Ben Gillespie

Ben Gillespie

Supervisors: Dr Paul Kay, Dr Lee Brown
Funding: Yorkshire Water

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

On a personal level, I had a nagging desire to learn more and also liked the idea of contributing to science. Leeds was a great choice for me as it is a highly respected university. This both helps when it comes to post-PhD opportunities and also ensures you'll be working with some of the best researchers in the UK.

My passion for the environment and rivers, in particular, is something that has always been there; I just think there's a deep, intrinsic connection between humans and their environment. For me, this drove a desire to learn as much about river ecosystems as possible.

What was your experience of PhD study in the School and the skills you learnt?

Being a PhD student at Leeds allows you to be free; free to think for yourself, free to manage your own time, free to be who you want and, most of all, free to succeed. Sometimes this can be overwhelming, but you always have the support of your supervisors if required. This combination, for me, resulted in the most rewarding experience of my life.

The facilities in the School and University are good, but it's the support staff that deserve credit for always doing their utmost to aid you wherever possible. They are 'doers' rather than 'sayers', and this is both inspiring and pragmatically beneficial.

The School of Geography was a very welcoming and friendly environment to be a part of. Being a student at a university means there are endless social/ extra-curricular activities you can involve yourself with. As a member of the School of Geography, you can get involved as much or as little as you like; there's no pressure either way.

What is your current employment situation and long term career aspirations?

I am now a Senior Environmental Consultant at an environmental consultancy called Cascade Consulting. I met the Managing Director of this consultancy through my PhD and on completion, he offered me the job. I now use many of the skills learnt during my PhD to carry out hydrological and ecological assessments.

Career-wise, a PhD has helped me in two key ways. First, it's a sign or mark of quality that employers are always looking for. Second, the experience of doing a PhD has changed the way my brain works – I am now more technically skilled, confident, observant, sceptical, organised and diligent; all of these characteristics appeal to most employers. My long-term career goal is to continue to learn and be challenged and to work with the best in my field. For me, this will result in a fulfilling career and happy life!

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

If you're the kind of person who has a desire to learn and likes the idea of intellectual freedom, then it's likely that a PhD at the School of Geography is for you. Go for it.