Dr Robin Dent
PhD in Colour Science

Robin Dent

What made you come to Leeds?

I am originally from Warwick and I did my undergraduate degree here at Leeds. At A-level I was really interested in chemistry but I didn’t want to do pure chemistry as it’s quite hard to differentiate yourself from everyone else who does chemistry. At the time they were offering Applied Chemistry here at Leeds which was run through the Colour Science department and so I opted for that. It was based on industrial chemistry and how it’s used by the printing and textile industries. So that was really interesting and quite different. It has elements of the pure chemistry course but then you also have very individual and unique elements too that only Leeds offers. In fact, nowhere else in the country really offers the expertise which is offered here in Leeds. I was in the final year of my undergraduate degree and my supervisor for my third year project offered me this PhD post. It all just fell into place really. I felt that doing a PhD would really mark me out for the workplace and would be better than just having a BSc and make it much easier to get a job.

Would you say that it’s been a good decision?

I think so, yes. Looking at the jobs markets and seeing how tough it is for a lot of undergraduates to get a post, I think that the PhD has been worth it. You really need something which marks you as different and gives you that little bit of extra experience. My entire PhD was based through a company, as a company sponsored project, I gained a lot of industrial experience.

So what is next?

I currently work for Fuji Film in their speciality ink systems division, making jet inks. So, it’s something similar to what I was doing at PhD level but nicely different so that it’s exciting and new.

What skills are you using in your current position which you acquired during your PhD? 

There’s a lot of an analytical mindset which is required for the type of positions which Research and Development are looking for. It’s an awful lot of data generation and you get large quantities of numbers thrown at you which you have to sort through so that you can then give that information to someone who is non-technical and doesn’t have the R&D background. A large part of the role involves being able to handle data, condense it down, make it meaningful and make a story out of a load of numbers. This is quite different to undergraduate level when you are working on problems which definitely have solutions. What a PhD really did was taught me how to handle problems that don’t have solutions necessarily, there is no right answer, it’s simply a question of working out what you can do and then presenting the best way of doing it. It’s about having that confidence to believe in your own judgement and thinking that this is what I think that we should do and therefore we are going to do it. 

What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing a PhD?

I think that you definitely need to have a plan, you couldn’t start a PhD without knowing that you really wanted to do it and without having that commitment. It is still a considerable step up from undergraduate work and you really need the focus for a lot of self-taught learning and have that drive that you can use in those moments when everything looks a real mess. You need to have the mindset that means that you don’t panic and runaway. It very much requires you to be able to focus and understand what you want to achieve and see it through.