Jeni spragg

Jennifer Spragg

Why did you choose to undertake a PhD at the University of Leeds?

It was a combination of two things: the university offered exactly the course I wanted to do, focussing on interdisciplinary energy research in great new facilities. I also knew it was a really good city to live in. Having completed my undergraduate in quite a small city, I was excited to move to a bigger place with all the variety and individuality of Leeds.

Tell us about your research

I am part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Bioenergy, which means I have started with an MSc. This includes interdisciplinary research projects and some taught modules which will help us to become more well-rounded researchers with an awareness of the wider context. This summer, I’ll start my PhD research on a new way of producing hydrogen from biomass which potentially has lots of benefits, including process flexibility, carbon emissions reductions and the potential for carbon capture. As well as some experimental work, I’ll do some modelling to help us really understand the process as a whole. 

What is your favourite part of doing your research at Leeds?

The academics in the department do some really interesting, world-class research. It is great to be able to learn from people who are leaders in their field. Being part of their research helps keep me enthusiastic about the work I do, as I feel like I am part of something special.

What activities do you take part in outside of your research studies? 

I tried out some of the Students’ Union societies when I first moved here, and more recently, I’ve been making use of the great gym facilities on campus. I’m conscious that I don’t want to live my entire life on campus, so I have been enjoying the opportunities available in the city and have been taking tap dance classes!

I take part in outreach activities, some of them through the CDT and some outside of the university. I love the chance to talk to non-specialists, ranging from tiny kids to teachers and grandparents. Some of these focus on the importance of taking action on climate change, while some help young people to understand the range of engineering careers on offer. As well as being a great chance to practice communicating the key parts of my research, it always helps put some perspective on things and reminds me of the bigger picture. 

What are your ambitions for the future?

I hope to go into industry or consultancy, making use of the useful process engineering expertise and transferable skills I’ll gain from doing research. I hope that I can use them to play a small part in helping our industrial systems to transition to a low carbon future. I am aiming to get chartered with the Institute for Chemical Engineers, and to continue helping with outreach and scientific communication.

Do you have any advice to anyone considering coming to Leeds?

Spend some time on campus, and some time in the city, and imagine yourself here. If it’s right for you, Leeds can give you the whole postgraduate package – a great education and a life inside and outside the university. 

What experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

I’m confident that the knowledge gained in the fields of decision research and risk perception as well as getting faster acquainted with new technologies will be advantageous in my professional career. Nonetheless, in the long term, the global friendships are what makes the difference.

What would you say to students coming to do the same course?

Make the most of your time at Leeds. Which is easy, as there will be more opportunities than you can grasp. Explore University life outside of your faculty as well. Global Community and LUU are just two examples which can help you to broaden your circle of friends around the world and help you to get the breaks you need after a work-filled day.
If you’re unsure when choosing your optional modules don’t hesitate to get some advice from the respective Professor. In the case of doubt better choose modules which make you itch – not just those which look promising on your CV.