A few weeks ago, I was chatting with Sonja Heinrich, the coordinator of the Masters program I undertook at the University of St Andrews. She was really interested to hear of my science communication experiences, and invited me to write a guest blog post for the Masters website about winning the 3-Minute-Thesis (3MT) competition.
The guest post itself is up on the St Andrews Postgraduate blog. But I thought this would also be a good opportunity to talk about my experience on the Masters.
I studied Marine Mammal Science at the University of St Andrews from 2008-09. It was one of the most amazing years of my life. I attended the oldest university (and one of the most prestigious) in Scotland, made a fabulous bunch of new friends, and met my amazing partner Phil. We watched fascinating lectures and participated in interesting labs, both taught by leaders in this field. We sailed the West Coast of Scotland, looking for whales and dolphins. We scrambled down cliffs, conducting population surveys of seals (which led to a near-death experience, but that’s a whole other story). We assisted in the necropsy of a stranded porpoise (seven years later, I can still vividly remember the smell…).
My thesis project led to it’s own collection of exciting tales (locked in a forest and rescued by gypsies; hiding in the sand dunes from a gun-man; trapped in a hut by highland cattle – to name but a few!). But it also taught me how to organise fieldwork, developed my analysis and scientific writing skills, and gave me a real taste of independent research. There’s no question that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for this course.
When I began, the Masters was only in it’s second year of existence. Applications have now closed for the 10th year of the Masters in Marine Mammal Science! Graduates have gone on to study PhDs, advance to post-doctorate research, or take up leading positions in government organisations. They have dispersed all over the world, creating an amazing network of alumni.
Even after moving to Australia, I have still worked on projects with Masters alumni (it’s funny who you meet in the middle of the sea…). One of them lives 5mins down the road! Marine mammal science is a small world, but a pretty great one to be a part of.