Hello! My name is Sherifdeen Olamilekan Babalola, I am from Nigeria and I am studying for my MSc in Environmental Water Management. I am currently working on my individual thesis titled ‘The Impacts of Land use/Land Cover Management on Runoff Generation and Groundwater Recharge in South East England’. So far, I have found my Thesis project challenging simply because my previous background has been in Fisheries and Aquaculture, including the study of aquatic life forms, so being able to study Environmental Water Management was a little deviation from what I had already been studying. This course is more of studying water at the landscape level and how to manage water (including rainwater, surface water and ground water) and the sustainable management of water. There have been some new areas on study that have been taught on the course but even though this has been challenging, it has also been a big opportunity for me to learn new things and also my thesis project has given me the chance to research, study and learn from journals and review papers. The most important thing is that I am continuing to learn new things that I’m able to use it to make an impact one way or another.  

During the first four months of my studies, some topics that were taught on the modules were new to me, which I found interesting as I was able to witness the theoretical aspects, we were taught in class during field trips and practical. I saw how it works and I’m able read more and focus on a topic. For example, one of the data sets for my project is the soil types. This created an opportunity for me to be able to understand how there are many different soils types we have here in the UK, and this is interesting to me. This is because, I thought I was going to be focusing majorly on water alone but in fact I’m studying Water Management, I’ve been able to even expand my knowledge into studying the different soil types and their relationships with water.  

My current thesis project wasn’t my first choice, it wasn’t even my second! From the start of my MSc course, I wanted to focus on something that was related to my undergraduate studies. My first choice was focused on river management in terms of bringing in aquatic life as there is an invasive species of aquatic mollusc causing destruction to the river systems here in the UK. I was planning to look into how destructive the invasive species was and this was something that I have briefly studied before, but due to the Covid-19, I have had to change to my current project as I was unable to go out and do field work. My current project is my third choice, from the beginning I was nervous because I felt like this is a very new topic to me, but so far it is going well! With help from my supervisors, literature and journals that I’ve been able to investigate and I am finding, I feel less nervous as the days go by and right now I feel like I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve seen a lot and my level of nervousness has reduced drastically!  

I have two supervisors for my thesis project, and I feel lucky to work with them! One of my supervisors, Professor Tim Hess, I have worked with before on my group project. He was my group project supervisor; I already understood his way of working with students. Due to Covid-19, he was furloughed for the first few weeks at the start of my project so I worked immediately with my second supervisor, Professor Ian Holman and so far it has been wonderful because aside from the fact that we meet almost every week at least once for updates on how to do my work, they have been helpful right from the start. My second supervisor was so supportive, he sends me messages even when we don’t meet on Skype or on Teams, we always exchange emails, almost every day! I send emails whenever I feel like “oh, I don’t really understand this” and I get almost an immediate response! Working with my supervisors has never been a problem because we work well in terms of exchanging emails, organising calls whenever I feel like something requires me talking to him and sometimes providing me with journals when I need. Also, they helped at the start of my project to settle into my project by showing me journals and data sets that has really helped.  

For the first month of my project, I was on campus so whenever I felt like I was a little bit tired from project work, I would just step out and take a walk or sometimes I would cycle around campus or meet up with some of my colleagues – although we keep social distancing rules of course!! When we meet up, we go for walks together, we cycle together, and we just take some time off! I have recently moved off campus with a few friends from university and we are currently living in Milton Keynes. Since moving into our new apartment, it has been wonderful because I am able to see more people moving around the neighbourhood and it is so nice here with lots of parks everywhere! When the weather is not as nice, I go onto social media, browse the Internet and sometimes I organise a live video call with different organisations out there that are looking into making an impact and sometimes they even invite me to do talks! I think it is important to get engaged in other activities outside of your projects to help to keep you motivated and focused on the thesis project!  

I plan to return to my country after the course is finished because I’m on a Commonwealth Scholarship and normally you return to your country to be able to at least make an impact – so that is my plan! When I return, I will be able to use what I have learnt and the knowledge that I have gained to go about improving my home country. Hopefully Covid-19 has relaxed by the time I finish, though I am in no rush because my health matters to me. In the future, I would like to look into PhD opportunities, and I have been working on some applications so that I can continue to research topics that interest me. I would love to further study for my PhD, and I am considering going to work in industry and getting a job in something that is in line with my MSc. After working on my different projects, I now feel like there is a lot of job opportunities out there that actually I could be suited for where I can implement everything, I’ve learned in my education so far. I would love to go into a practical job because I feel like all these things I’ve learned and read about, I could practice them and see how they work, instead of just you know reading writing studying literature.  

My career ambition is to do something that I can look back on and say “yes, I have actually helped and made an impact”. I hope to do this wherever I find myself, whether in my home country, whether in the UK or anywhere else in the world! I have always wanted to study up to at least PhD level right from start and coming to Cranfield has boosted my confidence and determination in this decision. I feel that completing my PhD would put me into a position where I would be able to further perform in-depth research about my specific area of specification and gain more knowledge and boost my confidence about topic, I chose to specify in. Also, it would help to improve myself professionally and personally, similarly, it will be a privilege to have that clause of a doctor in front of my name. 

-The future Dr. Sherifdeen Olamilekan Babalola! 

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