- Course: Civil and Environmental Engineering BEng
- Year of graduation: 2019
Hannah Robinson graduated from the University of Leeds in 2019 with a BEng in Civil and Environmental Engineering and is currently a EPSRC Water-Wiser CDT PhD student.
Undergraduate life at Leeds
Hannah had always loved maths at school but had equally enjoyed Art and Geography. During sixth form, she was unsure what she wanted to pursue at University, and it was her Dad that suggested her look into Civil Engineering. Hannah said, “At first, I wasn’t sure – I thought it was all tall buildings and trains. But after looking around Leeds and seeing the Environmental side to Civil Engineering I was hooked.
During my first year at Leeds I enjoyed Civil Engineering, but my core focus was always the Environmental side, so with all the structural modules I began to question my choice in degree. However, after meeting with a Professor in second year, I knew I was in the right place; that Professor got me excited about Engineering again. In third year, I met two amazing female academics that I knew I wanted to work with. Both women have been instrumental in my time at Leeds and are a key reason I’m pursuing my PhD here.”
In third year, I met two amazing female academics that I knew I wanted to work with. Both women have been instrumental in my time at Leeds and are a key reason I’m pursuing my PhD here.
Clubs and societies
“Outside academic life, I have been involved in many societies. During the past three years I have worked with Water Aid, Engineers without Borders, Students for Global Health, and most notably Action. I am currently the President of the volunteering society, and it is my fourth year working with them. Through Action I received a Recognise award for my commitment to volunteering and for recognition of my work with Leeds University Union. I was part of a team that won 2 Riley awards (LUU society awards) last year. This year, I also hope to be an active member of the LGBT+ society.”
Personal and professional development
Hannah has grown much more confident since starting University. She added, “I was shy and had bouts of anxiety, so public speaking and group work was always a daunting task. Since finding topics in my second and third years of my undergrad that I was truly invested in, I’ve become more confident. I’ve had opportunities to speak at events and conferences that have confirmed to me that I can engage in public speaking and I can hold my own in conversations and discussions. I continue to engage in public speaking, most recently giving a short guest lecture on menstrual product disposal for the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) MSc, all of which has definitely created a much more confident girl than the one that started University in 2016.”
I’ve become more confident. I’ve had opportunities to speak at events and conferences that have confirmed to me that I can engage in public speaking and I can hold my own in conversations and discussions.
Hannah is particularly proud of her undergraduate dissertation. “Three years ago, if you told me I’d be doing my dissertation on menstruation, I’d definitely have been confused – a feeling that also resonated with my many of my peers when explaining my choice of topic. My research project looked at how menstrual health fits into WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), with specific emphasis on products use and consequential disposal. The research itself, “Exposing your Menstrual Status: The links between Menstrual Taboos and Solid Waste Disposal” is currently being edited, in order to be published. I am therefore incredibly proud of this piece of work, and during my research, I realised how much more there is to do. It has, therefore, influenced the topic of my PhD research greatly. ”
Hannah is currently a PhD student at the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water and Waste Infrastructure Systems Engineered for Resilience (Water-WISER).
“I chose the Water-WISER CDT as I wanted to continue my studies, and pursue research into menstrual management. I also liked the interdisciplinary and taught structure; even though it’s a Civil Engineering degree, I have taken modules in gender and international development.
As I’m in my first year of four, my research aim is still a working progress. However, I know that it will centre on WASH, and public health, and will include aspects around menstruation and gender differences within sanitation. My undergraduate dissertation merely skimmed the surface of topics I want to cover, and I want to continue to understand disposal practise, with a focus on the gap between knowledge and practises of women in different aspects of sanitation.”
Advice and tips
“Find something that you’re genuinely passionate about. A PhD is a long time to research one topic, and if you don’t have a passion for research in that area, life is going to be much harder. But on a more serious note, there’s a lot of talk about poor mental health amongst PhD students; I, therefore, think it’s super important to establish a good support network. That could be through peers, it could be through societies and things outside of the office, but either way, I think having that network is going to positively impact any work you produce.”