Lucy Gell, 23, recently started a PhD looking into alcohol and health inequalities at the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research.

What made you choose this area?

My first degree was in human geography. In the second and third years, I focused on inequalities of access to primary health services in urban and rural areas of north-east Derbyshire. That led me to do a one-year taught Masters in public health at Sheffield, which has now led to this PhD.

What will you be concentrating on?

At the moment, I'm reading the research that's already been done into access to alcohol treatment services. I might focus on alcoholism, but there's also increasing concern about levels of binge drinking in the UK, so I may focus on the access to treatment for people who want to reduce their binge drinking. I might also look at barriers to healthcare, which would mean doing in-depth interviews with people in the field and finding out what works for them and what they like and dislike about the service.

Why have you chosen to focus on alcohol?

I think because alcohol affects so many people's lives in so many different ways. My research has the potential to have a real impact, and it might even influence healthcare practice in the future.

Are there any rules for how you do your research?

For any research in healthcare, when you are talking to vulnerable individuals, you have to make sure that it doesn't cause them any harm. So, once I've decided what area I want to concentrate on, I have to take it to an ethics committee at Sheffield who will look at it and decide if it is OK to go ahead with.

Do you drink much yourself?

People always ask me this; yes, I do, but I try to follow the guidelines. When you're at university you certainly see people drinking heavily. In the university scuba diving club, where I'm a member, we are developing a social action plan where we try to encourage people not to drink too much, and help anyone that does overdo it. All the university sports clubs are doing that this year.

How are you paying for your studies?

I've been funded for three years by part of the National Institute for Health Research. The money is actually coming from the South Yorkshire branch of an organisation called the Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care. The funding, about £42,500 over three years, is the same as the research councils' stipend. My research will be based in and around Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Where do you want it to take you?

I would like to have an academic career and also to be involved in policy development, and to ensure that research is followed through in practice.