Hayley Allen

I grew up in rural North Cornwall so initially I was wary of applying to Plymouth as it seemed a little too close to home and I worried that I wouldn't be getting that ‘city experience’ I craved. 

However, after attending an open day and talking to some of the students at the time, I realised Plymouth could offer me the best of everything. A fantastic range of undergraduate geology degree programmes and module choices that allow you to almost build your own degree based on your interests. The campus has a great city centre location, allowing you to get stuck in to city living with a huge variety of bars, clubs and shops to suit all tastes. 

But the best thing about Plymouth is you are never far from a totally different environment, so if you do get a little claustrophobic in the city, a short walk or bus ride will bring you to beaches or unspoilt moorlands where you can inhale some fresh country air.

I chose to do the MGeol Geology programme which lasts four years and includes an integrated masters year. This allowed me to gain additional self-led research experience and broadened my knowledge of geology in areas that interested me the most. For me it was always structural geology and exploring how faults behave, interact and can cause earthquakes. We got the opportunity to travel the world on our field trips from windy Wales to Las Vegas. In the summer between our second and third years we had to carry out our independent mapping camp for five weeks. There was a huge amount of choice - I chose to go to the Spanish Pyrenees but others went to Scotland, Cyprus and even fossil hunting in the USA!

Through the contacts I met in the department, I landed a job as project co-ordinator for the ‘field sites southwest' project. My role was to create and design a website as part of a new initiative that aimed to build a database of geological field sites around the South West. 

These field sites would tie to specific learning objectives for the GCSE and A Level geology curriculums so would be a valuable, time-saving resource for teachers of geology across the region. I worked on this project for just over a year but I knew that I wanted to go further with my own career in geology. It was then I decided to start applying for PhDs. I sent applications to six institutions from Dublin to New Zealand but it was Imperial College London that grabbed me the most and luckily they liked me too.

My PhD involves working with seismic data to reassess some aspects of the ‘Messinian Salinity Crisis’. This was an extremely dramatic tectonic and climatic event that occurred around five million years ago, causing the near total evaporation of the Mediterranean Sea. I am really enjoying carrying out my own research and feel that I am gradually becoming a real scientist!

Of course, none of what I am doing now would have been possible without the quality of teaching and support I got from time at the University of Plymouth. I will always remember my time there and the people I met, including my boyfriend, many of my dearest friends and, of course, the lecturers and staff who altogether made my university experience an unforgettable one. Plymouth’s warm, welcoming and fun atmosphere is inspiring and it is a university that I cannot recommend highly enough.