Lucy Sykes, MSc Sustainable Aquaculture Systems graduate

PhD student

Since graduating I’ve started a PhD with my MSc programme leader, Dr Daniel Merrifield

My PhD focuses on assessing the efficacy of a feed additive to promote fish health and robustness. I have run an experimental feeding trial with rainbow trout, assessing the effects of different inclusions of a feed additive to the diets of these fish for an 8 week period. The first year has been spent analysing the results of this trial, and I am about to start my next feeding trials with Nile tilapia and Atlantic salmon.

Running the trial was a massive responsibility and required many hours of hard work to ensure the animals were looked after and their health was maintained. I improved my skills in animal husbandry within a recirculating aquaculture system, as well as other analytical techniques that I had learned throughout my undergraduate and masters course, such as histology, immunology and molecular biology.

How my career path changed

My time at Plymouth has helped me to engage in research that has led to my current career path – one that I would have otherwise not considered. The fantastic courses and engaging lecturers have helped me gain skills that I have found extremely enjoyable and relevant to the life of a researcher. As many of the topics that were relevant to my PhD had been covered during my MSc here, I was already very familiar with the overall topic, and I was extremely interested in pursuing this line of research into feed additives with aquaculture. Through the opportunities presented here, I have been able to run my own fish feeding trial in the first year of my doctoral degree, and I will have run two more trials on two more commercially relevant species by the time my PhD is finished.

How Plymouth prepared me for the challenges I have faced

I have learnt that within all aspects of science, there will be times where things go wrong. This may be during the planning or experimental stages of a project, and it is important to handle each situation as a learning experience and move forward with new ideas. There are great support networks in place to help you progress in your studies, via your friends, lecturers and importantly your supervisor. I found that the advice given is invaluable and can really help shape you as a researcher. The setbacks help you to adapt to unfamiliar situations, and you are encouraged to come up with your own solutions by yourself and alongside your colleagues to conquer a particular problem. Learning to deal with any problems this way has helped me improve greatly as a researcher.

Why Plymouth?

Plymouth is an actively researching institution. The lecture and research material provided is extremely recent and at the forefront of their fields. I was drawn to the emphasis placed on the student becoming the lead researcher during their time at university, which is something I did not experience as much when I went to other open days. I felt that the courses here provided the training and support to answer questions that are important in modern day science that are related to global challenges we face, such as food shortages and sustainable alternatives in aquaculture, or global warming impacts on our oceans. The people you work with and meet are all of the same mind, and my time here has helped me become a better researcher.