Doan Nainggolan

Doan Nainggolan

Why did you choose Leeds for your PhD study and what do you like about the School of Earth and Environment and the University?

In general, Leeds is a city of a good size; it has a lot to offer to meet a variety of interests but not to the point where it makes you feel overwhelmed. Beautiful countryside is only a short journey either by bus or train. Academically, my PhD study in Leeds gives me the opportunity to undertake a challenging but interesting research that contributes to a larger project of international calibre. What I like about the school is the fact that people are very helpful and both the academic and social lives are thriving. Location wise the university is very central which makes it easy to get within and into. This also means that I can have access to the different departments and allow me to talk to experts from a wide range of research centres across the university which comes very useful for my interdisciplinary PhD study. The Student Union is very active and students can get involved in a variety of activities through clubs or societies that suit their tastes.             

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Global environmental change (e.g. land use, climate) is real and it is likely to escalate in the long run. Insights from interdisciplinary studies that integrate both human dimensions and biophysical aspects are crucial for informing the society in general and policy making in particular (at various levels) in a course of intervening present situation and realising a sustainable future. Learning and using tools for developing and evaluating coupled human-environment models constantly captivates my intellectual adventure but even more important is the significant contributions that they make for policy devising. This is what continuously inspires me to get going with the kind of research I am currently involved. 

How would you describe the experience of being a PhD student (include highlights and challenges)?

The fun bits: engagement in formal and informal academic discussions; opportunities to travel within and outside the UK for fieldwork, summer school, workshop and conferences; teaching/demonstrating experience; and the social events of course (badminton, potluck lunch, Friday drinks/meal, etc.).

The tough bits: Having to acquire skills in using different modelling tools (GIS, discrete choice, ABM); Hours/days of isolation in your “cave” when having to meet deadlines for publication/conferences; Self motivation, self discipline, and self organisation, etc. because at the end the day it is your very own PhD!  

What are the academic facilities for students like?

I must say the facilities are very good – from provision of working space and computer, library, computing support system, skills training, to professional and institutional networking, etc. 

What kind of support do you get from your supervisor?

Well I have three supervisors to start with and each of them contributes to the supervision in their own unique ways which combined together benefit my PhD study very much. I really like the fact that they treat me as a research colleague. I used to see them much more than the once-a-month quota and they were always available. Now that they are moving to different parts of the globe the supervision is still maintained although mainly via emails and Skype. That said, I get to see them in person every now and again when they come out to Leeds. More on the positive side, with the new arrangement, I will, fortunately, have chances to visit the institutes/universities where they now sit.  

Tell us about your career plans.

I definitely would like to embark on university teaching and research kind of profession aiming to produce research outputs that will have global impacts. As far as choice of place is concerned, I wouldn’t limit my options as such; I’d keep my eyes open!