Iain Todd – Reflections of a Saint
Iain Todd, from Dundee, will graduate with a PhD in Geography and Sustainable Development.
What attracted you to St Andrews in the first place?
I live in Fife and chose to carry out my PhD at St Andrews because of its reputation for both sustainable development and social science. I expected to work hard, which I did, including my fieldwork in South Africa analysing their energy transition. But I had not expected how much I would enjoy the many tutoring and teaching opportunities that this period gave me.
What are your favourite memories of being a student here?
I was based at the Observatory for part of this time, along with my fellow cohort of SGSD PhDs. That was a real oasis of calm – I fondly remember organising barbeques for the MSc course, the red squirrels and the community garden. But I also enjoyed the bustle of the Main Library and the town centre.
What is your favourite location in St Andrews and why?
I live in Lundin Links in Fife, and one of my favourite places is the seashore here. I am the chair of the City of St Andrews Pipe Band, which of course is currently unable to meet as a band, so I have been practising down on the local beach, preferably at low tide. Some seals often come to listen.
When you reflect on your time in St Andrews, how do you think it has changed you?
I now have a much better appreciation of the breadth and depth of research work undertaken at the University, which is truly astounding. I’m also much more aware of the international make-up of both the student body and of the staff, which is not necessarily apparent from the outside.
Where have you spent this year following the initial lockdown period and how was it for you?
I’m fortunate in that I was at home some ten miles from St Andrews. I did a weekly shop for a sheltering neighbour. I do appreciate the efforts made by the University with its regular Covid bulletins. The toughest thing has been not being able to visit family – especially those overseas. But that is not a unique experience by any means.
What was it like finishing your studies during a pandemic?
I submitted my PhD in March – in lockdown – and my viva examination was conducted by Zoom. Rather weird, but I was pleased with the outcome. It secured me a post-doc placement at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, looking at the impact of Covid on the energy transition in the Netherlands and the UK.
What are your hopes and plans for the future (both for yourself personally and the world at large)?
I’ve recently been invited to be a Visiting Professor at Rotterdam, and I plan to continue to publish papers there. But I hope also to keep in touch with St Andrews moving forward.
For the world at large, the optimist in me believes that the commitment to green energy will be even greater after Covid. The EU Green Deal is the right way to go. And I do hope that grass roots pressure to combat climate change continues to grow.
What will you miss most about ‘the bubble’ of St Andrews?
I think the breadth of expertise available in our institution, which is remarkable. An inbox bulging with invitations to fascinating talks – from Greek classics to glaciation, from astronomy to sociology – by visiting academics from all over the world.
How do you think events of 2020 (coronavirus, lockdown life, BLM) have shaped the graduating Class of 2020?
The events of 2020 have redrawn the academic experience, both for students and for academic staff. (In January, Zoom for me was an ice lolly). The explosion of online communication affects us all – at work, socially, and personally. It also reinforces the special value of face-to-face contact.
What message would you send to fellow Saints, graduating or otherwise, wherever they are around the world?
Please enjoy the forthcoming St Andrew’s Day, wherever you are in the world!
And finally, do you hope to come back in 2021 to graduate in person?
Yes, I most certainly will be back to graduate in person in 2021.