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Student Spotlight: Beckie Lait presents her research at sustainability conferences

Read about Beckie Lait’s experience presenting her research at two sustainability conferences in Leeds and London

Interview carried out with the Environmental Sustainability at York (ESAY) department at The University of York


Beckie Lait, who is currently undertaking a PhD in Management with FixOurFood at the University of York, recently presented her research at the annual Student Sustainability Research Conference (SSRC24) in Leeds.

Beckie’s excellent abstract submission was ranked in the top three presentations out of over 100 applications and, as a result, she was also given the opportunity to present at the London Student Sustainability Research Conference (LSSRC) at Imperial College London, which took place earlier in February.

We asked Beckie to tell us more about her research and experience presenting at these conferences. Read below to find out what she said:

Tell us a bit about your research.

After graduating with an undergraduate and master’s degree in Theoretical Physics from the University of Manchester, I am now undertaking a PhD with the University of York and the TUKFS’s FixOurFood programme to apply my physics education to researching the impact of the food system on the climate crisis and other pressing social and environmental issues.

With animal agriculture using 83% of farmland globally, while supplying only 18% of calories, significant climate change mitigations can be achieved through livestock and meat reduction strategies. Despite an urgent need to address this, existing research has reported cases of decision-making proceedings being overly shaped by influential participants. By bridging a gap between these causes of climate change and some of the barriers that hinder transformational change in the food system, my PhD research aims to investigate the power dynamics in the UK meat and livestock system in order to enable more positive transformations to occur.

By mapping out key interconnected relationships, perspectives and flows of resources, and analysing contestations around meat and livestock reduction strategies, my research will aim to identify key leverage points in the system that can accelerate the understanding of the actions that would contribute to a more sustainable, fair and healthy food system.

Tell us about your experience presenting at the conferences in London and Leeds.

In February and March, I had a really wonderful experience presenting at the London and Leeds sustainability conferences. They were inspiring events, full of rich discussions, engaging presentations and inspiring key notes. Receiving feedback on my work from a range of students, stakeholders, researchers and more, each of whose own topics delve into all things sustainability, was refreshing and invaluable.

What have you learned from these experiences?

From presenting posters and giving presentations at these conferences, I feel that I have learned how to more effectively engage with others. By learning from others and engaging in a range of discussions, I feel as though I have learned how to better convey my research and tailor my explanations to suit a range of academics, fellow students, stakeholders and more.

Given that the audience for each presentation consisted of individuals whose perspectives varied greatly in some ways and were very aligned in others, it was valuable to learn about how to find common ground and use this to continually learn from each other and also to develop the depth and nuance of my own work.

What do you hope to do in the future after you have completed your PhD?

I hope to utilise my research and the knowledge I am developing about the way that the food system works, its drivers, its barriers and its complexities to accelerate change to a more fair, healthy and sustainable system. While I am not yet sure of the specific role that I want to be in in order to achieve this, my aim will be that it can make a real and significant impact on the world around us.

A huge thank you to Beckie for sharing her sustainability PhD project and conference experience with us!