Name: Dr Stuart Muirhead
Research institution: The Research Exchange for the Social Sciences, University of Sheffield
Research career length: 1 year
Research Council: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Location: Sheffield, England
Brief summary of research: Green space, wellbeing and knowledge exchange.
Highers: English, Geography, Business Management, Biology, Mathematics, Chemistry
BSc (Hons) in Human Geography, University of Glasgow
MRes in Human Geography, University of Glasgow
PhD in Human Geography, University of Dundee
Research Officer, Scottish Government
Research Associate, University of Sheffield
Research is a skill in great demand. The ability to develop, plan and deliver research projects is often seen as just as important as having knowledge of a particular topic. Stuart Muirhead has applied developing research skills to a number of diverse situations including housing and language change amongst displaced Nubian people in Upper Egypt, exploring how animals in a zoo used enclosure space and looking at the effect of environmental volunteering on mental health.
My research looks at the effect on individuals of spending time in green outdoor spaces. I look both at the mental and physical aspects, especially for those involved in environmental volunteering groups. I work within the Research Exchange for the Social Sciences where, in addition to pursuing these research interests, I also link up social science research at the University of Sheffield, with public and ‘third sector’ organisations, building partnerships and connections between the university and the outside world.
I think it is important to search for answers and then to share the lessons that have been learned. This can be done in traditional academic ways, such as through conferences and journal articles, but I also feel it is valuable to share and collaboratively produce research findings with wider society.
My parents encouraged me to go to university and I had always thought I wanted to be a vet. But in my final year I realised that this wasn't really what I wanted to pursue as a profession - it was just an ideal that I had assumed I would do. So I then started to think about what really interests me - fossils and rocks, and ended up applying to study Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow.
The course allowed me to study a number of subjects in the first two years, then begin to specialise in the third and fourth. Two human geography Lecturers strongly influenced me to stay in the subject. I went to Egypt with them to do my Undergraduate dissertation, where I had an amazing time, experiencing a culture completely different from my own, which then encouraged me to pursue a Master’s degree. During my Master’s, I assessed the use of enclosure spaces by sea eagles, lemurs and African hunting dogs at Edinburgh Zoo - very different.
My PhD was with the Forestry Commission and based at the University of Dundee. I looked at the health impact of environmental volunteering, which was something that greatly interested me. In the second year of my doctorate, I also did a 3-month internship with the Scottish Government.
My experience to date presents a number of options for the future. I may continue my own research and teaching, and apply for lectureships at a university once my current contract ends in 2015. Another option is to continue my knowledge exchange work, or I might return to working for a public body such as a local authority or national government. Of the three options, remaining in a university is currently the most attractive, but having research skills and experience provides a range of opportunities.