MSci Environmental Sciences (Integrated Bachelors and Masters) - Sam Murphy

What did you study at UEA?

MSci Environmental Sciences (Integrated Bachelors and Masters)

Please could you provide an overview of your career journey?

After graduating from UEA in 2019 I initially worked a casual job in a kitchen. After a failed attempt to do some travelling (thank you COVID-19), I began applying to jobs during lockdown. I speculatively applied to my current role at Hydrock and was instead offered a graduate role as an Air Quality Consultant. I worked in that role for about 18 months before being promoted and dropping the graduate title. I have now been in the air quality team at Hydrock for about 3 years.

Please describe a typical day in your current or most recent role, what your roles and responsibilities are, and what you find most rewarding?

My role is largely office based where I support our clients with air quality consultancy, mostly through producing air quality reports to help developers achieve planning permission. But the role is very varied, with my work also including field surveys where we measure air quality pollutant concentrations at and around potential development sites, dust monitoring at construction sites, and even odour surveys (which we call sniff tests).

No two days tend to be the same and having multiple projects on the go that I’m responsible for managing helps to keep things interesting.

What I find most rewarding is completing a challenging project, whether that’s getting an air dispersion model to work, or helping a client to understand air quality constraints at a development site.

What do you love about working in your field?

Personally, I love all the air quality data I get to use, from both public sources and from our monitoring regimes we undertake. An ever-important area in air quality in the UK is public engagement and awareness, and with the emergence of low-cost air quality monitors in the UK there is more and more data to play with that needs to be communicated effectively to the public. I really enjoy the data analysis that comes with the above and using tools like R to produce cool plots that try to help the public understand air quality data.

What drew you to UEA and studying MSci Environmental Sciences?

After school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career (or even for a degree). I decided to do a course which had a broad range of subjects in an area of interest, the natural environment, and the science behind it all. So, I decided to study Environmental Sciences at UEA, where there was a good choice of modules and the course was flexible, allowing me to pick and choose subjects I found interesting.

How has your degree influenced your career?

As I got further into my degree, I felt drawn towards the physical science modules which I enjoyed more, including the modules that were chemistry related or about the atmosphere. In my fourth year (as I did an integrated masters) I did two modules that I really enjoyed. These were ‘Modern Methods in Air Pollution Science’ and ‘Environmental Pollution - Science, Policy, and Management.’

At this point I still didn’t know I wanted to be in air quality consultancy, but I did realise how much I enjoyed applying science to the real world. I remember a piece of course work was to write a mock land contamination report from the point of view of a consultant. This especially made me realise how it might be an interesting career applying environmental measurements and models to influence the development of land.

What skills did you learn during your time at UEA that you still use?

There are so many skills I use in my day to day, and my time at UEA helped develop virtually all of them. For example, my degree had a lot of group work and I fondly remember the Marine Sciences Field Course in Oban, Scotland, which comprised a full week of almost solely group work. In my internal air quality team, and as part of a larger design team, I use these team working skills every day.

Data analysis is another skill that I wouldn’t get by without, that many of my modules helped me develop. I learnt to use R OpenAir (a scripting software package) at UEA, which I use in my job for analysing large data sets.

At what point did you start thinking about your next steps after UEA?

I was in no particular rush to find a career after UEA. I wanted to go travelling and got a casual job. But Covid-19 forced my hand, and I started looking for a career related to environmental consultancy.

Do you have any advice for students about choosing a career or securing employment?

I would say: don’t be afraid to send speculative applications for roles you know you want, and companies you know you want to work for, who aren’t advertising the role you want. A well-researched and put together speculative application shows you have taken initiative and often means you are not competing with other graduates for the role!

Any words of advice for prospective or current UEA Environmental Science students?

It sounds cliché - but try to do what you enjoy and find a job related to it!

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