Philippa Clarkson

Philippa Clarkson

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

I chose to study a PhD at the University of Leeds because it is one of the leading universities in the world for biomedical engineering research. Also, having done my undergraduate degree here, I knew what a great city Leeds is.

Tell us about your research

My research looks at how cells of the central nervous system. One aspect aims to discover if neural stem cells remodel the mechanical properties of their environment when they differentiate, and another aspect looks at how neurones and glial cells respond to different forms of physical damage. It is a multidisciplinary project, I synthesise hydrogels from scratch, seed them with cells and measure their mechanical properties.

What is your favourite part of studying at Leeds?

My favourite part of studying at Leeds is the freedom I have to learn within my Doctoral Training Centre. Although I am a graduate of mechanical engineering, my project involves a lot of chemistry and biology in it. The DTC programme meant that I was able to choose my project and to take undergraduate modules to broaden my knowledge. My experiments take place in laboratories in the School of Dentistry, the Faculty of Biological Sciences and the Department of Mechanical Engineering so I can use the expertise and resources available in all three. There a growing number of doctoral training centres at Leeds, so the opportunities to collaborate are really good.

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

I have been in a lot of different societies during my time at Leeds, the advantage of the union is that there is so much choice. I'm currently spending a lot of time doing DIY in my own house and I grow my own vegetables in my garden. I also enjoy weightlifting and watching David Attenborough documentaries.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My ambitions for the future are pretty vague, I don't really like to be too specific with planning the future. I'd like to keep on learning new things and I'd like to do something of benefit to the world. I like being creative and I don't want an office job. Beyond that, I don't know. I'm not too worried; having a degree in engineering and a PhD. Whatever I do I'm sure I'll land on my feet.

Your advice to prospective students

My advice to those considering doing research is to go for it. Research is frustrating and hard work, but it's also really interesting. Above all, you're getting paid to think and to learn, not many jobs can offer that.