Getting started

After working for 6 years, I’m being a student again. Getting a student railcard was a big motivation, but the main reason was finding something that I really wanted to get my teeth into – and that would use the knowledge, skills and experience of my wandering path through life so far.

In my PhD research I’m looking at off-grid energy systems in Tanzania. From my work as the co-ordinator of the ACCESS Coalition* I’m interested in the role that community participation has in designing and implementing these systems. This is important both so that they are economically sustainable, but also so they meet wider development needs of the community. This includes things like improved healthcare, better education and opportunities for jobs.

As a climate scientist by background, I’m going to be focussed on renewable technology and wider links to climate resilience. Many of the communities without energy are the ones most vulnerable to climate change – especially farmers. Having access to energy can help people be more resilient to these changes, so they can irrigate their crops better, or find out about the weather forecast.

Sometimes I struggle to answer the question “what is your PhD going to be looking at?”. I’m going to use participatory approaches in my research – so the direction and methods will be agreed and development with the local community and local civil society organisations. I’m based between the Department of Geography and the Faculty of Engineering – bringing together approaches from across different disciplines. I’ve already started a reflective log, to help me to better understand my own position and expectations. I’ll be using ideas from this to write blogs, as well as sharing day to day stories.

I’m not sure at the moment how I’ll use this blog, but hoping to use it to manage some of my thoughts and ideas, and to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.

* The picture on this blog shows me in my old role at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York with members of the ACCESS network from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


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