Hear from our current students… They tell us about their background before joining the CDT; why they chose to apply to Leeds and this particular programme; their research and how they have found the CDT experience so far.
Prior to joining the CDT, I was working as a graduate piping engineer for Amec Foster Wheeler where I learnt a lot about the energy industry and international engineering projects. This built on the knowledge gained from my Masters in Mechanical Engineering, however I felt a strong desire to return to research and work on renewable energy projects. From my time spent as an undergraduate at the University of Leeds I knew of the exciting research opportunities and facilities that the University provides. Leeds is a great town to live in, it has a lot to offer in terms of sport, scenery, music and culture. This CDT program provides the opportunity to explore any bioenergy research topic you want, I took this chance to develop an understanding of the research happening in various departments within the university. This, combined with the allocated time for an industrial placement, I found to be a unique program set-up and an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.
My PhD looks at the potential for combining two technologies, Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), to create negative carbon dioxide emissions from the generation of electricity. The project has been possible due to a collaboration between the Schools of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the University of Leeds. I will use experimental techniques to track impurities throughout the combustion and carbon capture process. Some of these experiments are completed at my supervisor’s university spin-off company – C-Capture Ltd. and in-situ experiments are planned at the Pilot-scale Advanced Capture Technology (PACT) facilities and other UK power stations. I have found the CDT experience so far challenging but enjoyable. Learning a lot about a research area that is completely new to you is a challenge, however the staff and fellow students at the University Leeds are incredibly understanding and helpful in aiding your learning. Completing a PhD as part of a cohort of 11 students has also provided a great support in understanding the process and making it fun.
The Bioenergy CDT has enabled me to build on specific interests, diversify the reach of my skill set and bring together knowledge from various parts of my background. I enjoyed practical physics and undertook an undergraduate in mechanical engineering at UCL. I was fascinated by thermo- and fluid-dynamics, which combined this enjoyment with a sense of mystery through studying the chaotic nature of turbulence and the continuing energy challenges. I wanted to learn more about these areas and the Bioenergy CDT at Leeds was the ideal way to bring these together. Exposure to interdisciplinary topics in the masters broadened my awareness of the scope of these interests and of the issues they touch on. One of the best things about the CDT is the opportunity to choose a research area within a wide range of themes. I was captivated by atmospheric science and its central importance to many issues that society cares about. I currently focus on air quality over India where cooking with wood leads to devastating impacts on human health. The Bioenergy CDT at Leeds has been fundamental in helping me realise my career direction through sparking a strong passion for the work I do and I have no hesitation in giving it my highest of recommendations.
Before joining the Bioenergy CDT in Leeds, I was studying Mathematics at the University of Sheffield, with no knowledge of renewable energy or bioenergy whatsoever, but I was already then greatly interested in the environment and energy. In my last year of the undergraduate degree, I’ve decided to do a PhD in Engineering, as I wanted to focus more on the applied side of Maths. Whilst searching for different PhDs, I came across the Bioenergy CDT in Leeds, which attracted me due to the wide range of energy related topics it covers, low requirement of previous bioenergy knowledge and aim to create a cohort of students from different backgrounds. All this, together with the great facilities, meeting the current students and the city made me choose this program.
My research is focusing on integrating bioenergy into highly energy and emission intensive industries, in particularly iron and steel, which processes are fully dependent on the fossil fuels. Decarbonising electricity and heat significantly reduces the emissions, but to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees, it is essential that industries like those also adopt renewables into their processes. The traditional iron ore reduction requires solid carbon, and bioenergy is a key short term solution that can substitute the fossil fuels used in this industry. The work particularly studies for which iron and steel plants the use of locally sourced biomass can be a strategic decision and how this should be done to achieve the greatest benefit.
Over the past three years of being part of the Bioenergy CDT I realised how lucky I am to be doing a PhD here. The obtained training gave me confidence to be an independent research and provided me with a very valuable knowledge of the energy sector. Thanks to this PhD, I have created important contacts and visited sites which are generally closed to public (such as power station, iron and steel plant or Spadeadam test site). Additionally, my work has never been restricted with the lack of funding or resources, and being constantly surrounded by other students from my cohort never makes me feel lonely, both things commonly happening whilst doing normal PhD.
I studied a 4 year MChem with year in the USA degree and worked for a year in the University of Leicester International office. I chose Leeds because I was always interested in ‘green chemistry’ which led me to look for areas within sustainability and renewable energy. A CDT seemed like the best way to train and branch into this area. My research involves using computer simulation software to create models of chemical processing plants that convert waste products to fuel gas.
The best part of the CDT is being able to discuss my work with other people of sound but different mindsets due to their unique backgrounds. This has helped me forge ahead with concepts that I would not have otherwise considered. The low part is feeling like you don’t understand what you’re doing as it is very uncomfortable. However, it is the best and sometimes the only way to learn. Furthermore, understanding how to upward manage in order to get the best support from supervisors as well as set reasonable goals has been key to my success and happiness thus far.