Stephen Parkes

“Where are they now?” WRDTC Alumni share their post-PhD experiences and achievements…

Stephen Parkes (Planning Pathway, University of Leeds)

stephenparkesI completed my PhD in January 2015, emerging from just short of three and a half years of study at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds. I survived the challenges that PhD research presents and moved, in March 2015, the relatively short distance down to the University of Nottingham to take up a position as a post-doc on a Leverhulme Trust funded research project (Sustaining Urban Habitats: An Interdisciplinary Approach).

This position has provided me with a 3-year contract in the School of Geography but working with colleagues from across many different disciplines in the University. This has been my first experience of interdisciplinary working and the experience has enlightened me on the many challenges faced when approaching this type of research, which I perhaps underestimated before I started. It has also, however, shown me the great value that can be found when working closely with colleagues who are experts in their respective fields, and the opportunities this presents.

My work on the project is focused around the economy and sustainability in cities, meaning I have taken a step away from my PhD research, which examined commuter travel behaviour associated with the London 2012 Olympics. My key message for anyone making the move from PhD to post-doc would be to not be afraid to take a step away from the comfort zone that is your specific discipline and into an area of research that is perhaps a little less familiar. The skills you have developed during your PhD will stand you in good stead and the opportunity to broaden your experiences is extremely valuable.

Transitioning from PhD researcher to post-doc obviously means that you have different demands and responsibilities placed on you and your time. As well as my work on my project I have a tutorial group of first year Geography students who I am responsible for now, amongst other smaller roles. Whilst my day-to-day work is focused on research, there are opportunities abound to continue to develop my skills and experience to help me progress as an early career researcher.