UCL Department of Geography


Emily Smith, PhD

Starting as an undergrad, Emily tells us how the quality of teaching and the friends and support she made along the way, convinced her to stay on to her PhD.

Emily Smith, PhD student at UCL Geography, on a mountain.

11 October 2022

“I distinctly remember walking through the entrance into the quad, and then up into the Geography Department. After hearing about the Geography Programme and what it had to offer, I knew it was where I wanted to study. And I haven’t left since.

“I am doing a four-year independent research project investigating whether angling could be a potential pathway for invasive aquatic species entering the UK from Europe. This involves a lot of independent work, supported by a supervisory team. For my project, I’ll be using a combination of questionnaires, biological surveys in Europe and laboratory work. I hope to find out the importance of angling as an invasive pathway and potential ways to reduce this risk. The findings of my study will hopefully support work being conducted in the UK to fulfil the EU Invasive Species Regulation, and reduce the risk of new invasive species becoming established in the UK.

Bern Convention

From my PhD, a highlight for me was attending the Bern Convention’s 11th Meeting of Group of Experts on Invasive Alien Species in Slovenia. Not only did I get to visit a beautiful country, but it also gave me a great insight into how policy is conducted which I would not get the opportunity to see otherwise. It was really encouraging to see the cross-country work being undertaken and different countries working together towards the same goal.

Alongside the field trips to Mallorca and Slapton Ley as an undergraduate, I also visited California as part of my PhD training last year. I also regularly help out with the Norfolk Ponds Project, which aims to restore overgrown farmland ponds to their former biodiverse glory, as well as conducting my own research and helping fellow students with theirs.

Public speaking

There are numerous skills that I have learnt since joining the PhD Programme and UCL generally. For me, the most important one I think will be continuing to increase my confidence in public speaking, as expressing your research is essential to get your findings heard. As well as attending conferences to present my work I have joined the UCL Arena Teaching Associate Programme. I hope this will develop my teaching skills further and eventually result in my obtaining accreditation through the Higher Education Academy.

“There are so many opportunities both within the Department, and UCL more widely, for you to get involved in both for your learning and outside of that.”