Bekah Cioffi

This is Bekah's story

With a life set for the sea, a change of direction led Bekah Cioffi to Plymouth, where the coastline helped her towards a career in Marine Biology, and the love of her life.

“I never thought I would go to university because I had a very rough upbringing, but Plymouth gave me that opportunity, which I excelled at.

Before university I had been planning to join the Royal Navy as a Meteorological, Hydrographic, Oceanographic officer and was studying at Plymouth as a Royal Naval Bursar. During my undergraduate degree I realised that I loved marine biology and oceanography more than I wanted to be in the Royal Navy.

The experience Plymouth had given me at undergraduate level then set me up for a masters and later a PhD, taking every opportunity in the meantime that came my way.

Whilst in Plymouth, I also met my husband and got married which has definitely changed the course of my life.”

“I loved the city and the staff were really enthusiastic and passionate about marine biology at the open days. There was also the opportunity to get diving qualifications, interesting field trips abroad and experience on ships doing the job, which was invaluable when I started applying for jobs.”

Passion killer

“Part of my undergraduate research involved nearly two months driving the coastline of Kent with family and my boyfriend to catch amphipods (sand hoppers – the size of a small woodlouse) by hand. 

The purpose was to identify whether a non-native species of amphipod was present and reproducing in Kent. Spoiler alert – it was present and reproducing. It took weeks of crawling through rotting seaweed, tampon applicators and rubbish attempting to catch these animals by hand without squashing them.

Then for my twentieth birthday, my boyfriend organised a surprise barbecue party on the beach with all of my friends, course mates and family. He lit up the beach with tall roman candles, which was very romantic. 

However, when the sun went down swarms of amphipods climbed on top of one another in their hundreds to get to the candles. If only I had known this a few months earlier it would have saved so much time.”

Marine biology students on a beach
Students in the national marine aquarium looking at fish in a big tank

Looking back...

“I would have asked my personal tutor to put me in contact with alumni in the field I was interested in so I could Skype them for an informational interview on that sector, and find out what qualifications or experiences I might need.

Also, I would have tried harder to get a mentor in a science field as I still don’t have one, but feel this would be really beneficial to people starting out in marine biology.

And I should have told myself to lighten up. I worked so hard during my undergraduate degree to prove to myself and others that I could succeed. 

A mentor in the year above might have been beneficial to me, and I wish I had pushed for external speakers to come and talk on the degree programmes, as I think this would have helped me to decide which sector within marine biology to go down. In the end I got a first class degree with honours and I couldn’t have been more pleased.”

“The staff are so passionate about what they do, the courses are really well tailored and the support staff are always there when you need them. Did I mention that the people are awesome?”

The best times

“Winning the best undergraduate research in the UK and being invited to present my undergraduate research at the Houses of Parliament, winning best presentation there was pretty cool. 

I was also invited to represent the student members at the Marine Biological Association’s Royal Charter, where I was fortunate enough to meet Prince Phillip.”

Big Ben and Houses of parliament, London, credit: sborisov, courtesy of Getty Images
The Houses of Parliament

“I think Plymouth prepared me really well for the challenges I have faced so far in my career. The University has a brilliant reputation for marine biology worldwide, the courses offer a wide variety of opportunities and experiences.”

20+ Years of Marine Biology

Follow in Bekah's footsteps

Bekah studied BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography, MRes Marine Biology and PhD in Macroecology.

Marine biology and oceanography studies the biology and ecology of the marine realm, with a focus on offshore and deep-sea ecosystems, and the physical and chemical processes that shape them. Teaching uses both small and large research vessels, providing you with an unrivalled experience of open ocean marine biology.

Visit the BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography course page

Find out more about our MRes Marine Biology course