"The Practitioner Doctorate...is allowing me to directly influence industry with my research while gaining the experience of being based in a company and still working towards a doctorate."
I first learned about some of the impacts of current unsustainable practices during my undergraduate studies in geology, and realised that I wanted to be part of the drive to improve the sustainability of our society. I decided that I wanted to do a PhD, but I also wanted to make sure my work could bring about change in industry rather than being a purely academic pursuit – and I was keen to maximise my job prospects for when I finished.
The Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability at Surrey combined these different elements, allowing me to directly influence industry with my research while gaining the experience of being based in a company and still working towards a doctorate.
I’m partnered with Keller Plc, a geotechnical company that designs and installs foundations for buildings and infrastructure projects around the world. My project has evolved to focus on what could drive the adoption of more sustainable practices within the geotechnical engineering sector and then how companies should respond to this drive. Rather than creating a completely new solution, the project is more about ensuring there is better collaboration on sustainability between stakeholders and companies.
"Getting real company perspectives, particularly from larger organisations such as Sony, Royal Mail and Aviva, really gives the course an industry-grounded focus."
My Practitioner Doctorate began with an intensive three month training programme within Surrey’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability. This included seminars, lectures and workshops on an incredibly diverse range of topics – from the underlying philosophy and ethics of sustainability to the specifics of carrying out a product life cycle assessment. One of the best things about the study modules is the range of guest speakers the Centre is able to attract. Getting real company perspectives, particularly from larger organisations such as Sony, Royal Mail and Aviva, really gives the course an industry-grounded focus.
On joining Keller I had a great induction week, visiting a number of its sites and meeting the teams I will be working with. This gave me a better understanding of the realistic challenges and opportunities in the company.
Despite the fact that we now spend most of our time at our respective companies, one of the best things about the Practitioner Doctorate is sharing the course with the rest of my cohort. The relationships and support from the other students really helped me through my initial training and I’m sure we will continue to help each other now that we are settled in our various industries.
While my sustainability research keeps me busy, I also balance it with another passion. I referee fencing internationally and, in 2017, was the youngest qualified international fencing referee in the world. As well as sitting on the British Fencing working group, I’ve recently been selected to represent Great Britain as a referee at the cadet and junior commonwealth games and European competitions in Germany and Italy.
Why not explore our programmes in environment and sustainability, including our Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability PhD/EngD?