Each week we put the spotlight on a PhD student at the Norwich Research Park and get them to share three songs in a desert island disc-style game: one song that captures their project (expect some very tenuous links), one song that captures their life as a PhD student and a final motivational song because – let’s face it – we all need it. Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 11.43.57

Billy is a first-year PhD student in Lars Østergaard’s lab. He is a local boy, from rural Norfolk. His first visit to the JIC was when he was 15 as part of a school visit. Billy remembers hearing of students spending 4 years studying the same small weed and being dumbfounded. Despite trying to escape Norfolk (and England) by moving up to St. Andrews for his undergraduate, Norfolk has drawn him back to its sandy embrace. Needless to say, Billy’s opinion of the small weed that people spend so much time studying has changed. His project is on the radial to bilateral symmetry change during gynoecium development; specifically how the cell cycle is controlled during this process. When not in the lab he spends his time thinking about birds (the flying variety), beer, his wife and football (not in that order).

The Project Song – The Circle of Life by Elton John 

“Studying the cell cycle makes this song an obvious choice. The cell cycle underpins development and disruptions can be fatal. Since starting my PhD the complexity of gynoecium development has fascinated me. The lyrics ‘There’s far too much to take in here, more to find than can ever be found’ is poignant, and I like to think that Elton John was thinking of Arabidopsis genetics when writing these lyrics.”

The PhD Life Song – Three Little Birds by Bob Marley & The Wailers

“One of my hobbies is bird-watching, and I wish that three (different species of) little birds would come to my doorstep every morning. I picked this song because everything that can possibly go wrong whilst doing a PhD generally does. At some point, you have to shrug your shoulders and blast this song out whilst in the lab. In my mind’s eye, I see myself walking in slow motion along a chaotic street with the buildings exploding around me and this song playing over the top.”

The Motivational Song – Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Monty Python

“When you are a bit down in the dumps, a ‘Cheer up, Brian’ is always sufficient to lift your spirits. If you are struggling with anything just remember that it isn’t as difficult as doing the can-can on a crucifix. Doing a PhD can be tough, so blast this out when you are feeling insufficient. Count your blessings, change your perspective and I expect to hear whistling filling the labs of JIC over the next week.”


The PhD playlist is the brainchild of Millie, whose obsession with making playlists is almost as great as her obsession with science. Follow her on twitter: @milliestanton and drop her an email if you’re interested in being featured!

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