Ola Michalec

Favourite Thing: Realisation that “research” is finding out new things about how the world works. Every day of work I am facing the unknown and I need to feel comfortable with it!



The University of The West of England, 2015- present (phD); The University of Manchester – 2011 – 2014 (BSc in Geography and Geology); The University of Edinburgh 2010 -2011 (MA in Geography but dropped out after a year), College in Warsaw, Poland


BSc Geography and Geology, currently doing a PhD in local Water, Energy and Food issues

Work History:

Sustainable Travel Advisor – Bristol City Council and countless student jobs between 2010-2014

Current Job:

PhD Student


The University of the West of England

About Me

I got into research through my love for outdoors. Wish camping science was a thing!

Hi, I live in Bristol, although I am originally from Warsaw. I am 25 and currently doing a PhD which is great fun (I get to do competitions like this one!) When I’m not studying, I usually cycle, climb or dance!

My Work

I am looking at ways to treat Earth more kindly- in particular – how can we save our energy, food and water?

Some people would question is my work is even “science”  in traditional sense, since no,  I don’t work with  advanced numbers (AS-level maths will do) and I don’t need to know Latin names for every single piece of “stuff” I am looking at. However, the origin of the word “science” is “to get to know something”, so let’s stick to that.

My background is in Geography and Geology so I am interested in anything place-related. Also I really like the outdoors. Although I wrote an undergrad dissertation on volcanoes and ice, I moved onto future sustainable cities…well this is how life sometimes works – so don’t worry if you change your mind about your future every now and again.

My current work is a PhD based in Bristol, south-west England. I work in the field of environmental policy, which means that I work with the local politicians, businesses and charities to create effective strategies and action plans for future Bristol. in particular I am interested in local water, energy and food.

Some questions I ask myself sometimes are:
* A third of food gets wasted in supermarkets/restaurant/ big institutions. How to connect extra food better with charities so nothing gets wasted?
* About 13% of Bristol residents live in cold homes (comparing to 10.6% national average) How to help the poorest households to reduce their bills?
* 1 in 4 children in Bristol live in poverty – that’s quite a lot! Poverty means that often children are not fed well. Can school meals improve – get tastier, more sustainable and locally sourced?

My Typical Day

I read, write and speak to people who have very strong opinions about our future!

I have a luxury of being a full time student, which means that I can focus solely on my research, without distractions -and I get paid to do it. (for example, my colleagues have children or extra work, so they have to juggle their time more)

I have my own desk with a computer and lots of paperwork. Sadly, no lab work! It’s all computer-based these days.

I cycle to Uni, it takes me 30 minutes. I get to see lots of squirrels, trees and dogs.

Occasionally I meet up with my course mates to work from a cafe – we get to exchange gossips and support each other as well!

Sometimes I attend extra events, lectures etc in order to meet more people who could participate in my research. It’s a bit stressful, cause there are usually lots of important and senior people, but there are free drinks and snacks to ease the nerves.

My tasks depend on the stage of the research but they are usually:
* reading academic journal (some quite dry!)
* reading policy papers (even dry-er!)
* writing up what I’ve learnt (my favourite part !)
* meetings with my supervisors or research sponsors (monthly)
* workshops, evening lectures (twice a week)
* interviewing my participants

What I'd do with the money

I would collaborate with one of my favourite food charities and create interesting workshops on nutrition and sustainability

I am fortunate enough to live in a place which is booming with fantastic food-related initiatives, e.g. Matthew Tree Project, Square Food Foundation, Soil Association etc.

However, I am also aware that 1 in 4 children here live in poverty. They are more likely to get fed with unhealthy food – what can we do about it

I would like to design science-inspired cookery school for teenagers living in the most deprived areas of Bristol. The series of workshop would cover various aspects of good cooking and eating:
* the chemistry and art of food: why temperature and timing matter? what goes well with what?
* healthy and exciting: good food doesn’t have to be boring and it’s more than just spring greens (bleuurgh)! great advice on healthy food without the fads
* food which saves the planet: learning about seasonal, local and organic food – without the preaching
* student budget meals: surprise your parents and cook them a restaurant-standard dinner with your own pocket money!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

enthusiastic, energetic, stubborn

Who is your favourite singer or band?

anything from d’n’b to banjo folk

What's your favourite food?

udon noodles, pizza, steak – good stuff but eat occasionally!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

hitchhiking from Manchester to South of Spain in less than 48 hours. Seeing a bear in far east Russia. Wild camping in Italy.. so many fun things!!

What did you want to be after you left school?

archaeologist, geologist…anything to do with digging the ground

Were you ever in trouble at school?

yeah, mostly for arguing with teachers! I have always been a feisty one

What was your favourite subject at school?

geography and history

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I think this one is yet to come

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I had a great history teacher who inspired me to be more curious about the world around me

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

a journalist

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

peace, love and lots of sun every day

Tell us a joke.

I am a millennial – we don’t do jokes. We speak memes

Other stuff

Work photos: