Meet our Scientists

Name: Tessa Driessen

Place of work: Loughborough University

Location: Loughborough

Job role: PhD student

Even though diatoms are very small (2µm – 500µm), during the Victorian period they were used to make art with!

  • What do you do in your Job?

    Tropical freshwater lakes are critical natural systems of global importance. In East Africa, crater lakes and their catchments provide vital ecosystem services to some of Earth’s fastest growing and most vulnerable human populations, however, these services are under great threat due to the impact of human activities. Up till now very little work has been carried out on these lakes, which are often undergoing rapid catchment and other environmental change, with largely unknown impacts. My PhD aims to fill in this gap by reconstructing environmental and ecological change over the recent past from several crater lakes in western Uganda. I will be using palaeoecological proxies, such as diatoms and pollen grains to reconstruct the last 500 years.

  • What is your favourite top fact about your field of expertise. e.g. Did you know…..?

    Even though diatoms are very small (2µm – 500µm), during the Victorian period they were used to make art with!

  • If you had to summarise the impact your job has on everyday life – what would you say in two sentences?

    Eventually we will have a better understanding of the fresh water lakes in western Uganda, which can help the local populations with maintaining their lakes.

  • What’s the best thing about your job?

    The freedom of making your own decisions. And knowing that your results can contribute to a better understanding of our world.

  • What did you study at school?

    In secondary school (in the Netherlands) I choose the profile Science and Health with biology, chemistry, physics and maths B. At University I studied Biology and my master’s was environmental biology.

  • What inspired you into a career in science /engineering?

    I have always been very curious and interested in everything that’s “alive”. So after secondary school it was a logical step for me to go to university and study biology. During my studies we had to do several research internships, and by making my own research questions, methodology and discussing my own results, I realised how much I liked doing this. Having your own results is something special and unique, it made me want to discover more, do more research.

    And of course Sir David Attenborough and all the BBC planet earth series!

  • What five top tips would you have for people wanting a job like yours?

    1. Never give up! It took me two years to finally start with my dream PhD and it was worth waiting for.

    2. If you want to do something with practical work, try to get as much of experience in the field or lab as possible. Experience is very important!

    3. Be active in science clubs, associations, go to conferences etc. Networking is the best way to get the most interesting internships and meeting people who might have job openings.

    4. Try to do something you’re passionate about. In academia you will work a lot and if you’re not passionate about your subject it will demotivate you.

    5. Never forget that you have a personal and social life as well! Doing research is fun, but if you spend all your days, nights and weekends in a lab or office you will stop enjoying it.