Biological Sciences

Alexis Heeren

Engagement Facilitator, The University of Edinburgh Sustainability Office.

Full Name Alexis Heeren
Course BSc Biological Sciences with Hons Developmental and Cell Biology
Year of Graduation 2011
Career Engagement Facilitator, The University of Edinburgh Sustainability Office
Alexis Heeren

Tell us about your time at the School of Biological Sciences

I am originally American and my parents always assumed I would return to the U.S. for university. In the States students usually don’t pick a degree until the end of second year. When my last year of high school rolled around and I made the somewhat hasty decision to stay in the U.K., I didn’t have a lot of time to choose what or where to study. I picked Biological Sciences because it was a subject that I’d always enjoyed and decided to go to Edinburgh Uni after visiting a School Open Day. After attending a small school in the suburbs I wanted to study at a large, dynamic university located right in the middle of a city.

I would say my best memories of being a student at Edinburgh are ones that most alumni will have, like barbeques on the Meadows in the summer and cooking meals with friends. I worked part time at a charity that supports adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and was also involved in the student Theatre Appreciation Society. One summer I did an 8-week internship at Heriot Watt University researching the physics of gluten free bread dough!

During my fourth year at Edinburgh I was involved in a project that encouraged staff and students to reduce their carbon footprints. This was really a turning point for me because it ignited my interest in environmental and social justice issues.

How has your career developed since you left The University of Edinburgh?

I’m still here! After finishing Biology I stayed in Edinburgh to do a postgrad degree in Food Security. I wanted to study an interdisciplinary subject that combined aspects of biology and ecology with other fields. I finished the masters program in August and shortly afterwards applied for a job vacancy at the University’s new Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability. I started working at the end of October and since then I have helped assess how to reduce energy waste in University buildings. I have also worked with the Transport Office to estimate the Uni’s carbon emissions from transport. Studying biology was good preparation for this role because it taught me how to analyse data and take an evidence based, methodical approach to problem solving.

If you could offer one piece of advice to today’s students what would it be?

I would say get involved and experiment with a diverse range of activities. As a student you have four years to play around with different societies, jobs and volunteering positions. I think it is essential to compliment your degree with this type of practical experience because ‘doing’ is a great way to discover what you are interested in and what you are good at.