Richard Mitchener

A brief history of your career since leaving the University of Birmingham

I worked in environmental consultancy as a hydrologist and hydrogeologist after leaving Birmingham. At this time I remained in the West Midlands, and worked on a wide range of projects, from quarries to landfill sites, major road and rail developments, and nuclear power. Just over a year ago, I moved to work on a new nuclear power station development. This means that I am back on site after a long time in the office.

Skills and knowledge from your postgraduate degree have you used in your career so far

I frequently utilise the research skills I obtained during my degree alongside the training skills I’ve developed from demonstrating field techniques to undergraduates. I also frequently use the technical skills I learned, including those from the hours I spent in the lab doing analysis. Although I don’t get to do the testing work anymore, having an understanding of the process involved is still useful.

Main work activities in your current role

I’m responsible for ensuring our construction site complies with environmental law, and for pushing for zero, or no harm to the environment. In practice this involves making sure that designs consider environmental impacts, and are sustainable so that risks are minimised in the long-term.

A typical day in your job

There is no such thing as a typical day really, as the project I am currently working on is very complex. I often spend some of the day working closely with engineers and project managers to find the right solutions to problems that may arise. I also might spend some time reacting to something on site, and identifying areas that may need more understanding to fulfil the aims of the project. I addition, I sometimes work with various contractors to help them develop the project in the best possible way for the environment.

Main challenges in your role

The role can be very fast moving, and keeping sight on the progress of long term goals can be challenging!

Why did this type of work appeal to you?

I apply my skills to protect and enhance the environment, while also delivering the infrastructural changes society needs. Seeing my work actually translate into development projects is rewarding and a fantastic part of the role, as you don’t usually get to see as rapid an impact in other sectors.

Advice for students looking to enter this area of work?

If you're an environmental scientist make a real effort early in your career to understand engineering, town planning and environmental law. These fields drive so much of what I do, and if you can speak to the languages of these sectors, you can get so much more done at an earlier stage.