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Five minutes with: David Whitfield

25 January 2024

4 mins

What’s your job title and how long have you been at Loughborough?

I’m a Doctoral Researcher in Geography and Environment. My PhD focuses on river geomorphology; essentially, I research how and why rivers are the shape they are, what has shaped them in the past, and what’s likely to influence their shape in the future. My PhD began in October 2021, so I’ve been here for over 2 years!

Tell us what a typical day in your job looks like?

I like to mix up my week and make every day a little different. Some days I’ll be based in the lab (either to help with teaching or for research). We’ve got two big flume tanks which we use to simulate river environments, so whenever possible, I fill it with rocks, gravel and sand and try to understand how rivers transport their sediment. And when the weather favours us, I try to get out into the field and see those processes in action too! On more desk-based days, I’m usually processing field data, writing it up, and jumping between meetings.

I try to keep busy with plenty of side projects, too. At the moment, I’m chairing the British Society for Geomorphology’s Postgraduate Forum, where we organise workshops and networking events for PhD geomorphologists across the UK. And most importantly of all, I try to put aside a bit of time each day to take a break and chat with colleagues. Geography (and the School of Social Sciences and Humanities more widely) has a super collaborative research culture and a really broad range of research areas, so it’s always great to grab a coffee and hear what everyone else in the office has been busy researching.

What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on?

Last year, I was a local co-ordinator for Loughborough’s Pint of Science festival, a three-day public outreach event, where we invited over 20 researchers (mostly early career researchers) to give science talks at pubs, cafés and restaurants across town. We held seven events in total, showcasing some of Loughborough’s newest and coolest research, from Sports Science and Nutrition to Earth and Environmental Science, to Social Sciences and Science History. Pint of Science Loughborough was entirely PhD Researcher-led; organised by an interdisciplinary team of Doctoral Researchers from schools all across the University. From over 40 universities holding Pint of Science events, Loughborough’s was second in most tickets sold.

What is your proudest moment at Loughborough?

In June 2023, I was super grateful to have been awarded the Loughborough Experience Award for ‘Services to the Doctoral Community’. Since starting at Loughborough, I’ve been really inspired by the collaborative and supportive Doctoral community across campus, and throughout my time here, I’ve tried to get stuck in wherever I can! As a conservationist and environmental geographer, the activity that stands out the most for me is the Big Green Hike fundraiser walk which I’ve organised annually alongside the PhD Social and Support Network. Over the hikes we’ve completed so far, almost 40 Doctoral Researchers have teamed up to raise money for environmental charities to support rewilding projects across the UK.

Tell us something you do outside of work that we might not know about?

Even though my research is mostly field-based (and usually pretty wet and cold), I still can’t get enough of being outdoors! Whenever I get a chance, I try to visit the Peak District for a hike and some extra geological sightseeing. It’s particularly fun to bring some colleagues along for a geomorphology tour (whether they want it or not).

What is your favourite quote?

Not strictly a quote, but a lyric that always resonates with me whenever I’m feeling unmotivated, and gives me a gentle reminder to stay ambitious, and to keep chasing the next goal: “Don’t you know that only fools are satisfied? Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true” (Billy Joel, Vienna).

If you would like to feature in ‘5 Minutes With’, or you work with someone who you think would be great to include, please email Soph Dinnie at

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