Matthew was always fond of biology and decided that zoology was the career for him – but it was the University of Reading itself which made the decision easy.
“I chose Reading for a number of reasons. The Cole Museum as a teaching resource was a selling point, as was the campus itself. In the end it came down to where I would rather be studying and the green nature of campus appealed much more to me than an inner city university."
A more focused zoology degree
An important feature of the zoology degree is that it places emphasis on zoology from day one. Matthew found this very helpful in progressing towards the career that he wanted. Matthew notes, however, that the focus on zoology does not come at the expense of essential biological knowledge.
“First year zoology at Reading does involve a large number of general biological science modules. This is important as many of them are directly relevant to zoological topics, such as ecology and genetics. Where Reading perhaps differs from other zoology degrees are its core modules for first years.
"When I took the degree first year zoologists had to take two zoology focused modules. The main benefit of this was that it gave us a good introduction to the topic of zoology. Having zoology focused modules in the first year allowed us to go into second year and take more detailed modules, already having covered some of the basics."
Matthew took the opportunity to take a tropical field course in Madagascar, which served as both valuable experience and inspiration.
“Without a doubt this was the highlight of my degree. We spent a week and a half in a research station in the middle of a rainforest nature reserve. Whilst out there we had to undertake a small research project that we designed.
"When we weren't undertaking our research projects we were taken around the reserve by local guides. During these walks we saw an incredible diversity of animals from lemurs to beetles."
Going on to do a PhD
Matthew was inspired to continue his research on to PhD, where he is currently investigating the gene flow of butterflies across the world. The aim of this project is to monitor butterfly genetics and help to prevent loss of diversity. Matthew tells us that this exciting project was helped immensely by the experiences he had in his first degree.
“As an undergraduate I undertook modules which were good preparation for my PhD. These included entomology modules which gave me an understanding of insect biology which was required for my PhD. My degree also gave me a good understanding of genetics which is something I'm building upon throughout my PhD.
"I undertook a summer research project as part of the UROP scheme. As well as gaining a good introduction to research, I learned some skills in the statistical programme R. When it came to my final year dissertation I was able to build upon these skills. Being able to use R was a crucial skill I needed for my PhD and I now use it nearly every day to carry out my analyses."
A great place for a PhD
A PhD involves a great deal of work, and having the right environment is very important. Matthew reflects on how the University of Reading has been the best place he could do his PhD.
“I undertook my PhD because of an interest in butterflies. Being able to walk through the campus meadows or woodland during the summer, surrounded by hundreds of butterflies, helps to remind me why I'm actually doing my PhD and that hopefully I'll be making a positive difference to the future of some of these species."