Catherine Nichol, BSc Physical Geography

Catherine Nichol embarked upon her BSc Physical Geography dissertation alongside partner organisation Costain.

How and why did you choose to work with business?
“I was recruited through the LEC 301 Industry Dissertation Project to complete my undergraduate dissertation with Costain. I wanted to work with them because they were a large recognised company, with a wide variety of work. They provided a setting for my dissertation that you would not think was directly related to my degree subject, and therefore allowed me to see how geography could be incredibly useful outside of academic studies.”

Had you worked with business before starting your project with the company?
“No, the only kind of work I had ever done before was for an outdoor adventure company.”

What problem did the organisation face? What did they ask you to do to help them?
“I worked with the Environmental Officer on the Heysham to M6 Link Road. Costain as a company have to track and record their carbon emissions for the project, I helped to research and record these emissions.”

What skills did you use and develop working with the company? Did you learn any new skills?
“I used a wide range of skills that I have developed throughout my degree, for example, communications and written skills. These were further developed in the research and writing of my dissertation. However, I also learnt new skills whilst there, for example how to conduct myself in a work environment and safety on a large construction site.”

What did you do?
“I created an 8000-word document highlighting the carbon emissions in Scope 1,2 and 3. This included figures, charts and graphs to demonstrate the data. I then went on to look at how carbon emissions could be reduced, suggesting ideas I had researched through literature.”

Did you get paid? Did it cost you anything? What expenses did you have and were they paid for by the organisation?
“No I didn’t get paid, but Costain often helped with transport by picking me up when the roads were closed so I could get to the offices.”

What was the best thing about the project for you?
“It helped me to understand how useful Geography can be outside of academia. It gave the subjects I had been studying for the last three years a real grounding in a workplace environment.”

What was the result - has it lead to more projects?
“I haven’t completed any more projects for Costain.”

Did you get a job because of it?
“I didn’t get a job because of it, but I haven’t tried to peruse a job as I have chosen to go onto further study; however I feel that the reference Costain provided me definitely helped me to gain a place in postgraduate study.”

What career do you hope to pursue at the end of your course and how has your project helped you achieve that? Did it help you make any decisions on your career?
“I am about to start a Masters in Land Surveying/Environmental Management, with the plan to become a charted Land Surveyor. Working with Costain has probably been one of the biggest influences towards this. I enjoyed the working environment I witnessed whilst working with Costain. Combining this with an interest in GIS and remote sensing I developed whilst studying at Lancaster, the course I am about to start will hopefully lead to a perfect career path for me.”

Can you describe what it’s like studying at Lancaster University?
“Lancaster was one of the last university opens days I went to as a prospective student, however, it was the only open day where I came away with a smile and said to my parents I could imagine going to university there. That initial feeling was completely right; the three years I spent at Lancaster were fantastic.

"Studying within LEC was great, the facilities were good, and the staff were always helpful and you could get all the support you need if you looked in the right places. The modules I chose allowed me to study a great breadth of subjects. The modules were always engaging, as the lecturers often had specific research in the area they were teaching in; so you really felt like you were getting top-class and relevant information and teaching.

"The campus also had great facilities and the collegiate system makes the whole place seem incredibly friendly. You can’t walk from one end of the campus to another without smiling and saying hello to somebody you know.”

Would you recommend your course to prospective students? If so, why?
“Yes. The course is really well built and structured, the first year gave great foundations for the part two modules. Part two allowed lots of variations and a mix of modules choices, and the teaching was engaging and relevant to current research.”