Evolution, behaviour and environment

Career and student perspectives

A degree from the School of Life Sciences opens the doors to a wide range of careers both in science and other areas of work. We aim to equip you with a wide range of skills required to pursue a rewarding career after your studies. In addition to practical and analytical skills, we want you to graduate from Sussex with a wider view of the world.

By planning projects, giving presentations, managing deadlines and defending your views, you will develop the intellectual confidence you need to make your mark in the world of work or studying at a higher level.

But don't just take our word for it. Read what our former and current students have to say about their experience at Sussex and beyond:

Awoyemi Abayomi AWOFALA

DPhil in Biology (2007-2010)


"I first heard about Sussex at Tai Solarin University of Education, Nigeria where I was retained and offered a Graduate Assistantship position after graduating with a 1st Class Honours degree in Biology and Chemistry Education. The University also sponsored me for a full-time DPhil study at Sussex. Thanks to the partnership deal between Sussex and Tai Solarin. 

I came to Sussex in 2007 and as a new research student then my supervisor quickly integrated me into a collaborative research work between the Sussex Centre for Advanced Microscopy and the Cambridge University on Protein Trap Initiative in a screen of Drosophila lines with new fluorescent protein-protein fusions to identify and characterize proteins that change localization and mobility in response to signal transduction and I was not only happy to see the state-of-the-art confocal microscopy facility at Sussex but also pleased to know that I would be using such at least for the collaborative project.  

Research at Sussex is intellectually stimulating, provokes and unlocks ones analytical thoughts and intuition. I met an open, dynamic and very inspiring research community while studying for my DPhil in the School of Life Sciences. I also enjoyed daily encouragement and supports from my supervisors and research colleagues from other labs. I was able with the support I received from my supervisor to attend conferences and workshops that were relevant to my research work both within and outside the UK. That Sussex research combined a great breadth of knowledge with the state- of- the- art facilities coupled with an amazing and friendly atmosphere made Sussex a perfect environment for me.  Indeed, I am confident to say that I have not only been equipped with the vital bioinformatics and statistical theories and skills needed to work with complex data, but also the classical genetic skills and methodologies that could be applied in understanding the mechanisms governing complex disease traits. I found the experience very pleasing and rewarding.

Elena Cubero Leon

DPhil in Biology and Environmental Science (2006-2009)


"I completed my DPhil in Environmental Science at Sussex in September 2009 after three years of intensive research in the area of endocrine disruption in aquatic organisms exposed to environmental contaminants. I chose to apply for a DPhil at Sussex because the faculty research interests matched mine and they had a great publication record. On visiting the department for an interview, I decided that this was a good place to develop as a scientist. The department counts with world-class molecular biology equipment and great mass spectrometry facilities.
My DPhil project was a part of a big interdisciplinary European programme and two faculty members at Sussex supervised my work. My relationship with them was great; we had frequent meetings to discuss my progress and they always gave me feedback about the work that I was carrying out. During this time I was also encouraged to give seminars to other scientists and presentations about my work in International Conferences. This experience, although terrifying at the beginning, has helped me to believe in my research and myself.

I must thank my supervisors and fellow colleagues for all the support and encouragement during the tough times". 

Ben Warren

DPhil in Biology (2006 - till date)


"I entered into the exciting world of research as a DPhil, after pioneering experiments as part of my 3rd year project, lead to an entirely novel finding. We found that mosquitoes use the high-pitched whine they make when they fly to communicate. As part of the Hearing Research Group I extended this work, as the first part of my DPhil, to blood-feeding dengue and malaria carrying mosquitoes to discover that they communicate using their flight tone in a similar way. In order to understand this behaviour we decided to investigate how mosquitoes hear the sounds they make when flying. I flew to Germany, briefly, to acquire some experimental techniques then took advantage of a highly sensitive laser, developed at Sussex, to record nanometer movements of the antennae of mosquitoes caused by sound. We published two high-profile papers in Current Biology based on this work. As part of the DPhil programme I attended international conferences in Paris, Venice, and London to present this work as a poster. After being inspired at the Inner Ear Biology conference in Paris I decided to investigate what underpins the remarkable sensitivity of the mosquito antennae, which surpasses that of our own ears! In order to investigate this I got the mechanical workshop at Sussex to engineer a custom mosquito-sized device which controls the temperature of a mosquito, which allowed me to identify the cause of the mosquito’s sensitive antennae. Findings from these experiments were published and presented orally at two international conferences in Barcelona and Tours, France. Standing up to present my findings in front of the world experts in my field was a daunting experience but generic courses run by the Science Postgraduate Support Group at Sussex, such as oral presentation skills really helped. I was able to develop teaching skills and maintain a broad knowledge base through teaching tutorials and laboratory based demonstrations at Sussex. Enthused by the research environment at Sussex I have applied for a two-year research fellowship in Germany to embark on a career in research".   

Bualuang Faiyue

DPhil in Biology (2006 - till date)


"I choose the University of Sussex to do my D.Phil. in Biology because it is one of the top 100 universities in the world. My research is focused on sodium transport in rice (Oryza sativa L.) under supervision of Prof. T.J. Flowers and Dr. M.J. Al-Azzawi. I try to find where the bypass flow, an important pathway for sodium uptake in rice under saline conditions, occurs in rice. I learn how to collect and analyse sodium in the xylem sap of rice by using the xylem-feeding insect Philaenus spumarius. I also learn the technique to identify passage cells and Casparian bands in the root using fluorescent dyes. With very good facilities at the School of Life Sciences such as the atomic absorption spectrometer, fluorescence spectrometer, epifluorescence microscope and scanning electron microscope, my research has been conducted so well that I have already published two articles in Plant, Cell and Environment.

Sussex provides opportunities for me to develop both academic and social skills. For example, there are many workshops and seminars in various topics to be attended such as time management, oral and poster presentation skills. Giving presentations on ‘rice and salinity’ at University of Sussex, University of Cambridge and Imperial College were the highlight of my time at Sussex. I also participated in ERASMUS IP 2010 at Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany, for two weeks to increase my knowledge of bioenergy. All experiences I have gained are extremely valuable for my future career and I really enjoy studying at Sussex".

John Chesebro

DPhil Biology and Environmental Science (2009 - till date)


"After completing a Master of Science in Biology in the United States I was recruited to Sussex as a DPhil student to further study evolutionary aspects of developmental mechanisms in basal insect species.  I find this area of research to be very interesting and I feel lucky to have been given this opportunity to study outside to the US.  My supervisor is encouraging and insightful and the other lab members are great to work with as well.  My research is coming along nicely and since the start of the programme I have been able to present my results at two international conferences; first, at the International Society if Developmental Biologist Congress in Edinburgh in 2009 and then at the Euro Evo Devo Conference in Paris in 2010.  It was a great experience to see the level of research being conducted in the science community around the world and to be able to talk to scientists with similar interests as myself.  Overall, the experiences I’ve had at the University of Sussex have been overwhelmingly positive and my time in Brighton, in general, has been very enjoyable".

Hasan Al Toufailia

DPhil Biology (2012 - till date)

After graduating with a 1st class honors degree in Agriculture Engineering at the University of Damascus, Syria, the University sponsored me to do full-time Masters and Doctoral degrees in the UK in honey bee biology. After the first click on Google search on honey bee research in the UK, it quickly became evident that the most active laboratory was of Professor Ratnieks at the University of Sussex. I was also attracted to Sussex because of its good reputation in research in general. I joined the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) in October 2010. My relationship with my supervisors is good. We have frequent meetings to discuss ideas, plan research and look at results.Hasan

My MPhil degree focused on the behavioural ecology of honey bee foraging. The two projects have given me immense training in honey bee biology: I have also learnt how to carry out a research project. One was on the waggle dance, specifically and the behaviour of bees that follows the dance to obtain information on foraging locations. The other was on the persistence of foragers to feeding locations that become unrewarding, and how the duration of their persistence is affected by the rewards they receive.

My Doctoral research is in a different area, focusing on honey bee diseases and resistance.  

Sussex has provided me with excellent opportunities to develop both academic and interpersonal skills. For example, I have attended several workshops and seminars such as time management, oral poster presentation skills, Endnote, and SPSS statistical program.

For all the support and encouragement, I thank my supervisors Professor Francis Ratnieks and Dr. Neil Crickmore, my labmates at LASI especially two postdoctoral researchers who are honey bee biologists, Drs. Christoph Grüter and Margaret Couvillon, and Dr. Deeptima Massey who oversees Graduate students in the School of Life Sciences. I am glad that I came to the University of Sussex to study honey bees.


Grace Solomon-Wisdom

DPhil in Biology (2011- till)

I found out about the University of Sussex while applying for a Commonwealth Scholarship in 2010. I made it my first choice as it is one of the top ranked Universities in the United Kingdom. I am now a Commonwealth Scholar working at Sussex on quantifying the spatial heterogeneity of lead in soils and assessing its implication for plant uptake.Grace

I’m greatly impressed by  the research environment and facilities in the School of Life Sciences. Sussex is a place where both high quality research needs are met. I have gained experience in novel and standard spectrometric technics and equipments such as the Portable X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer, Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer and the X-ray Microprobe to mention but a few. I am also part of the Sussex Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Research Group.

I have been having a productive time with my supervisor who has offered useful advice and guidance based on his wealth of experiences. Prompt feedback is a unique attribute of doing research at Sussex. I have regular supervisory meetings which are tremendously helpful. I have also been encouraged to attend conferences, seminars and workshops. Several training courses in transferable skills have also enhanced my research skills.  My co-supervisor and other members of the school are always willing to offer valuable technical and academic support. The Life Sciences research community is well resourced in terms of academic supervision and access to equipment, which means that everything is in place to make my research dreams a reality. Sussex is a place to be for real research achievement and  substantial personal scientific development.