Freelance Photographer and Research Assistant
Indigenous Health Adaption to Climate Change (IHACC) Laboratory in Montreal, Quebec
Originally, Matthew King's affinity for the natural world gravitated him towards Environmental Science. All the while, King longed to broaden the scope of his education and explore the relationship between the physical and social sciences. It was not until his encounter with enthusiastic and inspired geography students that King redirected his focus to geography. The diversity of issues discussed within geography allowed King to draw connections between different disciplines and develop an understanding of how two phenomena may be related, though they are in separate fields of science or elements of society. Now, King works as a research assistant with the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) research group based at Leeds University, where he uses photography to highlight IHACC's work and creatively engage a non-academic audience.
1. Can you describe your career path since graduation?
I started working as a research assistant at the IHACC research group during my last semester. I was looking for something related to social issues, and there is an interesting mix of physical, health, and human geography within the IHACC research group. After graduation, I continued to work with IHACC.
Currently, I am building a website to showcase my field photos surrounding the doctorate thesis of another lab member. Her work focuses on the food systems and food security of a specific indigenous community in the northern Amazon of Peru. A large part of the study is finding linkages between the issues related to food insecurity, such as malnutrition and anemia, to natural phenomena associated with climate change, such as flooding events. The website aims to expand the potential of her work and by introducing its concepts to a more diverse audience.
2. What skills do you wish you learned during your education that would have helped you in the job market today?
I only scratched the surface with different coding languages in my undergraduate studies, and I wish I would have dug deeper. I am updating three separately-owned websites of different primary investigators of the lab. At the same time, I am creating a website for my photos. Now that I am finding myself in a communications and presentation type of role, I am more aware of the importance of coding for navigating the internet and achieving the exact desired effect.
3. Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I would have sat down with program advisors to figure out my path a little bit more. Planning earlier would have helped me take required courses on time, allowing me to take more intriguing courses later. My program already provided me with a lot of flexibility and choice, and I would have liked to explore that freedom even further.
4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?
Respond to job opportunities even if you think you are under-qualified. If you have taken a course on – or related – to the subject, you are likely more qualified than most people. For me, a contract work experience in GIS came through an email, and I replied to it even though I was still a student. There may be many interested people who do not reply to a job posting because they feel under-qualified. Do not let that doubt stop you from diving into opportunities because those job experiences will widen the scope of what you thought was possible. You can always learn during the process.