Paul Murphy – BSc (Hons) Geography with Ocean Science; MSc Applied Marine Science graduate

Year of graduation: 2011; 2017

Current employer: Plymouth University

Current job title: Employability Assistant

Current location: Plymouth

“I would recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth because of the investment that has been made in campus facilities and the student experience. When an institution has been making a demonstrable effort to improve facilities, such as the Marine Station or The House, and to improve the student experience then it is clear that the institution cares for its students.”

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

Since my undergraduate degree I’ve worked in the hospitality industry (completing a ski season) and worked for Plymouth University. I have also returned to Plymouth in order to undertake postgraduate study.

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

I undertook a work-based learning module as part of my undergraduate degree and saved up from my part-time job to do a two-week placement with PhD students from the University of Western Australia. The students were studying beaches that are underlain by rocky reefs, especially how they responded to storms.

What would you do differently since graduating?

Many of my friends went straight into degree-related employment after their undergraduate studies. I was envious at first but now I realise that the opportunity to gain skills in different industries and travel has been advantageous to my personal development. So, I guess, the different thing I would do is not be envious!

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 tell my undergraduate self to take every opportunity with which I was presented, as I have since done during my postgraduate study. I would tell myself to become a Student Ambassador and my top-tip would be to engage with the Careers and Employability service early on; many science students struggle to sell themselves on paper, even if they do have the skills employers are looking for.

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

I’m from Birmingham and I chose Plymouth for my undergraduate degree because of its location and what the course offered. All my family holidays as a child were just over the Cornish border in Looe and Polperro; I love the coastal environment and the relaxed attitude of the South West! Geography with Ocean Science intrigued me and I am very pleased that I opted to do this degree with a major-minor format, since I feel I have had more opportunities to specialise in my interests.

It then made sense to return to Plymouth for postgraduate study because I had formed a great working relationship with many of the academic staff and the courses at Plymouth are highly reputable and deal with real-world issues.

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?

During my undergraduate course as a geography student I had access to LabPlus which helped my course mates and I to discuss group work and presentations. Certain modules required the use of maps and microscopes, which could be booked out when needed. The LabPlus resources which I found most useful were the alumni dissertations which helped me to frame my own undergrad project.

How did studying at Plymouth change your career aspirations and plans?

Since many academic staff were leading researchers in their fields and I got to use world-class technology, I would say that studying at Plymouth has definitely broadened the horizons of my academic interests. Perhaps the most important aspect of studying at Plymouth was the friendliness of the student population and staff, enabling me to create close friendship groups. The course emphasis on group work and residential field trips meant that my communication skills have improved dramatically. Undertaking field work in the Bornean rainforest, for example, required excellent team work!

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

Probably graduation day: the sun was shining and after all that hard work, the experience of celebrating on Plymouth Hoe with family, friends, and university staff was incredible. It also happened to be Plymouth University’s 150th anniversary so we formed a ‘human150’ on the grass and a helicopter flew over to photograph it!

How well did Plymouth prepare you for the challenges that you have faced, or will face, in your career?

Plymouth has acted as a springboard, not only for my academic studies but also for employability skills, viz. communication skills and open-mindedness. The challenges I have already overcome in my undergraduate and postgraduate study – be it during fieldwork, whilst writing, or whilst juggling paid part-time work – have left me with the confidence to accept new challenges and seek new goals.

Why would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University?

I would recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth because of the investment that has been made in campus facilities and the student experience. When an institution has been making a demonstrable effort to improve facilities, such as the Marine Station or The House, and to improve the student experience then it is clear that the institution cares for its students.

If you returned to study (directly or after a foundation degree) what supported you in your return to study?

After my undergraduate degree, I chose to stay in Plymouth because the coastal environment and pace of life suited my personality well. I have worked alongside my studies in the restaurant and hospitality sector as I decided to gain management experience in this industry. Following on from this I undertook a ski season in the French Alps, which was probably one of the most important choices I have made in my life in terms of sports skill and customer service skill development. On returning to Plymouth I worked as an administrator for the University, rekindled my connections with the staff I knew and realised that I wished to take my marine studies further.