My advice to anyone thinking of undertaking a PhD at Loughborough is to just put yourself out of your comfort zone and go for it! Nobody can imagine themselves doing a PhD until they are actually doing one. Talk to people that are already doing one, or lecturers that specialise in something similar to what you are interested in. You will have to put yourself out of your comfort zone, but that is definitely the best way for personal and professional growth.
After finishing my A Levels, I joined the ambulance service which really sparked my interest in the human body, so I decided to study an undergraduate degree in Human Biology at Loughborough University.
My final year undergraduate dissertation was researching the sedentary behaviour of ambulance workers; the results were quite shocking. This was my first bit of independent research and I loved it, so I knew I wanted to carry on down that path.
I applied to the Colt Foundation, a charity which funds research projects in the field of occupational and environmental health, particularly those aimed at discovering the cause of illnesses arising from conditions in the workplace. It included a detailed research proposal, followed by an interview. They cover all the student fees, a yearly stipend of £15,000, and costs towards your research expenses.
I am now part of a larger team which is conducting a twelve-month health intervention on a large cohort of lorry drivers around the UK, where I have been conducting a process evaluation of the intervention, and analysing the drivers’ stress reactivity levels. I also initially carried out a systematic literature review to understand the global health status of lorry drivers.
The best thing is that the health intervention is transforming lives. I met with a lorry driver recently that, because of our study, had lost 35 kilos and reversed his diabetes. Moments like that make it feel invaluable.
The PhD is opening doors that I didn't even know existed; in my first few months I attended an international health conference in Prague and was in awe about all the research going on in the world. Since then I have presented my own research at two other conferences and won awards at both.
Of course, a PhD can be stressful and demanding at times, but overall, the lifestyle of being a PhD student suits me very well. Loughborough University is world-renowned for being a research-led university; to be a part of that culture was really important to me. The facilities are excellent, and your supervisors are always there to guide and support you, but you quickly become independent and manage your own deadlines. Best of all, when you have a burning interest in an area, you can pursue it.
In the future I would ideally like to stay in academia and either become a research associate or explore the avenue of lecturing. As a PhD student at Loughborough University, you can teach undergraduates in practical lab classes, which I have really enjoyed doing. I would like to gain the qualification of Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and pursue a career in lecturing alongside research.