Jennifer Watts BSc Oceanography, 2014, MSc ECE, 2016
Assistant Researcher, University of Southampton
While studying Oceanography as an undergraduate, I developed an interest in the complexity of the coastal zone. In particular the conflict of interests that occur due to natural processes and anthropogenic needs. The ECE course offered the opportunity to improve my ability to understand and analyse coastal issues, and ultimately apply this in the development of real management and engineering solutions.
The course was highly interesting and enjoyable, while the skills and knowledge I have acquired have proved to be invaluable to employers in this sector.
What was the best thing about studying your course at Southampton?
One of the best things about the ECE course at Southampton is undoubtedly its excellent links to both academia and industry. This means that both during and following the course I have been able to meet and work with a wide range of people in the coastal sector, from organisations like the Channel Coastal Observatory, who I worked with for my final masters project, to HR Wallingford.
What was your standout highlight during the course?
A highlight of the course for me were the modules in which we undertook fieldwork. It was fun getting to work with my course mates as a team to plan and execute whole days of fieldwork aboard the vessel, R.V. Callista. Undertaking the entire process from planning to the collection of data, processing and analysing it and then using it to try and answer real life engineering problems was a highly rewarding experience.
Any career highlights?
In my current role as an Assistant Researcher I recently helped to run a dissemination of our results with project stakeholders. This required me to present and discuss the key findings of our analysis to an audience which included representatives from numerous organisations. For me this was a highlight as it confirmed the skills and confidence that the course has given me.
What was your career path following graduation from your course?
Before graduating from the course, I began working part-time for the East Solent Coastal Partnership. I continued working for a few months part-time after graduating until moving into a full-time position as a research assistant in the engineering faculty. I am currently working on a NERC innovation project on historic coastal landfills and shoreline management. However, over the next few months, I will be transitioning into a new role as a Coastal Process Scientist at Plymouth Coastal Observatory.
What advice would you give to students hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Time management is important, they will tell you at the start to make sure you start your coursework early and to be organised about your deadlines. This is good advice as covering so much material in a year can be intense, so good time management skills will help you to make sure you’re always completing work to your best ability.
My other advice is not to be afraid to go and talk to lecturers or to any of the contacts they introduce you to from the coastal sector. They are all highly knowledgeable and can give the best advice on anything from coursework and exams to careers guidance, and they are always happy to help.