Roisin Commane

Dr Roisin Commane

Roisin Commane completed a PhD in Atmospheric Chemistry in 2009 under the supervision of Professor Dwayne Heard, and is currently working as a Research  Associate at Harvard University. Here she talks about her current position and combining her interest in chemistry with her love of travel.

What is your current position?

I am currently working as a Research  Associate in atmospheric composition with Prof. Steve Wofsy in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, MA, USA.

What does your current role involve?

In the past year I designed and built a quantum cascade laser spectroscopy (QCLS) based instrument to measure carbonyl sulfide. I am currently operating the instrument at a forest site in Massachusetts, USA and working on the interpretation of the results. I also worked with a QCLS instrument to measure greenhouse gases (CO2, CO, N2O and CH4) on shorter term field campaigns in California and Alaska.

Do you use the knowledge you gained from your studies in your job?

Yes. During my graduate studies, I learned the skills needed to successfully design and build a field instrument. I also learned to work with others on the operation of instruments in technically difficult environments and platforms: I worked in the sub-Arctic at -40oC. I worked on aircraft in West Africa and Borneo. I worked on a research ship between Lisbon and the Cape Verde Islands. Learning how to adapt to different environments and how to coordinate logistics in different countries was really valuable.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I love travelling and I have been really fortunate to travel a lot as a part of the research I completed during both my PhD studies and as a post-doc.

Why did you choose to study chemistry?

Physical Chemistry was the most interesting subject I studied during my degree. I was intrigued by the thought of using chemistry to improve our understanding of the real world.

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

Everyone at the school of chemistry was welcoming when I came to visit. I thought the atmosphere would be productive and make the pursuit of a PhD an enjoyable experience.

How did you find the lecturers and the facilities?

The lecturers were approachable, constructive and helpful. The guys in the workshops were helpful and great at giving problem solving advice.

What are your favourite memories of studying at Leeds?

My favourite memories revolve around the people who became my close friends in Leeds. The general discussions in the pub on a Friday night. Sitting on the grass in the sunshine in summer to have lunch. The Christmas parties. Work was always good but it’s the people I remember most fondly.

What did you like best about your School or Department?

I loved the friendliness of the school of chemistry. I made some great friends as well as learning valuable skills, which have helped give me a great basis for the research I am now doing.

What would you say to other students thinking of coming to Leeds University?

Leeds is a great place to learn and will give you a great basis for a future career.

What would you say to other students thinking of studying a PhD?

A PhD is hard work but highly rewarding. You will work hard but learn a lot and leave University with highly valuable skills. 

What benefits did you gain from the PhD?

To continue in research of atmospheric composition, a PhD is essential and meant I was able to obtain a research position at Harvard University.