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David Yeo

Chemistry PhD student

David Yeo completed his undergraduate degree and Masters at Oxford. He is in his first year of his PhD at Leeds and below shares some of his thoughts about studying for a research degree.

So which year of study are you in?
I am in my first year and I am finding doing a PhD to be a huge learning curve.  I have already done a Masters which was a year of research but it’s another step up again. You hit PhD, you are more independent, it feels a lot better, you are challenged a bit more but I like being a bit more in control of my research. You do get followed closely by your supervisors if you have any problems but it’s nice to be able to work to your own devices. If you have any problems then everyone is very keen to help out as well.

What is your research project?
It is about taking an existing protein and replacing sections of it with synthetic non-natural components. There are several particular parts of the protein that comprise helical motifs and the idea is  to remove these helices and then replace them with something which mimics the helix. This scale of replacement hasn’t been done before, so it’s pushing the boundaries significantly. It’s quite an exciting and novel project and I am looking forward to getting some results. Success could lead to a lot of applications in future; obviously the foundations have to be laid somewhere, so why not try it?

Why did you choose Leeds?
I’ve got a great affinity for the area. I do love the city and I wanted a bit of a change from my previous university. So I wanted to choose a place with a lot of research pedigree and Leeds has got a huge amount of history, the department is excellent, so it was a logical choice. The staff are very good, very friendly and very driven, it all ties in really nicely as the best place to work.

What made you choose to do a research degree?
I wanted to expand my Masters further and see if research was what I wanted to do in the future as a career. At the end of the PhD you have a qualification that opens new opportunities and gives you a competitive edge in the employment market. At the moment employment prospects are not looking the best and so any additional qualifications and experience is extremely useful to get jobs and further placements in the future.

What is it that makes you passionate about the subject you study?
It’s just the opportunity to apply quite novel things together and to try and push chemistry as far as I can. I love making synthetic chemistry work and I love the little technicalities. It is nice to solve all the problems and I am quite logical,  so to have a puzzle and deal with it is quite good. Then possibility that other will build and use my results in future on either by this particular group or by other people  is also appealing.

What do you like best about your School or Department?
The excellent academic staff, they are all very friendly and knowledgeable. So it’s great just to work here and be part of that super team. There’s a great spirit here of collaboration rather than competition as well.

What would you say to other students thinking of doing a PhD at Leeds?
It’s a very good place to study, it’s got the right sort of ethos. It’s great to have the very intelligent and very knowledgeable academics here. Leeds generally is a very appealing city, it’s a great campus and a great area to be in, it’s a nice place to live.