Anne Soleilhavoup (France)
Why did you choose to do your PhD in Chemistry at Durham University?
After my Master's degree in France, I was aiming to do a PhD in Solid State NMR. I was looking for a suitable research topic and when I came across the project proposal from Durham, I immediately got enthusiastic and applied. I got an interview and a visit at the department that convinced me that Durham would be a good place for me to study for the next three years.
What did you enjoy most about studying and living here?
I had a wonderful time in Durham, so there would be plenty of things to mention. In my work, the quality of Durham University researchers in a wide area of both chemistry and physics favoured very stimulating collaborations and discussions.
On a more personal side, not only did I get to know England, its people and its culture better, but I also made great friends from there and all over the world.
What was your biggest challenge and your greatest success during your time at Durham?
I guess the biggest challenge to overcome was probably the fear to leave France for an unknown country and people, but from the moment I arrived I never really felt homesick as everything was really well-organised to welcome me.
About my greatest success at Durham? I successfully completed a good PhD, learned a lot of science and found great friends.
What is your current job?
I am now back in France and I am currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in a laboratory at the national atomic energy centre (Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, CEA) in Paris. The different groups within the laboratory are all carrying leading research in their own NMR area (from solid to liquid and engineering).
How is your Durham Chemistry PhD degree helping you achieve your professional / career goals?
My PhD project was a collaboration between two academics within the Chemistry Department, and was jointly supervised by Dr. Paul Hodgkinson and Professor John Evans, from whom I gained very complementary and valuable knowledge. Their constant support in my work and sensible advice also gave me confidence in myself and helped to guide me in achieving my goals. I also got the additional opportunity to improve my scientific English a lot by attending the weekly research seminars organised by the Department.
My time in Durham surely helped me get the position at the CEA through scientific knowledge and the experience of work in an international environment.
Is there any advice you'd give to other international students thinking about doing postgraduate degrees in Chemistry at Durham University?
Just a couple of very simple things. Make yourself comfortable once you arrive and even if you think that your English is not perfect, do not be shy and just start speaking - that's the only way to learn! In your work, familiarise yourself with all the facilities you may have to use (and how they work) and start working and enjoying yourself.