Josephine Driver, MBiol Biology

Josephine Driver

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I chose the University of Leeds because the course was really suited to my interests in plant biology, the university also came with great recommendation from family and friends and I really enjoyed the open day. I felt the student union and accommodation were also better than other universities I had visited. A lot of my family also live in Leeds so it was nice to move closer to them, whilst still moving away from my family home.

What are the top 3 best things you have experienced at the University of Leeds?

The opportunity to go on two African Field courses was amazing and I feel I would not have been given this opportunity elsewhere. The people within Leeds are also really friendly and I have made life-long friends with people from around the country, as well as international students. Being able to do really independent based learning in my 4th year has been a great experience and has really prepared me for the working world.

What are your favourite 3 things about the city of Leeds? 

The music scene in Leeds is great, with frequent gigs and various venues around the city. I’ve also enjoyed the night-time culture, with loads of places to meet friends and drink, from call lane to canal mills, to Belgrave depending on your mood. The food choices in Leeds are also really good, and there are great options for vegetarians/vegans all across the city

Your Course

What have been your favourite modules on your course? What did you do in it and what did you learn?

My favourite module of the course was Animal Nutrition in 2nd year. This course really captured my interest in agriculture and has subsequently led me to pursue a career in this area. The module involved both theory and lab learning, with a really hands-on approach.

I also enjoyed the 4th year module, introduction to GIS, as it taught me relevant skills when using the software of which are becoming more important for jobs within Biology. The programme is used in a range of jobs and I have also been able to use the knowledge gained to access better grades in other modules when using ecological maps to explain concepts visually.

What have been your top 3 practical elements on your course? What did you do on them? What did you enjoy about them?  

In 3rd year of university, I had the opportunity to visit South Africa on a field course. The course was an amazing experience and I learnt about African ecology, something I had little knowledge of beforehand. I really enjoyed being able to work on different projects within the course of the 2-week field trip – ranging from animal vigilance study to bird feeding behaviours.

My 4th dissertation has also been very practical based. It included a lab project in which I looked at the effect of elevated CO2 and the application of a fungus to soil on a spring barley variety. The project has offered me great lab experience as well as how to write a scientific paper. I also feel I fitted into the lab group well and learnt a lot from experienced scientists, as well as learning how they got into their career and advice that they would give for my future career options.

I also had the experience to go to Kenya this year (4th year) over Easter. This experience was ‘once in a lifetime’. I made lots of new friends, learnt about the cultures within Kenya and took part in a specific student-led project on Ant-Acacia mutualisms. We had the opportunity to go on safari, including night drives, and climb part of Mount Kenya. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone and would go back in a heartbeat.

What has been your favourite experiment or project you have worked? What did you do?

My favourite project would be my dissertation due to the amount of time and effort I have invested into the project. I’ve really felt the project was mine and tailored it to my specific interests, this involved combining lab research with personal communication study with farmers. The project has really enhanced my lab and communication skills and I would consider going into a career in research due to it.

Social Life and Student Opportunities

What extra opportunities have you been a part of while you’ve been at Leeds, and what did you do?

I became a student ambassador in second year of university and have really enjoyed the experience since. Not only has the role offered a source of income, but has helped my confidence when talking to parents and students on open days. I also made friends with other students on the same course as myself but in different year groups. Whilst being an ambassador in my 4th year, I had the opportunity to show students around my lab and discuss my current research. This was a great experience for me as future careers may require the discussion of research to others at conferences etc. I felt it was also beneficial for the students to see what research Biology students do in their 3rd/4th year dissertation projects.

What societies have you joined?

I joined the Biology society within my first term at university and attended many events as part of this society. I particularly enjoyed the ‘pot your own plant’ event they ran recently.

Careers and Employability

What do you plan to do after your degree? How has your degree/the faculty helped you with your career ambitions? 

After my degree, I have secured a 3-month job within Tom Bennet’s lab in the Faculty of Biological Sciences. This will give me great experience working with a crop plant and hopefully help me to secure a job within agriculture as an agronomist. I also have had the opportunity to talk to people who work with and have worked for companies such as ADAS within the faculty.