Chris first studied a BSc in Biosciences after completing a foundation year. He continued studying with a PG Certificate in Academic Practice and went on to achieve his PhD in Biological Sciences, during which he discovered a new species of snail. He’s now living in Hawaii and working on two projects at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.
I was the first member of my family to go to university.
I wanted to go on to higher education, but I was ill during my A levels and so couldn’t complete them. However, I was able to gain access to Christ Church via a foundation year that helped raise my academic attainment in preparation for starting on the BSc in Biosciences.
While I was studying, I took as many opportunities open to me as possible. I was a Student Faculty Representative, and also studied abroad for a year at the Leuphana Universität in Lüneburg as part of the Erasmus programme. The focus on practical lab skills at Leuphana complemented the emphasis on biomolecular studies at Christ Church.
I really enjoyed the practical field work that was offered during my course.
In my third year, the Practical Ecology module included a residential field component, which involved collecting data, designing experiments and making a presentation of results within two days, all of which provided excellent experience.
After graduation, I undertook a Summer Season with Operation Wallacea and spent eight weeks working in Indonesia at the Hoga Research Station assisting in coral reef conservation. When I came back, I worked as a Science Technician in a secondary school before joining Christ Church in a similar role for three months, and it was during this time that I was accepted onto a PhD programme, with a teaching position attached.
My thesis on the Shining Ramshorn Snail – a rare freshwater snail found in Kent - involved comparing the genetics of UK populations to populations across Europe to inform conservation of the species. However, during the process, I ended up discovering an entirely new species of snail! My paper on the discovery is due to be published soon.
While attending my first international conference (the Annual Conference of the American Malacological Society) in Delaware, I met with some other researchers who offered me a position at Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Hawaii, but I hadn’t yet finished my PhD, so I couldn’t accept. But when I met them again at the conference the following year, happily they asked again and I was able to say yes.
At the moment, I’m working on two projects for the museum. The first involves extracting DNA from the empty shells of snails in the museum’s collection, which allows me to see how the snail has developed from then to the current day. My second project, Geometric Morphometrics, is a quantitative analysis of the shape of snails to understand differences in species and how shapes evolve, or not (effectively exploring the constraints to evolution).
I’m due to stay in Hawaii another 6 months. After that, I’m not sure where my research will take me, but without the academic knowledge and practical skills I learned at Christ Church I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Without the academic knowledge and practical skills I learned at Christ Church I wouldn’t be where I am today