Biodiversity and Conservation masters student at University of Leeds

Max Hemmings

Max came to Leeds to study BSc Biochemistry, before choosing to continue studies at Masters level on our Biodiversity and Conservation MSc course. Now Max works as an Ecologist at Mott MacDonald

Why did you choose to come to Leeds University to study your course?

I wanted to get out of the southern bubble and be part of a university that knew how to work hard and offer an incredible diversity of things to do outside of work such as hikes in Ilkley Moor, great music venues and amazing sporting facilities and venues.

What were the highlights of the course?

BSc Biochemistry: my highlights included manipulating bacterial plasmids to insert GFP gene to make them fluoresce green light. Plus working with world renowned teams on anti-bacterial resistance research. 

MSc Biodiversity and Conservation: gaining new skills such as GIS mapping and plant identification which I use in my job regularly to this day. Meeting the people on the course, and with whom I lived, that I still keep in contact with today – even though we are spread across the globe.

What were your greatest challenges throughout your degree course?


Did staff support help you throughout your time at university? If so, how?

The personal tuition was fantastic; they were incredibly supportive and knowledgeable with a lot of contact hours.

How would you rate the facilities that were available to you throughout your degree? How did this enhance your experience?

The laboratories are world-class with cutting edge equipment, we were also offered field trips to other research groups.

What have you been doing since finishing your studies? What are you doing in terms of your career?

I spent three years in recruitment and two years as an ecologist which is now, hopefully, my long term career path.

What company are you working for, what is your role and what does it involve?

I currently work for Mott MacDonald as an Ecologist.

Ecologists provide ecological advice to companies and individuals who are developing a site. This could be a barn conversion to a nuclear power plant. They ensure the development is lawful according to local, national and international legislation.

The responsibilities vary significantly from specialists in a specific species surveys, general management, technical support using specific software to analysis, mapping and report writing.

Generally junior ecologists perform a lot of protected species surveys such as otter, badger, bat, great crested newt, dormice, reptile, breeding bird and more.

When they have suitable experience they can move into a site based role providing advice during construction. Then there is the option to remain in the field or take a more office based role with team management.

Which experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career/will help with your future career? (How did your degree benefit your career?)

GIS, and plant ID were the most relevant skills. However general report writing and time management are also key skills.

Have you any advice you can offer to current and prospective students?

As a Biochemistry graduate looking for a more commercial role, a lot of application processes didn’t know how to fit me into their application processes. Therefore, a lot of the graduate job applications were a complete waste of time since they were all automated. If you want a robot to help decide your career then keep plugging away at these job applications. Companies have a lot more interest in graduates that pick up the phone, email and network since this shows more eagerness and interest. Find companies that interest you, call them and talk with the hiring managers.

The big corporates are great but the smaller companies give you more responsibilities earlier on.

Do you have LinkedIn profile? Would you like to provide a link?