Birkbeck Intern Post

Ralph Day

I joined the Peltz Gallery intern team at the beginning of the academic year 2017/18. Interns are employed on a 40-hour contract, and we manage our own time, deciding how much time we would like to give to organising our own public engagement event, promoting and evaluating events at the Peltz, and installing and de-installing exhibitions.

The internship is designed to fit around our own PhD research, and all three interns have been flexible in swapping responsibilities and supporting each other in our Gallery projects. As well as promoting public events at the Peltz and supporting the install of exhibitions, the major part of my work as an intern has been conceiving, organising and facilitating a public engagement event.

In May, the Wellcome-funded, internationally-touring exhibition, Transitional States: Hormones at the Crossroads of Art and Science, was installed at the Peltz Gallery. The exhibition explores feminist and queer perspectives on the role of hormones in contraception, fertility, menopause, and gender transition. By chance, this academic year also saw the emergence of the Birkbeck Feminist and Queer Theory Reading Group.

While meetings of this reading group normally take place in seminar rooms at Birkbeck, it seemed to me that it would be stimulating to stage a discussion of a queer text at the Peltz Gallery with the Transitional States exhibition in place. And what better text to discuss, in order to engage with the themes of the exhibition, than Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era, which explores the author’s use of testosterone as a form of ‘gender hacking’. This proved timely, as Preciado had also been invited by the organiser of Transitional States, Dr. Chiara Beccalossi, to deliver a lecture about his work at the Wellcome Collection in June.

With my bid for funding approved by Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality (BiGS), I invited two specialists to contribute to the reading group meeting at the Peltz, to help us unpack the relationship between queer and feminist theory and (art) practice: Raju Rage, a London-based artist and activist whose video work at Transitional States makes reference to Testo Junkie; and Sofia Ropek-Hewson, a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge who is writing her thesis about pharmacopornographic subjectivity in Preciado’s work. Spaces for this session quickly filled up, and it promises to be a valuable resource for the PhD and MA students involved. This may also signal the start of new partnerships between the Peltz Gallery and university reading groups.

 

Birkbeck Intern Post

Aren Roukema

Internships Academic Publishing: Working with 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century

I had the great privilege of interning with 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, a well-respected humanities journal hosted by Birkbeck’s Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies. Over the course of helping with three excellent issues of the journal, I gained valuable experience copyediting text and liaising with authors, reviewers and editors, and just generally had an opportunity to get the sense of a casual, yet still quite professional publishing environment.

The position is largely self-directed, though the one-year internship at 19 is modeled on the adeptship of martial arts films — for the first six months you work and train with a more experienced intern who has already been in the position for at least one issue; for the last six months you’re the master. In reality this equates to learning and adjusting to situations together, as there’s always a new problem to solve, or at least a new twist on an old conundrum. That said, the support from the full-time editors at 19 was tremendous. I particularly benefitted from training and assistance with copyediting. I’d had some experience with this previously, but my time working with the 19 editors gave me an intense commitment to proper grammar and punctuation that I’m not entirely comfortable with with which I’m not entirely comfortable.

Though generally solitary, the internship could be quite social. During regular meetings with 19 staff and with faculty and students involved with the Centre, interns were frequently encouraged to share ideas for the future of the journal and other Centre activities. Internships like this one can be demanding on the already short supply of time available to a PhD student, but I encourage all who are interested in an academic career or a future in any aspect of publishing to apply. The position was fairly remunerated and provided excellent opportunities to develop skills related to both publishing and the critical evaluation of academic work.

Images taken from http://www.cncs.bbk.ac.uk/ 

Birkbeck Intern Post

Shijia Yu

I have thoroughly enjoyed being an intern at Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies. Already a subscriber to the Centre’s newsletter and blog before applying for the PhD programme, I learned about this opportunity through the Centre and was lucky enough to be selected as event officer intern. Most of my responsibility lies in assisting the organisation of various Centre talks, lectures and conferences, and I also manage the blog and social media platform of the Centre, as well as sitting in Centre meetings and taking minutes.

The internship has been a rewarding, eye-opening and inspiring experience. As I am in frequent liaison with Birkbeck as well as external PhD colleagues and established scholars over the Centre’s everyday running, I have made many contacts in the field of nineteenth-century studies, which is where my PhD research lies. Communicating research with them helps me keep exploring new perspectives in my work.

Assisting the organisation of various events for the Centre is of great benefit for both my academic and employment prospects. Organising academic events is now expected from a PhD student, and part of the everyday life of a researcher in academia, which is what I aspire to be. Hence my experience from the internship will certainly help make things easier when it is my turn to devise an event.

In a way this is already proven true, as I have been most generously supported by the Centre, but most of all by its co-directors, in organising two events for Birkbeck Arts Week 2018: Paper Peepshow: Make Your Own, and Paper Peepshow: Peep into the Rabbit Hole. During my preparation for the two Arts Week events, they were very generous in their help, from giving guidance on my funding application to coming to the events on the day to show their support. The events have helped me address methodological issues that I have encountered during my first-year research, and also brought more attention to my research subject.

Apart from helping me during the Arts Week, the co-directors have also made sure that I have all the support needed on my daily work on the role, including providing me with handover notes, training me on skills such as minute taking, and maintaining the website. They also encourage me to develop my own working style and help me establish protocols and standards in my work. Indeed, this support can be felt with everyone in the Centre, and even my predecessor, who has long left the position, has come to my help again and again with admiring patience.

I find the internship a great opportunity for Birkbeck PhD students, and would definitely recommend it to others. In particular, the flexibility given to me on this role is incredible: I could finish 80% of the work at any time of my choice, hence integrating the internship into my PhD study nicely, instead of having it disrupting my research.

Shijia Yu, Research Student

Birkbeck Intern blog post

Elena Shampanova

From September 2017 to July 2018 I embarked on an internship with Peltz Gallery at the School of Arts at Birkbeck. The position was advertised through the BGRS regular emails, and immediately caught my attention. Having worked and managed events in an arts gallery before, I have never worked in a gallery in an academic setting, and saw this as a chance to apply my existing skills to the new environment, and learn more about the way Peltz Gallery operates and public engagement events are run. I applied and was very excited to have been offered this internship together with two other PhD students.

At our induction meeting we were given an overview of the Peltz Gallery annual plan, and exhibitions coming up. We were invited to support the install and de-install of exhibitions as well as some of the events, however, the focus was very much on what we were interested in doing, and what we wanted to try our hand at.

During my interview for the internship we spoke about my experience of developing evaluation frameworks for arts projects, so when I started I suggested creating one for Peltz Gallery. The idea was welcomed by the team, and I went through a series of questions with them to shape the aims of evaluation. Based on that I developed a framework and tools for collecting data throughout the year, and now I am in the process of analysing it, and writing up the report. Throughout the year evaluation process received support from all the team as it was the first pilot year, and everyone is looking forward to seeing the results. I was pleased to see that my initiative was taken on board at all levels – by peer interns and the gallery team.

Overall, I feel that this internship is a unique way to gain hands-on experience of running a gallery in an academic setting – from shaping a yearly plan of exhibitions to learning all the technicalities of lighting and sound in the space, as well as organising and running public events. I learn best by doing, so this was just right for me, and will be beneficial for my future work in academia as it gave me a lot of ideas on how my research can be presented to public in an engaging way. Being part of an interdisciplinary team and working alongside my peers, who are coming from different research backgrounds enriched our dialogues and boosted ideas – it is amazing, how you can approach a similar subject from a range of angles and disciplines. So if you are considering taking on an internship, go ahead, you will learn so much, meet new people, and will most likely see your own research in a new light.

I would like to thank everyone, who I worked with, for their professionalism, guidance, knowledge and ideas sharing, support and encouragement.

Elena Shampanova, Research Student. 

Careers and professional development training

The following CHASE Career and Professional development training opportunities are available to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck (regardless of whether you are funded by the AHRC/ CHASE).

Further details about each of the sessions below, and information about how to register, is available here.

 

From Field to Page: Core Skills in the Medical Humanities

Thursday 5 July & Thursday 8 November

Birkbeck, University of London


From Field to Page is two training days, which map the core skills required of medical humanities doctoral research and support doctoral researchers as they undertake their projects.

 

Medical humanities continues to emerge as a live and transforming field of enquiry.  The core work of this field seeks to explore and critique biomedical science and its histories through the various critical frameworks of the humanities disciplines.  Medical humanities research presents scholars with the particular challenges of transdisciplinary research undertaken across the radically different domains of medicine and the humanities’ academic disciplines.  Across the CHASE institutions there is a diverse cohort of medical humanities doctoral researchers that incorporates students from both clinical and non-clinical, humanities backgrounds. As such the cohort represents a broad range of skills-sets, work, academic and training experiences, and previous exposure to the critical methods central to the humanities disciplines. Clinicians come into the field of research with substantial situated knowledge of the real-life settings and practices of medicine and surgery but often with the need to acquire, through training the requisite skills of critical thinking and writing.

Conversely, non-clinicians and humanities’ scholars are much better versed in critical practice and inquiry, but lack the grounded, lived experience of clinical practice. The range of research projects undertaken in the field is markedly diverse, ranging from practice-led (examining the nature of clinical practice), to practice-based (using clinical practice as research), to purely analytic (discursive analysis) modes of inquiry but all undertake to situate medicine, disease, patient experience, clinical practice and medical education within socio-cultural and/or historical contexts in such a way that critical analysis and discursive understandings may be produced. The aims of medical humanities theses may, or may not, have the avowed intention of contributing to the practical fields of clinical practice, delivery of healthcare or medical education. All medical humanities theses must adhere to the core methodologies and practices of the humanities disciplines and this means that critical thinking and writing skills are key requirements of the medical humanities doctorate.

Find out more and register here

 

Getting Ready for Submission: Editing, Strengthening & Polishing Your Thesis

3-5 August | Cumberland Lodge, Windsor
Accommodation and dinner is provided on Friday evening, but the workshop starts at 10am on Saturday. Attendees are welcome to arrive from 6pm on Friday.

 

Are you close to a full draft of your thesis? Does it resemble a baggy monster that needs taming? If so, this two-day residential workshop is for you. Through activities and tutorials, you’ll learn techniques for getting your thesis into shape. By the end of the weekend, you’ll have a perfectly polished chapter and a clear strategy for tackling the rest of your thesis.

 

Find out more and register

The Viva and Beyond: Planning, Preparation & Performance


5-7 October | Cumberland Lodge, Windsor
Accommodation and dinner is provided on Friday evening, but the workshop starts at 10am on Saturday. Attendees are welcome to arrive from 6pm on Friday.

Have you submitted your thesis, or are you close to completion? This two-day workshop is designed to guide you through the process of preparing for your viva and to help you plan what happens post-PhD.

Through activities, discussion, and short training sessions on Day One, you’ll learn lots of techniques for successfully defending your thesis. We’ll also stage some mock vivas to get you used to the format in a supportive environment.

Day Two is all about what happens next. We’ll explore the jobs market and use some strategies for working out what career you’d like to pursue. The final session is dedicated to turning your thesis into a publication. We’ll look at the options, what’s involved, and also draft a book proposal.

 

Find out more and register

The People’s Choice Winners – Three Minute Thesis 2018

Raul Valdivia

Three Questions for Three Minute Thesis

As one of the People’s Choice winners for 2018, how would you describe your experience of the 3MT event?

It was tough! I had practised my speech several times, but once I was in front of the audience I got too nervous and started to forget some bits, so I had to improvise. I guess I wanted to sound calm but passionate about my work at the same time, which is always difficult to get it right. I am glad people in the audience got a clear idea of what my research was about (analysis of photographs taken by slum dwellers in Lima). Overall, the 3MT event was a good experience and very well organised, I can now explain my work in less than three minutes!

Did you submit a poster for the Poster Presentation, if yes/no what did you think of the posters?

Yes, I did. I put lots of effort and creativity into the design of my poster. Coming from the School of Arts, I knew the standard format for posters was not going to suit my needs. The research poster structure is very much based on a cause-effect approach to the study of natural phenomena and social relations. I personally disagree with such positivistic model, even though I have a psychology and sociology background, so I wanted to tell a story in my poster in a way that could give viewers a sense of what it is that I am exploring, my findings so far, and the contribution my study makes to society. I anticipated most poster judges were going to be drawn from disciplines different to mine (visual studies), so I used some of the standard poster sections to keep it within the traditional assessment criteria. Sadly, I did not win, but many people complemented my poster highly, which is always a good indicator and rewarding of course.

 

Would you recommend taking part in 3MT to other PhD students next year?

Absolutely! If anything, it is a good opportunity to think about what you are doing in your research and how to best explain it to people who may not be familiar with your topic. Besides, you could win a good cash prize!

 

Pavni Kohli

When I first heard of the Three-Minute thesis challenge, I had just entered the writing phase of my PhD after an exciting year of field work and was feeling as if I was losing steam. Having presented my research at a conference in the previous few months I realised the exercise was very helpful in refocusing my thoughts. Within this context the 3MT seemed like a much-needed opportunity to step back and regain some clarity and enthusiasm for my research.

The first thing I did was look up the videos of past winners from Birkbeck and other universities. Although it seemed challenging to present three years of work in three minutes, I decided to participate because the PhD students looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Indeed, the whole experience was hugely enjoyable, starting from the training workshop which was also a great learning experience. We learned ways to capture the audiences’ imagination, communicate our ideas quickly and clearly along with breathing and body language techniques. My favourite part was meeting PhD students from other departments and learning about their projects. Their passion and enthusiasm were infectious, to say the least and I felt energised and determined to give my best. The interactive nature of the workshop meant that we could test our presentation styles and get immediate feedback about what worked and what didn’t.

This camaraderie and infectious energy carried onto the evening of the challenge where I was happy to see so many presentations and posters on such a range of fascinating topics. The atmosphere was incredible with an almost full auditorium and a warm, cheerful and sporty audience. I was very nervous but the supportive atmosphere made me feel at ease and my nervousness melted away.

It was an honour to be chosen the people’s choice winner. For me, the three-minute thesis challenge is all about connecting with the audience, communicating my research concisely and clearly and conveying the passion I feel for my work. I felt great satisfaction at achieving these goals and was delighted that the audience voted for me.

I highly recommend participating in the 3MT to other PhD students as its not only a hugely enjoyable experience but is also a tremendously powerful exercise in honing presentation and communication skills and regaining clarity and focus.

 

Raul (Department of Cultures and Languages) and Pavni Department of Geography) took joint place  for the People’s Choice Award this year.

Watch Raul’s talk “Picturing Utopia: Photography against the odds in a Peruvian sunset” here

Watch Pavni’s talk “Looking beyond fear in Delhi: Mapping women’s everyday life” here.

Confronting a masculine military ideal: the experiences of LGBTQ service personnel 1914–now

AHRC PhD Studentship in collaboration with Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Birkbeck

Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded PhD at Birkbeck: “Confronting a masculine military ideal: the experiences of LGBTQ service personnel 1914–now”. This is offered under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership programme. The partner institutions are Birkbeck and the IWM. The studentship will be supervised by Professor Matt Cook at Birkbeck and Rebecca Newell of IWM. This full-time studentship, which is funded for three years at standard AHRC rates, will begin on 1 October 2018.

The Studentship

Using material from across the IWM’s collection, including the sound collection, and with a particular focus on the museum’s private papers and oral history archives, this project will examine narratives of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning) experience in the military for all or part of the period from 1914 to the present day.

Fifty years ago there was a watershed moment in British history. The 1967 Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised same-sex acts between men in England and Wales. However, policy makers in the armed forces agreed that decriminalising such acts in the military would affect discipline and threaten the safety of low-ranking servicemen. As a result they remained punishable by military law, even though they ceased to be illegal for consenting civilian men over 21. For three decades the MOD stood by its decision – creating a climate of secrecy for queer service personnel and the impression of a rather straight military. Fear of dismissal and condemnation prevented most from sharing their experiences. Only recently, as the law and cultural climate have changed, have some have felt able to be franker. Their stories are nevertheless still often modulated by an entrenched culture of discretion and framed by current understandings of liberation and sexual identity. We anticipate that these testimonies – and the complexities of gathering and analysing them – will be at the heart of this project.

New British Army Recruitment Campaign Tells Recruits ‘It’s Okay To Be Gay’ – January 2018

The student will explore existing testimonies and conduct new interviews exploring experiences and perceptions of being LGBTQ in the forces. They will also engage with historical work and ongoing debate about sex, sexuality and gender in the military and draw on expertise offered by the IWM and its partners. Aside from a doctoral thesis and associated publications, it is anticipated that research will feed into a future IWM public programme season on sex and war.

In discussion with their supervisors, the student will be responsible for formulating their research questions and methodology and for defining the period of investigation. Potential areas include:
• Accepted and hidden same-sex and homosocial experiences in wartime;
• The impact of serving in the armed forces on individuals’ sense of identity;
• The differential experience and/or representation of homosexuality in the army, navy and airforce;
• Gender crossings and the experience of trans people in the military;
• A comparison of the experiences of queer men and women;
• Masculinity, femininity and queerness in the forces;
• Narratives and experiences of sanction, tolerance, degeneracy, ‘passing’ and prejudice;
• Military sites/cities and associated local queer networks
• The role and responsibility of museums and IWM as a space and forum for excavating LGBTQ narratives.

These, and/or other questions, will be explored through a range of archives, including at the IWM, The National Archives, the National Maritime Museum, the National Army Museum and Tate, as well as through interviews with current and former service personnel gathered as part of the project.

Subject to AHRC eligibility criteria, the scholarships cover tuition fees and a grant (stipend) towards living expenses. The national minimum doctoral stipend for 2018/19 has been set by Research Councils UK as £ 16,777 (inc. £2,000 London Weighting) plus £550 additional payment for Collaborative Doctoral Students. For more information visit: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/skills/phdstudents/fundingandtraining.
Students are also eligible to draw additional funding from a Student Development Fund to support the cost of training, work placements, and other development opportunities that will benefit the student’s doctoral research and future career development.
In addition, the student is eligible to receive up to £1,000 a year from IWM and will be able to apply for internal funding from the University to support archival visits and the delivery of academic conference papers.

How to Apply

Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree in history or another relevant discipline, and will normally also hold a masters degree. They will need to satisfy AHRC eligibility requirements including Masters-level advanced research training or equivalent.
Applicants must be a resident of the UK or European Economic Area (EEA). In general, full studentships are available to students who are settled in the UK and have been ordinarily resident for a period of at least three years before the start of postgraduate studies. Fees-only awards are generally available to EU nationals resident in the EEA. International applicants are normally not eligible to apply for this studentship.
Applicants should submit via email a curriculum vitae (no more than 2 pages), a research proposal (of 500 – 1000 words)*, a sample of writing, a brief letter outlining their qualification for the studentship, transcripts of undergraduate and masters qualifications, and two academic references to Sian Green (sian.green@bbk.ac.uk) no later than 5pm on Sunday 8 July 2018 . Please note it is the responsibility of applicants to request references from their referees and ensure that they have been received by the Department of History by this deadline. All documents should be submitted in either a MS Word or PDF format. Please ensure the subject line of your email appears as ‘surname, first name – IWM/Birkbeck studentship.’

*for guidance on formulating a research proposal see: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/student-services/admissions/phd-applications

Cathy Rogers: Why I took part in the 3 minute thesis competition

Before doing my PhD, I spent two decades working as a TV producer, with a particular interest in science programming, so over the years I interviewed a lot of scientists. They used to drive me nuts! They would be working on such interesting projects and seeing the world through a completely fresh lens – but they were often just awful at talking about their research, at least in a way anyone could understand. They were unable or unwilling to say anything with certainty, they always insisted more research was needed and in the worst cases they even wore their inability to ‘dumb things down’ as a badge of pride.

So now I am on the other side. In some respects, I can appreciate more viscerally scientists’ stance. As you learn more and more about a subject, you appreciate more and more of its complexities and sometimes you feel you fully understand less and less. Saying things with certainty requires a 100% that science, with its 95% benchmark, will never (or very rarely (see there I am giving the caveat)) meet. But I still believe that if you can’t explain the essence of what you are doing and why you are doing it in a way that anyone interested can understand, then either you don’t understand it yourself, or it isn’t worth doing.

 

To me, that’s what the 3 minute thesis competition is all about. Going back to the big questions of your research – why do you care? Why should anyone else care? And how are you going to go about inching forward knowledge with that bigger picture in mind.

 

Cathy Rogers (Department of Psychological Sciences) was awarded runner-up and a £250 prize for her talk “Freedom and control: how do children achieve their creative goals?”

You can watch her full talk here.

Women in Psychological Sciences Lecture Series

Prof Clare Elwell
From PhD Student to Professor – Part Time

4pm 12th June 2018
B01 Clore Management Centre
Torrington Square
Birkbeck, University of London
WC1E 7JL

Drinks Reception to Follow

Clare Elwell is a Professor of Medical Physics in the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at UCL, and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London. She is Director of the Near Infrared Spectroscopy Research Group in the Biomedical Optics Research Laboratory at UCL and develops novel optical systems for monitoring and imaging the human body. Her research projects include studies of acute brain injury in adults, children and infants, autism, migraine, malaria and sports performance.

Her most recent project is the use of near infrared spectroscopy to investigate malnutrition related brain development in rural Gambia, resulting in the first functional brain imaging of infants in Africa. She started the Globalfnirs Initiative (www.globalfnirs.org) to support the application of NIRS in global health projects. She currently leads the Brain Imaging for Global Health (BRIGHT) project which is developing brain function for age curves for Gambian and UK infants from birth to 24 months of age with the aim of informing targeted interventions to improve long term neurocognitive outcome. She is a founder member and President of the Society for Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy, and President of the London International Youth Science Forum.

Clare has won the UCL Provost’s Public Engagement Award, Medical Research Council Science Suffrage Award, Inspirational Teacher Award at the UK Inspirational Awards for Women, and the Women in Science and Engineering Research Award. Most recently she was awarded the UCL Engineering Engagement Outstanding Contribution Award and a British Science Association Media Fellowship. She is Founder and Trustee of the charity Young Scientists for Africa (YoSA, www.yosa.org.uk).

She has two children and has worked part time for a total of 18 years. Clare is a keen advocate for supporting women in STEM.

Free open basic introduction to critical realism with Priscilla Alderson

On Wednesday 27 June (11.00 am – 5.00 pm) and Thursday 28 June (9.00 am – 12.30 pm) Priscilla Alderson PhD will be delivering a basic introductory course to critical realism based on the books and doctoral seminars of Professor Roy Bhaskar (the founder of critical realism) at the Institute of Education UCL main building.

Free and open to all, the course will include: problems and contradictions in social science; how basic CR concepts help to resolve them; structure and agency; connecting macro and micro, qualitative and quantitative, local and global research; researching transformative change over time.

Critical realism can be applied to any methods and topics of social research. There will be time for students to discuss their own work during the programme.

To register for this exciting course please contact Bob: r.gist@ucl.ac.uk