Laura swaps Old Aberdeen for New York

Laura swaps Old Aberdeen for New York

A University of Aberdeen PhD student has swapped 23 St Machar Drive for the United Nations headquarters.

Laura Phillips, who is undertaking a PhD in the School of Biological Sciences, applied for an internship at the UN after seeing it advertised on Twitter and within two weeks found herself in the Big Apple.

Laura’s internship sees her working in the department of public information for United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) where she assists with education outreach by organising events at the UN with various universities.

She has also taken the opportunity to highlight the UNAI to her PhD supervisor, Professor Pete Smith, and as a result, the University is now a member.

Laura’s PhD title is ‘What are the environmental consequences of delivering food security?’ This will see her explore  a range of future food security scenarios (including sustainable intensification, redistribution and trade, changing diets and reduced waste) and what the impacts on indicator ecosystem services such as carbon storage, climate regulation and soil, water and air quality will be. Her internship is helping her greatly with her studies.

Laura said: “I am having an amazing time doing my internship. As my research interests are very tightly related to the UN, I am allowed to go to lots of events which are of interest to me. It's also keeping me very busy as I am also co-writing an article for the UN Chronicle with Pete Smith on Sustainable Energy/bioenergy aswell as writing about my PhD project with the UN for a feature, which will highlight the needs for the DEVIL project.”

The DEVIL project (Delivering food security on limited land) is a prestigious, multi-partner project on food security and land use, funded by the Belmont Forum and coordinated by Professors Pete Smith and Deb Roberts from the University of Aberdeen as part of the Scottish Food Security Alliance-Crops.

Determined to make the most of her time in New York, Laura is also volunteering for the General Assembly.

She said: “For the GA I am working in the Media and Liaison Unit, escorting the journalists to the GA hall, and all the side events, photo ops, extra conferences and summits. It’s been great - I’ve got to see all the heads of state including Obama, David Cameron, Putin. As if that wasn’t enough, I can also say I’ve been in the same room as Daniel Craig, David Beckham and Michael Douglas to name but a few of the celebrities I’ve seen!”

Professor Pete Smith added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Laura and she is really embracing life at the UN and making the most of the experience.

“I am also delighted that the University is now a member of UNAI as researchers here conduct research on all aspects on environmental change (including climate change, biodiversity and human-ecological interactions) and in food security, thereby addressing a number of UNAI basic principles and contributing to the new UN Sustainable Development Goals. By becoming a member of UNAI, we can work to promote these areas of research to the wider world, and make sure that our research has a real-world impact.”


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