Gabrielle Garland

Year of graduation: 2014

Current employer: Environment Agency

Current job title: Assistant Scientist

Current location: Devon

“The BSc (Hons) Environmental Science degree has equipped me with an immense skill set to take on the challenges the world faces and has prepared me for my chosen career path.”

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

Throughout my undergraduate course I became very interested in analytical marine chemistry and incorporated this subject into my final year research project. Following graduation I gained employment with a laboratory in Cornwall. 

My initial position was as a Laboratory Assistant within the Analytical and Microbiology department, but I worked intensely within a team of 14, assisting the Analytical Chemists and the Microbiologists with various pharmaceutical tests for external clients, and, after several months, I started my training to become an Analytical Chemist. 

I spent time using several analytical instruments within Davy, training to use them independently. This new role enabled me to develop my understanding of the analytical field in greater detail and provided me with valuable experience that I now utilise in my current position.

However, this year (in March) I made the decision to take a break from employment and travel Australasia. It was an incredible trip and I was able to learn about and experience various cultures and values. 

After going straight from education to higher education and then continuing into employment, the trip helped to focus my mind and drive my ambition to develop my career further.

After returning from my trip I was extremely fortunate to gain employment with the Environment Agency, working within the National Laboratory Service as an Assistant Scientist. 

This career move has been incredible as the Environment Agency was a major organisation that I learnt about during my degree. I am excited that I have the opportunity to work with them and continue to learn about the work they undertake.  

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

The most exciting thing that I have experienced so far in my career is the huge increase in my knowledge and awareness. 

Analytical chemistry is a subject we had only touched on as part of the degree, so when I gained employment within this area I was thrown in at the deep end. 

During the last two years, I have gained a vast skill set, ranging from small physical testing to data handling and even operating and fixing analytical instruments.

What would you do differently since graduating?

I don’t think there is anything I would have done differently; sometimes I wish I went travelling for longer, but then I perhaps wouldn’t have ended up with my current job. I believe more in looking to the future and planning for the time ahead.

Imagine you were about to start university again – with the benefit of hindsight – what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

I would have stressed less and got more sleep: there were too many late nights in the library trying to perfect each bit of coursework. I also would have taken advantage of the interesting services and events the University of Plymouth staged, like the volunteering and career fairs.

What was your main reason for choosing to study your course at Plymouth? With hindsight how significant was this for you?

There were a variety of factors for choosing to study at the University of Plymouth. The main reason was the numerous field trips the course offered. This dynamic approach to learning aided my abilities and developed essential skills – especially the residential in the second year, where I was able to development my scientific understanding in an unfamiliar environment. I was able to build relationships with my fellow students that have lasted post-graduation. I also learnt a lot about fieldwork including sampling, in situ data handling and analysis, and map work. Another reason I decided to study at the University of Plymouth was the flexibility of my degree course, with its interdisciplinary approach. One day I could be learning about ocean depth profiles and the next I could be learning about sustainability. I enjoyed how each day was so different and it really developed an interest in various subject that I still feel passionate about today.

How did we support you in your studies? If you used any support services whilst at the university how did they enable you to get to where you are today?

Whilst at the University I had the opportunity to become one of the first PALS leaders for the Environmental Science programme. A few fellow students and I ran fortnightly seminars for first-year students. The support service enabled me to re-evaluate my completed studies within year one, which also assisted towards future assignments as it helped to build confidence when speaking in front of large groups.  

How did studying at Plymouth change your career aspirations and plans? How well did Plymouth prepare you for the challenges that you have faced, or will face, in your career?

When I began my studies I had a very broad outlook on my future goals; I had several ideas of where I wanted to be, but I was very unsure of what steps I should take to achieve these goals. Studying at the University of Plymouth helped to bridge the gaps in my future plans. Completing my degree at the University allowed me to build my aspirations for how I wanted my career to shape out. The interdisciplinary approach to the course built in various fields from Marine Science to Economics, and helped to prepare me for the variety of factors I would face in future careers. I was able to learn skills such as project management, problem solving, and scientific writing and also have a hands-on approach to fieldwork and laboratory analysis.

What is your favourite memory of studying for your degree at Plymouth?

My favourite memory of studying at Plymouth has to be a few days before I handed in my final year research project: there was a group of us on the basement floor of the library, binding our work, and I felt such a sense of accomplishment and relief after the months I had spent researching, analysing, and constructing this project, that I was so proud to have finally made this point. I felt that everyone around me had the same opinion.

Why would you recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth?

To anyone considering higher education, I would highly recommend the University of Plymouth as their choice, especially the Environmental Science programme. The world is changing at a considerable pace; we are stepping into a generation where we are starting to understand the greater implication of our actions, whether that is the use of fossil fuels or the effects of habitat loss. The BSc (Hons) Environmental Science degree has equipped me with an immense skill set to take on the challenges the world faces and has prepared me for my chosen career path.

Students sampling dog whelks in Hong Kong