I always find it fascinating to discover how a person came about to be where they are now. Looking back, I’ve done shop-keeping, waitressing, made jewellery and medals for races, photography for weddings and events, gardening, been a postage stamp dealer and most relevant to my overall career, a research technician. Always one to keep myself busy, throughout all this time I have had a deep fascination for the natural world – in particular, how plants interact with and can influence, the environment around them. My journey over the next few years will take me through a very exciting and novel PhD project looking at how plant roots can physically change the soil that they live in, in order to improve their (and their community’s) survival during drought. Cool stuff, especially when I’ll get to play with a 3D x-ray CT scanner that will really let me see what’s going on in the soil!

Clifftop views

But it’s not only my PhD project that’s cool! I live in an amazing house at the top of a cliff, where at the right time of year, I can actually see puffins from my bathroom window! Whilst living atop a cliff can be bliss one or two days a year (!) it makes for very challenging garden conditions. I have a greenhouse which is my pride and joy and it’s where I can get some peace and quiet and really get to know about plants. I spend many hours sowing, pricking out, watering, feeding, dead-heading and talking to (did I day that?) plants in my greenhouse and garden. It’s my aim, one day, to have a National Collection of Armeria (sea pinks). In its previous life my greenhouse hosted two National Collections of cacti so it’s in its ‘wood’! My houseplant collection is also growing rapidly as I’ve built my confidence over the years – I’m approaching 50 plants as at time of writing… some would say I am a little obsessed! So you can see why I am starting a PhD in plant and soil interactions. And what better place to do it, than at University of Aberdeen which has the only soil science masters in the UK!

I have had the wonderful pleasure of working with so many great and inspiring people over the years since my ecology undergraduate degree and soil science masters and I hope to see that continue over the next four years. My cracking supervisory team will be a joy to work with and I’m very excited to start this next chapter of my research career.