Life in the OGU

The OGU is formed from a dynamic mix of undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as post-doctoral workers; all testify to the supportive and inspiring environment in which they are given the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills. Below, three members of the group offer their personal insights into what makes life in the OGU so attractive.

An undergraduate view of the OGU

There is huge potential to study a vast range of exciting areas in chemistry as an undergraduate in the OGU.  Many of us were attracted to the group because of the research into biological molecules and their use as biomarkers.

We all found the environmental lecture courses fascinating and this is a great way to further your knowledge and interest.  Examples of work currently being undertaken by undergraduates include:

  • Palaeoclimate reconstruction using sediments from numerous areas including South China Sea and New Zealand
  • The analysis of lipids present in faecal matter as a potential proxy for methane production from methanogens present in the digestive tract of mammals and reptiles
  • Archaeological pottery analysis to find marine biomarkers as evidence for processing of marine commodities
  • The analysis of soil lipid biomarkers as a forensic tool for crime scene investigation
  • Looking into the effects of charring on the change in composition of cereal grains and the application to palaeodietary analysis.

We all enjoy the friendly atmosphere created in the laboratory and the level of support is enhanced with informal seminars to aid understanding.

- a student carrying out a final year research project in the with Dr Ian Bull

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A postgraduate view of the OGU

My first experience of the OGU was as a slightly apprehensive final year student from another university coming for an interview with the professor whose name had featured on most of the papers in my final year project.  Daunting as it was to walk into a lab full of shiny instruments and equipment that I’d neither seen before, after chatting with the current postgrads over lunch, I was reassured that despite my limited practical chemistry experience I would be “just fine”.

And 6 months later I was back; joining a research group with people from all nationalities researching topics as diverse as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and the fate of organic nitrogen from animal waste.

The everyday life of a PhD student is like having any other job, but with the added bonus of still being immersed in university life and still having all the opportunities for joining sports teams and societies.

And it’s not all spent in the lab; there are plenty of opportunities to present your work at conferences all around the world and take part in outreach and teaching throughout your PhD.

With such a range of research interests within the OGU, group seminars never become monotonous and there is always a biologist or geologist around to explain the finer points of nitrogen metabolism or soil geochemistry if you need it.

Combine this with the suite of instruments and resources that the OGU has at its disposal, it is definitely one of the places to research all things to do with organic geochemistry.

- a second year PhD student working with Professor Richard Evershed

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A postdoctoral view of the OGU

The OGU is a great place to work as a post-doc because of the world-class facilities and the training opportunities offered. Hosting a node of the NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility means that the range of instruments available for use in the OGU is unmatched in the UK.

The University of Bristol has invested in training courses for research staff in teaching, management, career development, IT, presentation skills and many other areas and post-docs in the OGU are encouraged to participate in all courses appropriate to their chosen career path.

Post-docs in the OGU are strongly encouraged to present their research at international conferences and this provides an opportunity to become part of the international scientific community, to network and to establish connections that will enhance future career prospects.

- a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Richard Pancost

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Students using pipettes to transfer liquids

Life as an undergraduate

Many of us were attracted to the group because of the research into biological molecules and their use as biomarkers. We all found the environmental lecture courses fascinating and this is a great way to further your knowledge and interest.


A student using a microscope

Life as a postgraduate

With the suite of instruments and resources that the OGU has at its disposal, it is one of the bext places to research all things to do with organic geochemistry.