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Richard Birley

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

I still had several years left with my previous employer as an engineering manager in the RAF, but decided it was time for a change. I studied part-time for a degree and then a masters whilst working, but still felt I had much more to give and hopefully gain.

I finally selected the University of Leeds to undertake a PhD for several reasons:

Firstly, the nature of the research appealed to me, with having a keen interest in renewable fuel technology. Coming from an electrical and electronic background, I have always had a practical and abstract approach to engineering (you cant see electricity, but it hurts when you touch it), so coming to the Bioenergy CDT seemed the natural and logical choice where I could ply my abstract nature with real hands on experimentation.

Secondly, the range of high level researchers within the Bioenergy department made it an obvious choice to feed off of the knowledge and experience of the personnel here; that have made and been in this area of research currently at UoL.
Thirdly, the University is a Russel Group University and is within the QS World rankings inside the top 100, with the Engineering Departments fairing very well.

Tell us about your research

I arrived in September, so I have only really started basic work on my chosen PhD research, however, I have conducted research in the following:

The viability of Municipal Solid Waste and Biodegradable Solid Waste as the fuel source for energy production, through pre-treatment and torrefaction. This research may go some way to finding a viable solution to reducing the amount of landfill waste.

I am currently working on the reduction of NOx emissions through co-combustion and nitrogen species evolution during the fuel combustion process.

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

There are plenty of opportunities to carry out research not only in your chosen field, but also to conduct smaller scale projects for a variety of university and industry-based projects. Which helps to broaden your knowledge base and gives a great insight into other viable areas of interest.

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

I currently ski with the SnowRiders, (Ski and Snowboard club).

What are your ambitions for the future?

Once I have completed my PhD (it still feels a long way away, but time is pressing on too), I would like to take up a research and lecturing post at a University, with a longer term goal to emigrate but continue to carry out research and lecture.
I would like to take on my current status with the IET and CMI to become a CEng and CMgr.

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

The University of Leeds has a huge amount to offer at any level of entry, be it undergraduate, postgraduate, or even slightly later in life. If coming in on a PhD level, I can recommend the CDT programs on offer, both here and with the affiliated universities (or should I not be advertising those-oops). The CDT's offer a great entry program where you can gain experience of the working environment and take part in organised activities helping you bond with other people on your CDT and other CDT's whilst building your experience levels of lab work.

There is a range of activities run through and by the university outside of your study and research that you can take part in and a fantastic sports facility. A word of caution though, choose wisely or you may not have time to complete your workload if you take on too many extra curricular activities, and the workload can be extensive at times.