PhD student profiles

I came down to Cornwall after doing my BSc at the University of Liverpool having been inspired by both my theory modules and my dissertation project. Finding a PhD that combined the best aspects of both those things was a great chance to study how the evolution of sex works. I am interested in the evolution of the sex peptide in Drosophila and the influence that selfish genetic elements such as Wolbachia and sex ratio distorter genes may have on its production and actions. Not only am I surrounded by some great people who make the academic and social life here fantastic, it is also a beautiful part of the country. There is so much to do it is hard to fit everything in. I play in the campus cricket team and enjoy the bit of football that goes on in the department. Obviously the beaches are a great place to spend any spare time when the weather is nice, something I hope the summer months will be good for!
Damian Smith, BBSRC-funded studentship 'Sex peptide evolution in insects: the impact of selfish genetic elements'

Studying for my PhD at the University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, is a wonderful opportunity for me. Not only am I able to use the brand new and highly equipped facilities on campus but I also get to work with and learn from researchers of the highest quality in the field of biology. The knowledge and experience of the staff combined with their immense motivation and friendliness makes the department marvellous for work. Furthermore, the university is nicely located, close to Falmouth, which is a wonderful place to live. Beside its numerous pubs and clubs, Falmouth lies directly by the sea with beaches within walking distance. A lot of good surfing areas are close by.
Wiebke Schütt, ESF-funded PhD studentship 'Personality differences and sexual selection in zebra finches'. 2004: MSc Biology of Organisms, University of Osnabrück, Germany; 2003: BSc Biology of Organisms, University of Osnabrück, Germany

I am currently working on wing patterning in Heliconius butterflies at the Tremough campus in Cornwall. Heliconius butterflies are Mullerian mimics (i.e. they mimic other butterflies to share in warning colouration), and because of this their visual patterning is highly linked to speciation. My PhD is mainly focused around a chromosome walk to clone a group of genes responsible for many of the pattern elements seen in the wings of H. melpomene. I have found that Cornwall is an excellent place to study for many reasons. Exeter University provides a great atmosphere in which to study, with friendly and enthusiastic staff and plenty of support. As well as this there are also many opportunities to get out and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Since moving here I have started rowing in a local Pilot Gig club, and I have been able to practice my surfing a lot more too. All in all I think that Exeter Uni makes a wonderful place for postgraduate study.
Nicola Chamberlain, 3rd year PhD, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, funded by BBSRC Doctoral Training Fund. Undergraduate degree University of Leeds; MRes University of Leeds

I started my undergraduate degree at Exeter, in my final year I transferred to the Cornwall Campus. As a result I was fortunate enough to study areas of biology I was really enthusiastic about in a beautiful part of the country. I really enjoyed the time I spent at the Cornwall campus, the teaching is excellent, and the seminar based learning meant I could develop my presentation skills. For my dissertation I studied resource limitation and effects on fecundity in Collosobruchus maculatus. At the end of my degree I was given the chance to stay in Cornwall and study for a PhD, I am currently in my first year studying temporal kin recognition in Nicrophorus vespilloides. Over the next four years I am going to be combining molecular techniques with behavioural studies to understand the mechanism behind this unusual behaviour.
Chloe Bird, University of Exeter-funded PhD 'Temporal kin recognition in Nicrophorus vespilloides'; BSc Biological Sciences, University of Exeter 2006

Cornwall is a really exciting place to study – not only are you surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside and beaches in the UK, as well as some of the best UK diving, you get the peer support and guidance of a really motivated and mobile staff. The atmosphere in the department is really friendly and relaxed - everyone exchanges ideas and experiences, which means you get to look at your own work from a number of novel ways. For my thesis, I have studied the migratory ecology of loggerhead sea turtles in both North America and West Africa. For my fieldwork, I get to travel to some pretty exciting places – but it’s always a joy to come back to Cornwall.
Lucy Hawkes, PhD studentship 'Ecology and conservation of the Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)' Part-funded by a University of Exeter studentship and The Anning-Morgan Bursary. BSc Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology, University of Plymouth, Devon 2001. Currently: MacArthur Climate Change and Marine Turtle program leader for the Insular Caribbean, WWF Canada, Ottawa