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Sarah Shepperd – PhD student at the University of Reading

I graduated from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development in 2018 with an MSc by research in Agriculture, Ecology and Environment. I am now undertaking my PhD research in Ecology and Agri-environment at the University of Reading.

My PhD project's working title: 'Soil faunal diversity and soil chemistry under diverse forage mixtures', aims to encourage a switch from intensively managed perennial ryegrass to a diverse forage system more supportive of soil health and sustainability by describing the benefits plant diversity has on the functioning of soil compared to ryegrass monocultures.

My main responsibilities to date while undertaking a PhD are to review literature, project planning, conducting experiments and subsequent data analysis. I have also been involved in poster presentations at conferences and researcher development courses.

I benefited from studying my Master's degree at Reading because the dissertation project was much more research based so this has helped towards my PhD in terms of time management and research skills. I would not be in my current PhD position without having completed my master's degree, as it bridged the gap between an undergraduate level degree and PhD so it certainly got me to where I needed to be.

During my time at Reading, I enjoyed the week long field trip where we visited a number of agricultural and ecological organisations as it showed me potential future career paths following the completion of my Master's degree. I also enjoyed the guest lectures which covered a wide variety of topics being delivered from experts in the field. Overall my experience at Reading was great, from the lovely green campus to the really knowledgeable academics and great teaching facilities.

Since completing my Master's degree, my biggest achievements have been attending a KEYSOM training school, submitting my Master's research for publication and passing PhD confirmation with no amendments.