Researcher spotlight - Richard Mott

This week Ellen Hughes has put second year PhD student Richard Mott under the spotlight to discuss his change in study species from horses to dogs, how auditory enrichment can reduce stress levels in kennels, and the joys of learning R.

Richard Mott article picTell us a bit about your background.
I’ve spent many years training horses and working as an equitation coach, and to help me with this I did a part-time equine degree alongside my work.  I really enjoyed the research aspect of this and so went on to do an MSc in Equine Science at the R(D)SVS, Edinburgh.  For the last 2 years before coming here I was a lecturer on the Equine Science degrees at Moreton Morrell in Warwickshire. 

What can you tell us about your PhD?
Despite my almost exclusively equine background, my PhD is working with dogs!  It’s not such a big leap, as my MSc thesis was looking at quantifying stress in horses and I am now looking at stress in dogs (which are kind of just smaller horses!).  I’m partially funded by the Scottish SPCA and they are interested in ways of enriching the environment at the rescue and rehoming centres to reduce the stress responses of the dogs, and thus improve welfare.  My predecessor did a lot of work with auditory enrichment and we now know that works, the initial part of my PhD has been looking at how it works, because if we know that, we can do it better.

Why did you decide to do your PhD at UofG?
Being here I have access to a range of facilities and expertise that just wouldn’t be available elsewhere.  Not just in my own institute (IBAHCM), but where I am based at Garscube we also have the veterinary school and the veterinary hospital with all the associated specialties. 

What do you find most interesting about your work?
I’m still at the stage where everything is ‘new and shiny’ – every new idea gets me excited and I hope that never wears off!

What has been the most positive aspect so far?
The collaborative and supportive attitude from everyone I’ve met at Glasgow.  I have had so much help from people that have no vested interest in my PhD, not only the veterinary staff at Garscube but also academics from Engineering, Neuro-science and Music.

What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
Learning R!

What advice would you give to anyone doing or considering PhD?
Choose well.  Make sure you select an area of study that you love at a location that you will love.  If you grab the first PhD you see just to get a PhD, it could be a very long 3 years…

Tell us about your plans for the future.
I really enjoy teaching and I’ve had great fun as a GTA with the vet students, so I want to get back into lecturing.

Are you where you thought you would be a year ago?
This time last year I had only known for 2 weeks that I was coming here.  At that stage there was some serious imposter complex (they must have made a mistake, how have I ever got a PhD at Glasgow??) so I’m delighted to still be here!

What part of your research so far have you enjoyed the most?
Finding something unexpected (that no-one had reported before) but then going back to the literature and realising that what I was seeing did in fact make sense.

Have you come up against any unforeseen challenges?
Getting consistent heartrate recordings from the dogs was far harder than expected and I initially got a lot of rubbish data, but I eventually worked out a better way of doing it.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt from your first year?
As much as it pains me, learning R and getting to really understand the statistics I’ve been using has been a massive help to the analysis of my early data.  Don’t leave this until 6 months before you submit!

If you could tell your first year-self one thing, what would it be?
You’ll still be here this time next year...!

Don’t miss Richard’s talk (“Bach or Bark? Auditory enrichment in rescue centres”) at the PhD Seminar Series on Friday 8th November at 4pm in LT1 of the Graham Kerr Building!

First published: 7 November 2019