Zoology student at University of Leeds

Heather Downer

Why did you choose to study your course?

I wanted to study zoology because I was really interested in conservation and animals had always fascinated me. I wanted to do a degree that would help me to make the world a better place and hopefully give me the opportunity to travel around the world. Zoology is also quite a practical degree which I found very appealing. I wanted to have a year in industry because I don’t know what I want to do when I graduate. Experiencing a workplace environment in this way is helpful for understanding what the world of work is really like.

What do you enjoy about your course?

My favourite bit about my course has been the field courses I did in Malham, Scotland and Dale Fort, Wales. I have also met some amazing people who have become really good friends and share the same passion for conservation and the environment. I also enjoy the fact that it is such a broad subject which gives you a lot of flexibility to pursue the bits you enjoy the most. I am really enjoying learning new skills through by placement. It has challenged me to become more creative and use software such as Canva that I had not come across before.

What were the highlights of the course?

Definitely the field courses I mentioned above. Another highlight has to be my industrial placement. I am really enjoying seeing how the theory that I have learnt over the last two years marries together with practical applications. It has also given me the opportunity to learn new skills and challenge myself. Both the field courses and placement have increased my self-confidence.  

What has been the greatest challenges throughout your course?

The biggest challenge came from COVID-19 and having to do everything online. Not being able to interact with, share and learn from other students on our course was very difficult and felt very isolating. It was also hard that we were unable to learn and experience the practical elements, both in the lab and the field in the way we should have. This means that I probably have quite large gaps in my knowledge that I am currently unaware of.

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I chose to go to the University of Leeds because they offered the Industrial Placement year. The Faculty of Biological Sciences seemed really supportive when I came for my interview and the whole place had a really positive atmosphere. The city also has a very vibrant and fun atmosphere and provided a real contrast to the rural area I had grown up in. Leeds also has lots of green spaces and it is very easy to escape the city and get out into nature.

What is your current role?

I am currently on a year in industry at the Aire Rivers Trust. My role is DNAire Community Engagement Assistant