Karen Mullin

Karen Mullin

Why did you decide to study a PhD/ Masters at the University of Leeds?

I completed the School of Geography's Masters course in 2010. After several years working in industry, I was keen to apply my skills in a research environment and to something I felt passionate about. I had such a positive experience previously in Leeds - the staff were very approachable, teaching was of a high quality and I also knew the quality of research was high - that I decided to apply for a fully-funded PhD at the university. I was lucky enough to be successful. 

What has been the best aspect of studying on your course and at the University so far and why?

I am funded through the Leeds-York NERC DTP (a UK Natural Environment Research Council doctoral training partnership). There are roughly 30 students who are part of this DTP every year across several departments in Leeds and also York. The DTP holds numerous events; social, academic and to develop a whole range of skills. This has helped me to meet many other researchers, access training to develop my skills in a friendly environment and I've had the chance to do fun things like caving at the University's centre in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

Can you tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed?

I participated in the FAWKES program - a joint programme between the University of Leeds and UFZ in Leipzig, Germany - in which staff facilitate research by students on Ecosystem Services. We undertook a workshop in the Yorkshire Dales where outdoor team building exercises were combined with brainstorming sessions on current gaps in Ecosystem Service research in Europe, collaborated remotely for several months and then spent a week pulling together our work into a research paper in Leipzig, Germany. It was exciting to work with people from with very different perspectives and skills (such as law students and biologists), to see our original ideas progress into a published research paper, to have findings which are of importance for the application of an EU-wide policy (Water Framework Directive) and to visit another institution.

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

I'm a mature student and live about 15 miles away, and for me being near Leeds is great not just because of everything in the city itself but because there is plenty on its doorstep, including beautiful countryside and other lovely towns and cities. One of my favourite places to visit is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park just south of Leeds. I also love cooking and so going to Kirkgate Market is often top of the list as there is so much choice of food from many different cultures.  

What are your ambitions for the future?

A PhD is really just the start and I want to build upon the skills I've gained and continue to work as a researcher. In particular, I would love to contribute to projects which can help us to manage our natural environment in a way that is sustainable and helps everybody to access the benefits we get from it.  

What experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

I have had the opportunity to be involved in and to be a contributing author on research papers beyond but still relevant to my PhD. This has broadened my knowledge, given me experience in collaboration on projects, expanded my network, helped me to understand the publication process and has improved my research portfolio. 

What would you say to students coming to do the same course?

Take some opportunities early on to get to know other students and staff in the department and beyond so you feel part of a wider community. There's plenty of chance to do so either through research clusters, social events or even demonstrating (assisting with teaching on other courses) and it's much easier doing this when you first start.