Will Jeffcott

William left academia after his undergraduate degree but felt the research pull and decided to apply for a PhD to fulfil his ambitions of having an active part in making the world a better place.

What were your main reasons for choosing to undertake postgraduate research at the University of Liverpool?

I had previously undertaken a Master’s Degree in Mathematics and then went to work in industry for two years. The reason I returned to academia was that I wanted to return to a place of being able to independently carry out a large body of detailed research, whilst having time to deep dive into the relevant topics and take my subject knowledge to the next level. I wanted this research to be in an industrial context, as there is a large focus on solving real world problems rather than the purely theoretical. I also wanted to focus on improving the world, which my project aims to do by boosting sustainability in the plastic manufacturing space.

Can you summarise your postgraduate research in a few sentences?

The aim of my research is to use state-of-the-art data science techniques to link data profiles for recycled plastics (widely available from chemical techniques), to their properties (harder to obtain). The overarching aim of this linking is to allow manufacturers to assess whether a particular recycled plastic pellet will have the desired properties in advance of manufacturing a given product from it, saving time and money. An example is using image analysis to identify and classify the impurities in polyethylene films, and then linking this information to the tearing and sealing properties.

What support have you received from the Liverpool Doctoral College?

I have attended many seminars and workshops for postgraduates from the Doctoral College. These have included interesting talks to inspire my research, as well as workshops covering essential academic skills like submitting to journals and giving presentations. I have also completed the University’s teacher training course so that I could demonstrate for modules within my department.

How do you believe postgraduate research will help your career prospects?

Part of my PhD will be to attend industrial placement with my partner. This will allow me to understand how the organisation works, as well as gaining valuable work experience. In addition to this, my PhD has offered me many opportunities to boost my knowledge in the field of data science (training courses, conferences, reading journals). I believe by the end of my PhD, I will be in an excellent position to return to the world of industry in a highly skilled position.

What advice would you give to anyone considering undertaking a PhD?

Take ownership of your project. Your supervisors are there to help and guide you, but it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that your research progresses. With that being said, don’t be afraid to seek help from the relevant people if you feel like you need it.