November 7, 2014, by Matt

From Windermere to Malaysia…

PhD student Heather Moorhouse blogs from Malaysia…

Now in my fourth and final year, I have begun the most feared period of the PhD process, the big Thesis write-up (or the big T for short). I recently returned home from three years in Nottingham to write-up my findings on my PhD project which looks at algal community change in sediment cores from the lakes of the Windermere catchment, Lake District, UK over the last 200 years. Having survived thus far (albeit questionably) with my dog Spudley for company, casks of Yorkshire Tea and chocolate for sustenance, I undoubtedly jumped at the opportunity to visit my Supervisor Dr. Suzanne McGowan at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. The visit would be a chance to have on-hand supervisory support and a welcome change of scene as I continue to write-up the big T.

A week in and I have nearly overcome the inevitable jetlag one acquires when travelling to a country on the other side of the world, eight hours ahead of the UK. The humid heat has not taken any acclimatisation though, I love it. Although I have been told it is much cooler than in previous years at a cool 29°C. It is also the monsoon season here, so every afternoon there is a torrential downpour and a bit of thunder which is very exciting. It reminds me of being at home in the lakes, however rain you don’t mind getting stuck in because of the heat.

My initial impressions of the Malaysian campus are that it is a beautiful, small, surreal and tropical recreation of the University Park campus UK. I love the mini-me version of the Trent building and boating lake at its front. Dr. Suzanne McGowan and students have been investigating the recent deterioration in the water quality and blooms of cyanobacteria in the boating lake. It will be interesting to see what mitigation measures are put in place.

Outside the Trent building, Malaysia.

Outside the Trent building, Malaysia.

I think it will be a good place for me to get my head down in the next few weeks. I am also hoping to present my PhD project “Regional analysis of algal community change in the lakes and tarns of the Windermere catchment, UK” to the School of Geography here at some stage too. It is always useful to get different perspectives on your research, and you never know, may lead to future international collaborations.

By far though, I have thoroughly enjoyed trying the fusion of cuisines here on offer in Malaysia. From Indian street food, Malaysian rice dishes to vegetarian meats, yes that is correct. You can get fake versions of any meat dishes you wish, I saw fake shark fin soup on the menu last night. I did not partake however, sticking to the vegetarian chicken. I think I may be a few pounds heavier on my return to the UK.

The murky waters of the Malaysian campus!

The murky waters of the Malaysian campus!

I feel very privileged to get to visit yet another international University. Earlier this year I spent a month at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, funded by Universitas 21, to develop the statistical analyses of my research. These trips are an invaluable opportunity to meet with peers and gain insights into your own and others research you just can’t get at home. I am very lucky. It is another reason why studying Geography is so great; you just never know where it will take you next.

Posted in Uncategorized