Case study

Senior research fellow and director of research — Lee Marsh

After completing a PhD in energy economics, Lee has enjoyed applying his high level research skills to answer the big questions in the field

How did you get your job?

The job was advertised and I applied for it. I was shortlisted for interview which Durham University career centre helped me to prepare for. They also reviewed my CV and cover letter before application.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

I was lucky that my education and the work that I'm doing now are fully in line with each other. I did my MSc and PhD in energy economics with a focus on economics and regulation of the electricity sector. The work that I'm doing currently matches exactly my education.

What are your main work activities?

Most of my time is spent on carrying out my own research and coordinating research activities across the electricity research programme. As I'm responsible for research quality, I review research papers done by other colleagues. I also supervise Masters and PhD students who are working with us as visiting research fellows. I have regular meetings with them and help them to improve the quality of their research.

Some days I attend meetings with sponsors of the electricity research programme. I also attend seminars and conferences when they're relevant. We organise several events during the year - I'm responsible for content design and identifying speakers for these.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I've always enjoyed dealing with difficult maths and science questions. In my job I'm able to freely choose my research topics and spend time to think about complex research questions. Wresting with difficult questions and discussing these with colleagues are the most enjoyable parts of my job.

What are the most challenging parts?

There are two important challenges. The first challenge is finding funding opportunities for the research we do. As we're funded by sponsors and benefactors, expanding the research programme requires additional funding for which we need to make a lot of effort to secure.

The second challenge is to communicate the results of our research with stakeholders in the industry, policy arena and other interested parties, in a non-technical way.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I was hired initially as a lead research fellow with the responsibility to design and develop the electricity research programme of our institute. After two years I was promoted to the senior level, and after five years I was appointed as the director of research.

I am keen to progress in academia. My aim is to establish myself as one of leading researchers in my field.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into energy economics research?

  • When shortlisting Masters courses, ensure that your topic of interest is available as a research project. This will help you to progress to a relevant PhD in the future.
  • Prepare yourselves as much as possible during doctoral studies by learning transferable research skills and developing your network broadly. This approach meant that I already knew several people at the institute before I applied.
  • Try to fully understand the requirements of the job before applying, and also try all opportunities. Never underestimate what you can do.

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