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First Day at UWC (Aug 2002)

I completed my PhD in January 2015 and successfully defended it in March 2015. But before I came to Lancaster to do a PhD (in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen) I completed my BSc and MSc at Edinburgh University, an International Baccalaureate diploma at the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) in Singapore and GCSEs at The Grange in Cheshire, UK.

After attending The Grange for schooling between 11 and 16 my family then moved to Singapore for my father's job. In Singapore, I chose to attend UWCSEA and to date that is probably the most life-changing decision I have made so far! The school is extremely multicultural and I think out of the ~320 students who made up my year at that school there were nearly 50 different nationalities. This, twinned with the fact that I was now living in a new country myself, meant that my ability to empathise and interact with people from different backgrounds grew in leaps and bounds with no effort at all. I truly feel that, at least with me, they fulfilled the UWC movement's mission statement:

UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future

BSc GraduationThe International Baccalaureate (IB) was the ideal programme for me and I relished the opportunity to take part in all the extracurricular activities that were on offer; and in many cases required to complete the IB diploma. It was also here at UWCSEA that I was first inspired by biology and the environment and decided it was the right career choice for me. In addition to the academic side of my life in Singapore I loved the people that I met and many of the people I met in 2002 I still keep in touch with and see as regularly as my bank balance will allow! In comparison to many of the geniuses at UWCSEA I attained fairly average grades but they were easily sufficient to get me into my first choice University; Edinburgh.

After a gap year working for Shell and PGL (see work experience) I started a 4-year Environmental Science degree at Edinburgh University in August 2005. I really enjoyed my time at Edinburgh and being mentored by people like Prof. John Grace, who was my Director of Studies, really encouraged me to continue pursuing environmental science as a career. During the final year of the degree a number of dissertation topics were available but I chose to design my own project along with Prof. John Moncrieff. The dissertation studied the transport of CO2 in the planetary boundary layer using back-trajectories to examine how atmospheric CO2 concentrations measured at 2 different meteorological stations varied due to the origin of the emissions.

MSc GraduationImmediately after my dissertation was handed in I started working at Shell with Dr Christian Davies preparing a meta-analysis of published data to evaluate the impact of direct land use change on soil carbon stocks. This work and my BSc dissertation made me keen to continue my studies in Environmental Science and in September 2009 I began an MSc at Edinburgh in Environmental Sustainability. Throughout my MSc I continued working on the meta-analysis I had begun at Shell and this eventually was the basis for my MSc thesis. The final thesis, supervised by Prof. Bob Rees, focussed mainly on land use change in New Zealand and can be found here. All this work increased my interest in sustainable land use management and how land can be used most efficiently with regards to conserving, if not enhancing, soil carbon stocks to help mitigate climate change.

At the end of my MSc I was convinced I did not want to do a PhD but after adopting a clear mindset that I can treat it as a job rather than education I enjoyed it immensely. I feel no job would have been able to force me to develop the wealth of skills that I have after taking my PhD project from cradle-to-grave. And for that I am very glad I made the choice to do a PhD.