Katherine Maxwell

Student spotlight details

Katherine is the first student to complete the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development.

'After my undergraduate and post-graduate degrees at the University of Edinburgh, I worked in the sustainability sector for a few years with roles in the Scottish Government and a variety of environmental charities and renewable energy businesses. When I enrolled on the Sustainable Urban Development (SUD) programme I was working as a Business Development Officer at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (one of the main impact and innovation centres at the University of Edinburgh). In the role, I worked on a variety of European funded projects supporting businesses and cities to become more sustainable.

'I was inspired to apply for the SUD DPhil l as I wanted to build on my MSc thesis research which focused on measuring urban sustainability, an increasingly important area for both governmental and societal action. Making a positive contribution to the resolution of the climate crisis was a significant motivating factor in applying for the DPhil.  I wanted to contribute towards the field both theoretically and practically.

'It is challenging to balance work and leisure – especially with a DPhil. At times, I was working part-time, studying part-time and also trying to make the most of the research placement opportunities (most of which were abroad) to further develop my research skills. To balance all of this, I had to manage my time very effectively. I found my hobby, running, helped me ‘switch off’ from work mode.

'I found many things rewarding and enjoyable about the DPhil. Firstly, I enjoyed being challenged and the opportunity to critically analyse a subject in which I was (and still am) very much interested. I found both the Transfer of Status and Confirmation of Status very challenging, yet rewarding, experiences as they provided an opportunity to learn from world-leading experts who were willing to give advice on my research. Secondly, with a DPhil, all of the work depends on you and your ability to organise yourself effectively, so it was satisfying to reach key formal milestones (e.g., Transfer of Status) as well as informal academic goals that I had set myself to ensure I progressed. Thirdly, the opportunities to do research placements across the world enabled me to strengthen my research skills and apply my knowledge in a real-life context, as well as being fun!

'I currently work as a Senior Manager, Climate Action Planning at C40 Cities. My role involves providing technical expertise and support to cities around the world to develop ambitious Climate Action Plans that align with the Paris Agreement objectives. C40 Cities is a network that connects 96 of the world’s greatest cities to take bold climate action, leading the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future.

'The SUD DPhil is an exceptionally rewarding experience, both academically and personally. The research will challenge you in a positive way and you will come away with much more than a doctorate. As part of the SUD programme and Kellogg College, you do very much feel like part of a community – despite not living on campus. The advice, support and opportunities from staff are invaluable and you are made to feel part of a much bigger support network during your studies.'

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