North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership

Bending Boundaries Podcast: PhDs that move beyond the rules of academia

with Seren Thomas, Meghan Grant & Ebru Calin

Listen to the latest podcasts here

Join Seren, Ebru and Meghan as they discuss their experiences of doing their PhDs, as people who are part of groups who often aren’t seen, heard and celebrated in academia. With monthly guests, they encourage visibility, and acceptance of the intersectional layers of our identities within academic research and the PhD process.

By amplifying the voices of minorities that have been rendered silent, “Bending Boundaries” sheds light on the heteronormative, gendered and racialized notions of membership, belonging and recognition in universities which are deeply entrenched in the operation of admission processes, scholarships, graduate departments, and professional organizations.

“Bending Boundaries” aims to break the silence around the history of structural racism, ableism and heteronormativity upon which universities are built globally as well as compensate for a lack of education on equality, diversity, and inclusion in academia. Moving beyond normative assumptions around the concept of “Academic Citizenship” – meaning the socially constructed boundaries of what is assumed to be the ‘ideal’ student affecting who gets admitted, who and what gets funded, who and what gets published where, Seren, Meghan, and Ebru create a space for activism, and self-discovery through conversations that encourage equity and more diverse representation in doctoral education.

Encountering the weird and wonderful in research

Matt Varco, Geography & Environment, University of Manchester (2020 Cohort)

The wizard tuts slightly upon hearing that I am carrying no cash. Thalers, the silver coinage of the Holy Roman Empire, were his preferred currency, but he was prepared to accept Euros too – both of them backed as they are by a strong central authority. Reluctantly, he produces a device that will read my bright orange ‘Zauberkarte’. Punching in the amount (€4,50), he invites me to wave my card to complete the magic transaction. The ‘Special Spices’, in an attractive glass vial with a cork stopper, are now mine! I had intended to use them in cooking, but the fairytale-like circumstances in which I acquired them were making me want to scatter them or bury them, like Jack with his magic beans. I leave the merchant’s tent and head for the exit of the citadel, past several more stalls and caravansaries where others were bartering their wares. The air is thick with the smoke from an oak bonfire in the middle of the fortress, a selection of game is being spit-roasted over hot coals, and I have to try not to flinch at the dull thuds and metallic clash of archery and sword combat. For all I knew this really was the Mark Brandenburg, 1122 AD.

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Attending the Venice Ca’ Foscari’s Digital Humanities Summer School

Marjotte Miles, Economic and Social History, University of Liverpool (2020 Cohort)

Last July, I was fortunate to be selected alongside 24 other students and early career researchers to attend the 2022 Venice Digital Humanities Summer School. Organised by the Ca’ Foscari’s Centre for Digital and Public Humanities, the week-long program aimed to provide attendants with in-depth training in theories and technologies to enrich the study of historical monuments, artefacts and textual sources. Teaching formats included lectures, hands-on workshops, guided tours and experimental performances.

The program was varied, ranging from the study of textual scholarship to the use of photogrammetry, and the analysis of multimedia humanities datasets. One full day of the program was dedicated to the study of natural language processing. It included a hands- on exercise where we were introduced to a series of computational linguistic methods to analyse different poems as well as Venetian manuscripts. The third day focused on the role of technology in the context of endangered cultural heritage.

Having just finished my MA in Digital Humanities at Lancaster University and currently starting my PhD at the University of Liverpool in collaboration with the National Museums of Liverpool, I was particularly excited to attend the sessions on museum-based digital strategies. Having spent some time thinking about the implications of digital museography, a visit to Venice’s Grimani Palace and Mestre’s recently opened M9 museum allowed us to think more practically about different devices and strategies put in place by cultural institutions to improve public engagement and access to their collection.

The last day included a visit to Venice’s 2022 Art Biennale and offered an opportunity to think about new media concepts such as surveillance through a series of interventions from scholars using digital media in their research. I was grateful to share this experience with students who were studying a variety of disciplines, especially in such a beautiful setting!

The programme was generously funded by the hosting institution, the Ca’ Foscari. I am deeply grateful to the NWSSDTP Research Training Support Grant for covering travel costs to allow me to attend the summer school.

Twitter: @MarjotteMiles

Engaging with UK science policy makers in Parliament- reflections on a UKRI Policy Internship at the Royal Society of Biology.

My favourite Zoom spot at the Royal Society of Biology offices in Clerkenwell, London.
Adam McCarthy, Business & Management, University of Manchester (2020 Cohort)

In summer 2022, I saw the opportunity for UKRI-funded students to take part in a three month Science Policy internship at one of many leading organisations in the UK. I thought that as an academic studying these organisations and the process of science policy, it might be useful to gain experience in the inner workings of such an organisation. In hindsight, I think this was a good decision for the experience it provided, but I was surprised to find that the insight gained changed my perspective on my research project. I chose to apply to the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) to take advantage of my biological sciences undergraduate degree and also to put into practice my skills gained during my MRes and the first stages of my Science, Technology and Innovation Policy PhD at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research.

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