When I saw the email entitled ‘Dear Dr. Pugh, I cried with joy!

Esther Pugh

Esther Pugh, who is 53 from the Wirral, has been a lecturer at Leeds Beckett for ten years in the School of Events, Tourism & Hospitality Management and Leeds Business School.

Before that, she was in charge of visual merchandising for several high street fashion retailers – which became the inspiration for her PhD research.

She said: “I am a vintage fashionista and I immerse myself in the world of vintage fashion fairs - I am also a strong advocate of second-hand fashion. As a visual merchandiser in the past, the spatial aspect of vintage fashion fairs has always interested me. In these spaces, the shopper owns the spaces - is free to play and create them - rather than be driven by marketers, who try to shape their behaviour.

“Retail is facing a huge threat from online shopping – so, with my PhD, I wanted to really understand these experiential spaces in order to make retail spaces better for everyone and improve the shopping experience – especially shopping for vintage fashion.

Esther Pugh at a vintage fashion fair surrounded by items for sale and carrying a hand bag

Esther, who was supported by her PhD team, Dr Alex Kenyon and Dr Ian Lamond, added: “They helped me to write more effectively and taught me how to structure my work, so I could better communicate what I wanted to say. They were a great support in the methodological aspects of my study and supported me through the viva.”

Reflecting on the highlights of her time as a research student, Esther said: “I really enjoyed using the library all day, sitting in the silent study room, from 5am, immersing myself in books and journals to become the expert in my topic. I also loved discussing my research with other interested people, such as my supervisors.”

Speaking about being awarded her PhD, Esther said: “I feel absolutely elated and ecstatic. When I saw the email entitled ‘Dear Dr. Pugh’, I cried with joy.

“After five long years of blood, sweat and tears, I couldn't believe I had finally reached my destination. At times it had seemed impossible, when I was getting up at 4.30am to go to the library, when my dining table and the floor was piled high with papers and articles. But I did it!”

Esther is now a Senior Lecturer in Leeds Business School. She added: “I now want to incorporate my research into my teaching. I am also working on my research and publishing career, and am currently writing an article with my supervisor, which extends my theoretical contribution by examining the spatial aspects of Vintage Fashion and UK tourism.”

I am hoping that this is the first step in a career in academic research.

Andrew Passey

Andrew Passey always had an itch to do a PhD and won a scholarship from the School of Health & Community Studies to do just that.

He explained: “I had done lots of research work in my career so far and, when my PhD scholarship was advertised, the timing was right as I was looking to move into an academic career.

“Before starting my PhD I worked for the Department of Health where I became interested in mental health services and co-production - this means recognising the assets, skills, knowledge and experiences of the people who use public services (such as health services) as well as the expertise and knowledge of professional staff. 

“My PhD research was centred around these interests – exploring the implementation of a new policy – oriented towards co-production - to improve children and young people’s access to mental health and emotional wellbeing services.

“I explored this in practice through a case study – focusing on professionals implementing the policy. The professional side of co-production is under-researched, so I contributed to filling that gap in the current research.”

A portrait photo of Andrew Passey

Speaking about the highlights of his time as a PhD student, Andrew said: “It was great having the chance to spend time with professional staff involved in front-line service delivery. I also really enjoyed the range of training offered through the Graduate School. I presented elements of my work at two international conferences, where I got feedback from colleagues that helped me as I moved into the write-up stage.

“Another highlight was working with a couple of my peers to run the university’s Postgraduate Research Society. This included running two postgrad student research conferences.

“Completing my PhD has made me feel relieved, happy, and a sense of achievement.”

Andrew is now working as a research assistant in the School of Health. He added: “I am hoping that this is the first step in a career in academic research.”

I was able to present at a conference in Prague

Alex Christensen

Alex Christensen, who is 27 and from Oregon, USA, snapped up the chance to do a PhD after seeing a scholarship advertised at Leeds Beckett.

She said: “My PhD investigated the accuracy of the methods researchers typically use to assess the impact of the environment on people’s behaviour such as physical activity. These methods are commonly used but have major limitations, so my PhD was one of the first to quantify how poor these methods actually are.”

Alex’s project spanned the School of Built Environment and Engineering and the Carnegie School of Sport – a blend of backgrounds that she found really valuable.

She added: “I was quite fortunate with the team I had – having supervisors from different schools gave me a unique perspective on my PhD. My Director of Study and supervisors – Professor Chris Gorse, Dr Claire Griffiths and Dr Duncan Radley were very supportive and amazing people to work with.

“I think I’ve been pretty lucky with my experience as a research student. I was able to get involved in a few different societies, including the Postgraduate Research Society which aimed to help support and connect research students across the university.

“I was also able to present at a conference in Prague, which allowed me to network with people from all over the world and share my work.”

Alex Christensen standing in front of a poster displaying her research work at a conference venue

Speaking about completing her PhD and becoming a Dr, Alex said: “In a way, it’s a massive relief. It was a roller-coaster at times but overall, I really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. It’s a bit strange to have finally reached the finish, but I look forward to whatever comes next.”

Alex is now working as a postdoc in the Carnegie School of Sport. She is working on two funded projects – one with Leeds City Council and one with Suffolk County Council. Both are linked to her PhD.

She explained: “Leeds City Council is having me look at physical activity within Leeds and with Suffolk County Council, I’m looking at the impact of the environment on weight management programmes.”