In this blog, we spoke to postgraduate student Phebian Odufuwa from Nigeria. Phebian is currently studying on the Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation MSc, having completed her bachelor’s degree in Botany.
Phebian joined Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) through the prestigious Chevening scholarship. Prior to her move to England, she was working part-time as a teaching assistant at a university where she taught botany courses to undergraduate students.
Why did you choose to study at QMUL?
I chose to study at Queen Mary because of the unique opportunity it gave me to study for a Masters in Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation. It’s a unique course that is only being taught in two universities in the whole of the United Kingdom.
Why did you decide to study Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation?
My passion and interest for botany (and anything plant related) started from my childhood, I have always loved everything related to gardening. As soon as I finished my secondary education, I knew I wanted to major in the scientific study of plants and I was determined to pursue that dream. My love for taxonomy started in my third year when I was taking an undergraduate course in taxonomy. The very moment I finished my first taxonomy class, I knew taxonomy was my calling. My final year thesis supervisor was also a taxonomist and he helped increase my interest in taxonomy even more.
After I received the Chevening scholarship and was torn between going to Leeds to study Biotechnology or coming to Queen Mary to study Taxonomy. I called my supervisor and he told me to follow my heart, I knew there and then that it was taxonomy. The course will allow me to acquire skills that will be important towards the sustainable development of my country. I will also be able to work with scientists who are exploring and making ground breaking discoveries of unclassified species, and will go on to conserve biodiversity for sustainable development.
What do you enjoy about the course?
I am five weeks into the programme already, and so far I have fallen completely in love with the fungal module. Fungi are indeed fun to learn!
The course is run between Queen Mary and Kew. What’s it like to study at Kew?
Kew is one of the best places to learn conservation science, and it is one of the best places to improve botanical knowledge. It has the largest collection of plants and fungi in the world, its fungarium consists of diverse species of fungi from all over the world, its enormous resources far outweigh what is available in other botanic gardens elsewhere in the world. At Kew, I am interacting with world-class scientists, using resources from the authors of botanical literature for my assessments. At Kew, the possibilities are limitless!
How did you find Chevening scholarship application process?
The Chevening application process was straightforward. All I had to do was log on to the Chevening website, create an account, write four essays - focusing on my leadership experience, networking experience, why I was interested in my subject area and my career plans - and the selection process was thorough and transparent.
What are your plans for the future?
In the very near future, I intend to continue working in academia, teaching and carrying out research that will bring solutions to many of the global environmental challenges facing the human society both presently and in the future.
What advice would you give to students interested in the MSc programme?
I would advise students to apply early for the master’s course, as it is a very competitive one. You should really have interest in Taxonomy and do a lot of research into the course’s modules and eligibility criteria. Taxonomists and conservationists are relatively few and more people are needed in the field.