I draw upon what I learned at Sheffield pretty much every day

Niall Bradshaw
Niall Bradshaw
Now: Civil Servant, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
BSc Biology with a Modern Language (now BSc Biology)
Niall's final year research project really helped to set the direction for what he wanted to do next. Niall chose to stay in Sheffield after his BSc, completing an MRes, followed by a PhD. Niall now works for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and draws upon what he learned at Sheffield almost every day.
Niall Bradshaw

I started at Sheffield in 2009, and loved it so much that I stayed for 10 years. Having left school with no particular career in mind, but knowing I enjoyed Biology, I arrived to study a four-year BSc Biology with Spanish course, which had the added benefit of taking me to Valencia for my third year. 

Whilst I enjoyed the whole thing, the highlights of my undergrad course (apart from a year in the sunshine) were the practical projects, including getting the opportunity to study parasitic plants in the Arctic circle, and later looking into the ability of soil fungi to colonize the roots of different wheat varieties. 

Looking back, that fourth year project had a real impact on the rest of my time at Sheffield and was the starting block for where I am now. It was my first experience studying sustainable agriculture, and also my first time working with Prof. Duncan Cameron – who later supervised my PhD.

I decided to stay in Sheffield after my undergraduate and signed up to study an MRes in Plant and Microbial Biology. Working with Dr. Lisa Smith, I learned how to do longer term research in a year-long project where I studied protein receptors and their link to plant defence to pathogens. I learned a huge amount about genetic techniques, introducing new genes to Arabidopsis plants, along with using PCR and gel electrophoresis.

I am working in close partnership with UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) in a really fulfilling policy area helping England’s farmers, growers and agri-businesses to carry out research and development to improve their productivity, their livelihoods, and importantly enhance the impact of farming on the natural environment. I never thought I’d end up a civil servant when I was younger, but I’m glad that my experience at Sheffield has led me to where I am, and I draw upon what I learned in Sheffield pretty much every day.

Niall Bradshaw

Now: Civil Servant, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This experience led me to look for a PhD, and I was lucky enough to secure a PhD scholarship with the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at Sheffield, where I worked between Chemical & Biological Engineering and Animal & Plant Sciences (now Biosciences) to study the use of enzymes to break down organic phosphates in organic wastes – including human waste – to unlock its potential as a sustainable fertiliser.

Whilst my PhD helped me to refine my scientific skills, there was also a huge emphasis put on developing our transferrable skills, and being activists. Through my PhD, I was given the opportunity to organise public seminars, was encouraged to engage with MPs and Civil Servants to contribute to policymaking, I accompanied my supervisors on a research trip to Tasmania, and I was even able to present my research at the UN’s COP22 in Marrakech. Eventually I realised that this engagement and policy work was where my interests really lied.

I have now been a civil servant working for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) for over two years. I really enjoy the varied, fast paced, collaborative work on government policy. I joined Defra in a recruitment round in response to EU Exit, and am working in close partnership with UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) in a really fulfilling policy area helping England’s farmers, growers and agri-businesses to carry out research and development to improve their productivity, their livelihoods, and importantly enhance the impact of farming on the natural environment. I never thought I’d end up a civil servant when I was younger, but I’m glad that my experience at Sheffield has led me to where I am, and I draw upon what I learned in Sheffield pretty much every day.

I’m now based in London, but miss Sheffield a lot. It’s a great city and I have lots of friends who decided to stay there after Uni, lots of great memories, and also lots of contacts who I can get in touch with when I’m in need of some expert advice! I would definitely recommend Sheffield as a city, and as a University to anybody who was thinking of applying.

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