Researcher Spotlight : Lucy Cotgrove

Published: 24 April 2018

Kirsty McWhinnie puts the Spotlight on Lucy Cotgrove for this week's article...

Lucy Cotgrove pic for Spotlight ArticleThis week Kirsty McWhinnie has put Lucy Cotgrove under the spotlight. Lucy is a 1st year PhD student studying leadership and collective behaviour with a focus on fish and is supervised by Dr Shaun Killen, Dr Grant Hopcraft, Dr Colin Torney and Prof Dirk Husmeier.            

Can you tell us about your background? How did you become interested in science and where did you study before Glasgow?

I’m a first year PhD student, and joined IBAHCM in October 2017. Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to work with animals in some capacity and went to Aberystwyth University where I studied Zoology for my BSc. I was really inspired by my lecturers there and decided to apply for a Masters at Bangor University in Marine Biology. I was working on a salmon farm as a hatchery technician before I decided I was ready to search for a PhD and here I am!

What can you tell us about your PhD research?

My PhD title is “Alternate modes of Leadership and Collective Behaviour”. Although I don’t have a specific study species, I am focusing on fish. I am specifically interested in large scale movement and how schooling behaviour changes in response to different stimuli. During this project I’m aiming to define which fish is the “leader” in a school of fish and how that changes in different circumstances; this can be when foraging, exploring or facing a predator. There are many different ways to define leadership so there are lots of different things to think about such as are there many leaders? Or, does the leader change over time?

What do you find most interesting about your work?

I get to do a mix of practical lab work as well as video analysis so every day is different. I was able to travel to China in March to collaborate on a project which was a fantastic opportunity. I enjoy doing something novel that has a lot of practical applications. As well as this, I really like the public engagement side projects you can get involved with through the university such as the Glasgow Science Festival.

Why did you decide to do your PhD in IBAHCM?

The department came highly recommended and I was also advised to look up Shaun’s research by Robyn Womack (based in IBAHCM and an old friend from Aberystwyth) and saw that this PhD was advertised. The project really aligned with my interests and I was lucky enough to get the position!

What has been the most positive aspect so far?

Supportive attitudes in the department, from supervisors to my peers who are also doing PhDs.

What has been the most challenging aspect so far?

Prioritising my time between tasks I really enjoy and things I need to get done, but hopefully I’m getting better at this!

What advice would you give to anyone doing or considering a PhD?

There is more to life than JUST PhD life; you’re going to be working really hard so get involved with some other activities outside of research for a break.

Tell us about your plans for the future.

I don’t have a specific plan as of yet; I’ll see where this research takes me but aim to continue in academia! 

Catch Lucy’s talk “Collective Behaviour and Alternate Modes of Leadership” at the PhD Seminar Series on Friday the 27th of April at 4pm in LT2 of the Graham Kerr Building.

First published: 24 April 2018