Simon Cook – BA (Hons) Geography graduate

Current employer: Royal Holloway, University of London

Current job title: PhD Researcher in Human Geography

Current location: London

“Plymouth provided the perfect environment to prepare for an academic career. Geography at Plymouth is part of a welcoming and dynamic department, truly engaged in student learning.”
Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Upon finishing my degree at Plymouth, I was awarded a prestigious 1+3 studentship from the Economic and Social Research Council to study an MA in Cultural Geography and then a PhD in Human Geography at Royal Holloway University of London. My PhD is exploring the rise of run-commuting, understanding why it emerged, how it is produced, and what potential it demonstrates for future urban mobility, exercise, and city living. During the PhD I have also had the opportunity to take on some teaching at university level, including lectures, seminars, and tutorials.

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

Beyond a doubt, seeing my academic work in print – whether in academic journals, books or newspapers/media, this has been the most exciting aspect of my career so far. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have been awarded national and international awards for this work. Presenting my research around the world has been another highlight. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to give conference presentations in the USA, Sweden, Denmark, and all around the UK.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I would have been interested in having some time in between my undergraduate and postgraduate studies as to be able to better identify the real-world impacts my research could have. Recognising and accessing this has been harder having stayed wholly in the ivory tower.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Follow your passions and rely on your instinct. This will enable you to produce engaged and innovative research which will give you a great grounding for applying for postgraduate studies. Draw on the expertise and help of your lecturers to navigate the application process and do everything you can to demonstrate your enthusiasm and aptitude as early as you can.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Plymouth provided the perfect environment to prepare for an academic career. Geography at Plymouth is part of a welcoming and dynamic department, truly engaged in student learning. They are not only doing interesting work but are able to share it in a way which engages your enthusiasm and creates fascinating curricular content. I was extremely fortunate to benefit from this as well the desire of the staff to support and nurture an inquisitive student.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

As with most geographers, most definitely fieldtrips. But beyond this, I loved undertaking the research for my undergraduate dissertation, which involved doing a lot of running around Plymouth.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

I shared my time in Plymouth with some of my favourite people in the world, many of whom I stay in very regular contact with (one now being my wife). I also have maintained a fantastic relationship with the geography department at Plymouth, paying a visit at least once a year. I have also written three journal articles or book chapters with Plymouth lecturers and look forward to collaborating more in the future.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University, and why?

Beyond a doubt, I could not recommend the University highly enough. It is an incredibly city, with magnificent people and truly dedicated, cutting-edge and inspirational staff.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

Make the most of your time at Plymouth, in everything you do – study, play, and life. It’s an incredible place and we are part of a special group of people who have been fortunate enough to study there.

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