Student profile
Katrien Steenmans

Katrien Steenmans

"There have been many opportunities for collaboration during my PhD in different formats and forums – through workshops, conferences, talks, and publications."


"I chose to pursue a PhD in environmental law as it is a critical area of law; there are increasing and complex environmental challenges affecting society that have (and will have) huge environmental, economic and social consequences. To address these problems, knowledge and understanding is required. My aim in pursuing my PhD is to contribute to this knowledge production.

My focus is on one particular environmental problem: waste management. There are currently unsustainable high levels of consumption resulting in the production of vast amounts of waste. One (of the many) strategies required to tackle the current resource and waste crises is that waste should be reconceptualised as a resource. My PhD thesis focuses on some of the regulatory issues in this area.

My main motivation for choosing Surrey was my supervisor’s expertise. Additionally, the academic and support staff in the School of Law were very friendly and welcoming when visiting Surrey for my interview, which made me feel very at home.

I have loved my time at Surrey. I have had a great supervisor, made some great friends, had access to all the amenities I needed, and have been able to present my work to my colleagues for feedback.

My supervisor, Professor Rosalind Malcolm, has been amazing. She has a vast amount of knowledge and expertise in wide-ranging topics, so has been invaluable throughout my PhD. As well as giving me feedback on my doctoral work, she has also supported me in other ways, particularly in terms of professional development. She has, for example, provided guidance on conferences, facilitated networking, and given me opportunities to teach and work on other projects.

The invaluable resources the past few years have been the online resources to which the Library has access, as well as the opportunity to use the British Library and other university libraries across the UK. This has been particularly important, as I do not live very close to the University.

There have been many opportunities for collaboration during my PhD in different formats and forums – through workshops, conferences, talks, and publications. I have co-authored papers with academics both at Surrey and other universities, as well as engaged with both the private and public sector.

I was allowed to teach while at Surrey, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Doing a PhD can at times seem like a very lonely journey, so the ability to teach and engage with students is a good reminder of the purpose of academia. The achievements I am proudest of during my PhD are my doctoral research itself and the teaching I did. Teaching can be very rewarding - some of the students I taught have gone on to do dissertations in environmental law, with some even considering a career in environmental law.

I also learnt a new language, which was a very welcome distraction from my PhD!

Beyond opportunities to share knowledge and develop networks, conferences are also great to visit other places. I have been to cities including Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, as well as Aix-en-Provence in the South of France.

I intend to pursue an academic career. In October I am starting a postdoctoral fellowship at King’s College London within the field of environmental law."

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