This latest instalment of SCI Energy Group’s blog delves deeper into the working life of one of its own members and SCI ambassador – Reace Edwards. She is currently pursuing an industry funded PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Chester and, through this blog, answers some questions to shed some light on her experience so far.

 Reace Edwards

Reace Edwards: Head shot 

Can you please provide a brief summary of your research?

My research is concerned with the establishment of a hydrogen gas network, in the North West, as a method of large-scale decarbonisation. This cross-disciplinary work will examine different elements of the hydrogen economy from production to end-use and explore the opportunities and barriers possessed by the region. Whilst technical and economic considerations are key components of this, policy, regulatory and social aspects will also be explored.

 Reace Edwards on bike

Reace Edwards: Riding a bike that generates hydrogen from pedalling

What does a day in the life of a Chemical Engineering PhD Student look like?

“It’s hard to define a typical day for a PhD student as no one day is ever the same.

At the beginning of the PhD, I spent a lot of time reading literature to help contextualise my research and appreciate its importance at a local, national and international scale.  

Within time, I began to not only read but review and analyse this literature, which ultimately led to the construction of my literature review (this is regularly updated still)! Through this process, I identified research gaps, helping me focus my research questions, and inspired my field research and methodology.

Since then, I have applied for, and gained, ethical approval.  At my current stage, I have chosen semi-structured interviews for data collection. So, now, my typical day consists of conducting interviews and transcribing the recordings.

Alongside this, there have always been ample opportunities to attend conferences and networking events, which, provides another form of skills development. So, there’s lots going on. But, what’s for sure, is that though each day is busy, the results are definitely rewarding.” 

How did your education prepare you for this experience?  

“In 2018, I graduated, from the University of Chester, with a first-class bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Therefore, I was eligible to apply for the PhD studentship when it was advertised.”

 reace edwards graduation

Reace Edwards: Graduation 

What are some of the highlights so far?

For me, one of my main highlights had been to travel abroad to deliver a presentation on my work at an international conference.

Another highlight was the opportunity to co-author a conference article with a colleague from my industrial sponsor, and others, which was presented at another major, international conference.

In addition to this, I’ve done a TEDx talk and appeared on the BBC politics show. Where, on both accounts, I have discussed the opportunities for hydrogen.

Without doing this PhD, none of this would have even been possible!

 reace edwards tedx

Reace Edwards: After delivering TEDx talk 

What is one of the biggest challenges faced in a PhD?

Time management is definitely a challenge, from two different perspectives.

Firstly, there are many different things that you can be tasked with at one time. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to prioritise these things and assign your time accordingly.

But, as well as that, because of your passion for the research, it can be very tempting to work exceedingly long hours. Whilst this may be necessary at times, it is important to give yourself some rest to avoid becoming run down.

 reace edwards interview

Reace Edwards: Whilst being interviewed by BBC 

What advice would you give to someone considering a PhD?

“If you’re passionate about the subject – do it!

You won’t regret it