My placement year at Monier

Jade Malone, Geology BSc(Hons)

“On my placement year at Monier I gained confidence working in an industrial setting, and developed my interpersonal skills with colleagues at all levels. It has enabled me to effectively communicate results and findings to ensure that project teams work effectively as a single unit.

I personally feel that going on a sandwich-year has given me quite a nice ‘break’ from studying and I now believe I will return to complete the final year of my course with a higher level of maturity and motivation – not to mention a vast improvement in my time management skills!”

My placement at GE Aviation

Geraldine Rumbold
BSc (Hons) Physical Geography and Geology

“By undertaking a placement year as an Environment Health and Safety Intern, it has been the best decision that I could have made for my career. It has expanded and developed my skills including team work, decision making, project management and emotional intelligence, which I could not have gained at university. In addition, I have received an extra qualification (Nebosh National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety), which will improve my career opportunities in any career I pursue in the future. I would highly recommend anyone to pursue an internship to gain a year’s experience. In the long term, it will make you a strong and desirable candidate when applying for Graduate Schemes or Postgraduate Opportunities.”

My placement at Johnson & Johnson

Shane Voight
BSc (Hons) Environmental Science

“As a Sustainability Coordinator with Johnson & Johnson each day is very varied. I can be developing presentations and business proposals for my next big project, walking around the site doing building audits, or doing a roadshow talking to people about sustainability, recycling, and environmental initiatives. I have developed a huge amount over the year. My biggest achievement has been leading and managing Energy Week, which involved communicating to Johnson & Johnson staff the importance of environmental initiatives. My placement has been an enjoyable experience and I’ve had great support from my team and made great friendships with the other placement students.”

Brighton sparks Ruby’s volcanic interest

Geography graduate Ruby Coates has had an exciting time since leaving the University of Brighton, working her way around the world including internships in Brazil and Patagonia. She kindly shared some of her experiences in the midst of her travels. Her undergraduate degree experience ignited a passion for volcanology and she begins her masters degree in the subject at Bristol University this autumn.

“I initially enrolled on the Geography BA course at the University of Brighton but quickly realised it was not for me, and I switched to the BSc and was happy to be able to opt to learn more about our physical environment and landscape.

“I have always been interested in natural hazards and soon realised on the second-year field trip to Sicily that my interest lay with volcanoes. It was fascinating to spend a day on Mount Etna with the volcanologist Dr Boris Behncke who taught us about the volcano and the local communities. It was amazing to learn how societies could live so peacefully in close proximity to such powerful natural landforms. This trip led me to base my dissertation around Mount Etna and the communities living in the area.

“In my third year, I was fortunate enough to return to Sicily to carry out my project research and work alongside Boris at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and out in the field. It was amazing to see the work carried out to monitor the volcano and educate the communities. I found my dissertation to be a really interesting and important study that identified a widespread unpreparedness amongst the population in the event of an emergency. I found this very hard to believe and saw that further research is essential in this field. This is why I have chosen to study volcanology and I hope to go on to work with governmental organisations in managing natural hazards and be involved in risk communication amongst vulnerable communities.

“I was recommended the course by Dr Jake Ciborowski and received references from Jon Caplin and Chris Carey, all lecturers at the University of Brighton. I am thrilled to be accepted onto the course at Bristol University, the city where I was brought up.”

Health of UK Physical Geography

The first-ever report to compile evidence on the health and influence of UK physical geography has shown that the discipline is in great academic shape and a leading force worldwide. The International Benchmarking Review of UK Physical Geography was produced by the Royal Geographical Society and co-authored by Professor Phil Ashworth, University of Brighton.

The report highlights the extraordinary richness and diversity of physical geography in the UK that provides insights into processes and forms in the natural environment including climate and atmosphere, geomorphology and landscape, biogeography and ecosystems, hydrology and water science, oceans and soils.

Physical geography is witnessing a resurgence in popularity in schools and is growing subject choice at university where undergraduates perform well in their degrees, express high level of course satisfaction and have excellent employment outcomes compared to many disciplines.

UK physical geography research is international in outlook, world-leading in many subareas and influences the discipline worldwide. It punches well above its weight in terms of success rates with funding agencies, leads eminent international collaborative research programmes and addresses global societal-environment challenges.

Professor Phil Ashworth, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor Research & Enterprise at the University of Brighton, said: “This is a timely strategic review of UK physical geography whose findings have been validated by a panel of distinguished international experts. It shows that physical geography percolates into many natural and social science challenges in the changing world. Fundamental and exciting discovery science is produced by globally-renowned and influential geographers. UK physical geography is in excellent health and has a bright future for the new generation of numerate physical scientists”.

An independent, international panel of reviewers of the report, led by Professor Olav Slaymaker of the University of British Columbia in Canada said: “Physical geography within the UK is a major international player in terms of any metric considered, whether numbers of undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded; research foci; intellectual contributions as judged by papers and journal editorial positions. The UK is performing better than most in terms of maintaining the visibility of physical geography as a distinct field. The strength of the field in the UK acts as an important role model for the future of physical geography globally.”

Government is too slow on car pollution

Our Head of School and a lead researcher on air pollution, Dr Kirsty Smallbone, has urged the Government to bring forwards its plans to ban new diesel and petrol cars from 2040.

She said: “Let’s go for 10 years time, plenty of time for the market to adjust, for a changeover in van and car fleet renewals and plenty of time for the government to develop incentive schemes to encourage vehicle trade-ins to meet the deadline.”

Dr Smallbone said over 50,000 people die each year in the UK from air pollution-related diseases, costing the NHS is around 16% of its total budget: “Why is this not declared a public health crisis public health crisis which demands immediate action?

“After all, liver diseases related to heavy drinking kill 12,300 people per year and this is considered a public health emergency.”

Dr Smallbone and lecturer Dr Kevin Wyche are studying ultra-fine particles which can pass through the lung alveoli and contaminate organs including the brain.

Their data comes from the university’s state-of-the-art £250,000 advanced air pollution monitoring station based at its campus in Falmer and funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN, www.cleanerairbetterhealth). Read More

Re-naturing cities

Dr Mary Gearey, Research Fellow in our school, joined 40 other British and Brazilian researchers for a four day, Newton funded workshop in July, exploring methods, strategies and theories in support of ‘re-naturing cities’. The event was held in Goiania, Brazil, Mary tells us more about it here.

The Newton funded workshop brought together researchers from a wide range of disciplines including Architecture, Ecology, Public Health, Urban Planning, Human Geography, Soil Science and Land Management to share expertise around developing green infrastructure in highly dense urban spaces. My work on public perceptions in support of urban wetlands expansion contributed to a series of round-table seminars which explored a wide range of subjects from improving green roof structures to expand biodiversity, to extending community participation in developing public spaces through growing fruit, vegetables and flowers in street side rain gardens.

Complementing existing ‘grey’ infrastructure – the buildings, roads, transport networks which are the fundamentals of city spaces – with ‘green’ infrastructure – city parks, tree lined greenway cycle paths and wilder areas such as urban wetlands – offers urban dwellers the chance to improve their health and well-being in a range of ways. From cooling down the ‘heat island’ effect of cities, both now and with a view to future climate change impacts, as well as improving air and water quality, expanding nature into cities via urban parks, green ‘wedges’ of land set aside for plants and trees and softening buildings through living walls and mobile gardens housed in skips, offers city dwellers a respite from noise and traffic fumes and improves access to nature for everyone, not just wealthier residents.

This Newton funded workshop has demonstrated that the research I currently undertake within SET exploring the value of wetlands for local communities as part of a Natural England Research Council (NERC) project alongside Professors Neil Ravenscroft and Andrew Church has an international resonance and impact, and highlights the wonderfully diverse range of work undertaken by University of Brighton researchers.

This is my second time in Brazil, disseminating and undertaking research on behalf of SET and the University of Brighton. In November I worked with Physical Geographers at UNIVALI University in the South of the country, supported by a Santander Bank travel grant.

Both times in Brazil I’ve got close up and personal with the wildlife; last time it was a surprise encounter with a rainforest bush rat in a rangers’ toilet, this time with this very cute monkey (pictured). We found him in our hosts’ campus at the Federal University of Goias and thought he was adorable, rolling around on the floor and clapping his hands– until we discovered he was working a con act with another monkey who was going through people’s bags searching for food when we were distracted. What a cheeky monkey!

It’s time to take air pollution seriously

The air monitoring station (LtoR) Kevin Wyche Kirsty Smallbone Keith Taylor and Debra Humphris

Our Vice-Chancellor has called on the Government to take more notice of evidence pointing to an air pollution crisis facing the planet.
Professor Debra Humphris was commenting after scientists from our school presented new research showing how society was facing a “public health timebomb”.
They told how air pollution is linked to 50,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, 9,400 in London and 430,000 in the EU as a whole, through heart disease, asthma, and even dementia.
Lead researchers, Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of the School of Environment and Technology, and lecturer Dr Kevin Wyche, are studying ultra-fine particles which can pass through the lung alveoli and contaminate organs including the brain.
Their data comes from the university’s state-of-the-art £250,000 advanced air pollution monitoring station based at its campus in Falmer and funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN, www.cleanerairbetterhealth). Read More

Brains at the Bevy

Join Dr Kirsty Smallbone, our Head of School, for a talk and a bevy at the next Brains at the Bevy event on 26 July, 6-7pm. Kirsty will be talking about ‘Local Air Pollution: Our Health and Our Environment.”

“Those most at risk from local air pollution are the elderly, children and those with heart or lung conditions. Without preaching, I would like to talk about the problems of air pollution, where it comes from, how it affects us, our children, our parents and our environment and importantly, discuss what may be the best ways to reduce our exposure to it,” explains Kirsty.

Brains at the Bevy are a series of short and enlightening talks from local academics and all are welcome to attend. The talks take place at The Bevendean Community Pub in Moulsecoomb and each talk will last around an hour with plenty of time for questions and discussion. 

These free talks are organised by the Bevy and Community University Partnership Programme at the University of Brighton and funded by the Sussex Learning Network. Tea and coffee will be provided during the talk and everyone is welcome to stay on afterwards to enjoy the lovely food and drink available at the Bevy.

See you there!

We must tackle air pollution – join the conversation

Keith Taylor MEP is hosting a public meeting in Brighton to discuss ways of tackling air pollution that experts claim leads to 40,000 premature deaths in Britain every year.

Dr Kirsty Smallbone, our Head of School, Andrea Lee, Healthy Air Campaigner at ClientEarth, and Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for South East England, are keynote speakers at “Air Pollution – Plans to Tackle a Public Health Emergency” starting 6pm on 17 July at the Brighthelm Centre in North Road.

Keith Taylor said: “As a member of both the European Parliament’s Transport and Environment committees, I am confronted on a daily basis with the discrepancy between the current approach to ensure mobility across Europe and the pressure this puts on our air and resources and the planet’s climate.

“Brussels and London, two cities between which I regularly travel, are proven to be among the most polluted and congested cities in all of Europe. Our transport sector is on an unsustainable path that puts at stake our climate, public health and life quality.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the free event; register via Eventbrite here.