.g. academic writing and analytic techniques) but also a network of researchers with whom I could collaborate with in the future. Once you get to the kind of specialism a PhD requires, you’ll quickly get to know the people who work on similar things.

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

A PhD is a great thing to do if you are a self-motivated and hard-working person: it’s exciting; stimulating and gives lots of great opportunities, but it’s not for everyone – you should make sure you’ll work well in an environment where your time management is mainly your own responsibility and you shouldn’t think of it as a golden ticket to a job at the end.