As a result of the current situation we have had to postpone the BGRS Conference which will no longer take place on 22-23 April. However, we do intend to find an alternative date for the event later in the year and will confirm this once available.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank all who had helped to shape the conference through contributions by email, discussion off line, by attending any of the BGRS conference meetings, or by volunteering to take part in the student sessions on methods/ disciplines or the poster competition. Many thanks too to speakers who had agreed to take part.
Thanks in particular to those of you who have been active in the conference steering group and who had until recently been choosing and inviting speakers and helping to set things in place. I’m hopeful that we will be able to build on the work done so far and deliver an exciting event later in the year.
All current Birkbeck PhD students are invited to enter the BGRS Conference Poster Competition which will provide a fantastic opportunity to share your research interests and successes with doctoral students from across the College.
How to take part
If you are a current Birkbeck PhD student and would like to take part in this Poster Competition please complete this brief form by 31 March. All those who enter will be able to claim back up to £30 for poster printing costs from the BGRS.
Judging of the posters will take place on day 2 of the conference (23 April) and you will be asked to attend your poster in order to answer questions while judging takes place. The following prizes will be awarded:
We hope you will have
seen that as part of the BGRS Conference
(22-23 April) there will be a session where PhD students are invited to give
brief presentations (around 10 minutes each) about a methodological aspect of
their research project. The aim of this session is to provide opportunities for
attendees and contributors to find out about methodology they are not currently
familiar with, or to hear from doctoral researchers who have an interest in a
similar or related methodology.
We would like to
encourage all current Birkbeck PhD students to contribute to this session in
order to make it a success. We think this session will be both useful and
interesting for the following reasons:
You will have the opportunity to present your work to your fellow students and to respond to questions in a supportive environment.
If you haven’t yet given a presentation on your research this would be a great opportunity to do so.
If you have previously given a presentation on your methodology in another setting you are welcome to use that as the basis of your talk or repeat it.
The session will provide the chance to engage with doctoral researchers from across Birkbeck and to receive useful feedback.
You would be contributing to the success of the conference and helping to build connections between research students across departments at Birkbeck.
Please do use this brief form by 24 March if you would like to take
part in this session.
student members of the BGRS Steering Committee
We are excited to announce that
registration for the Birkbeck Graduate Research School Conference, ‘A celebration of 100 years of the Birkbeck PhD: Past, Present and
Future‘ on 22-23
April, is now open. This exciting event will bring together doctoral researchers
and PhD alumni from across the research student community at Birkbeck. Further
details will be announced over the coming weeks including a poster competition
As part of the conference we are opening a call for current PhD students to contribute – we are looking for volunteers to describe their research focus and methodological approach, with an aim of exposing the range of approaches available, and facilitating discussion on the ways that methodology could be viewed from an interdisciplinary perspective. If you are willing to give a talk please complete this brief form by 24 March. We will endeavour to provide as many opportunities to present as we can but please note we may need to select speakers in order to represent the range of methods.
A celebration of 100 years of the Birkbeck PhD: Past, Present and Future
DAY 1 – Wednesday 22 April (18.00 – 21.00)
OPENING NIGHT: The Birkbeck PhD – Past, Present and Future
A history of the Birkbeck PhD
Joanna Bourke is Professor of History in the Department of
History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck, where she has taught since 1992.
She is a Fellow of the British Academy. Joanna will speak about the history of
the first doctoral research at Birkbeck.
Talks will be followed by a drinks reception to celebrate the opening night of the conference.
DAY 2 – Thursday 23 April (09.30 – 19.00)
second day you will be able to attend a range of panels and other sessions
organised by the conference steering group, which is made up of current PhD
students. Sessions will involve Birkbeck staff, alumni and current research
Methods and Disciplines
theme will provide the chance to find out more about research methods and
disciplines and will include PhD students giving brief presentations on their
research methodology or an aspect of it. PhD students willing to give a talk should complete this brief form by 24 March.
about research impact in the context of doctoral studies and continuing
research after a PhD.
The PhD and Beyond
session will provide the chance to hear from former Birkbeck PhD students and
staff who will speak about their careers and work beyond their PhD.
A steering group has identified themes for the sessions but we are asking for additional help in organising the second day of the conference. We are looking for volunteers to help identify suitable contributors (academic staff, current Birkbeck doctoral researchers or alumni) and to organise for them to take part in each theme.
By taking part in this way you will have the chance to meet other PhD students and contribute to this exciting event. If you are willing to take part we will put you in contact with members of the steering group or others who would like to volunteer and you would be asked to work together on the theme you are interested in.
We invite you to let us know by
the end of Tuesday 4 February if you are willing to help in this way.
BGRS Postgraduate Research Conference: 22-23 April 2020
2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of Birkbeck joining the University of London, and also the 100th anniversary of our first PhD. To celebrate these milestones as we approach the College’s 200th year, the BGRS is organising a centenary conference, led by current PhD students and doctoral alumni.
entitled #BBKConversations, it will be a great opportunity for the whole Birkbeck
postgraduate research community to engage with the big issues of the day. The
steering committee are in the early stages of planning the conference, but we
need your help to shape it.
Over the course of
two days, we hope to arrange lectures, workshops and maybe an exhibition, using
our current research as well as the work of alumni to frame some big
Below are some
themes the committee has come up with, but we would really like your input. What
do you want to discuss and focus on? We are looking for exciting and
innovative ways to bring together researchers in business, humanities, social
sciences, STEM, and everything in between.
Whether or not you want to take an active role in the conference, please put the 22nd and 23rd of April in your diary. If you would like to join the committee, propose a theme or participate in one of the #BBKConversations, please contact the BGRS Manager Tim Hoe (firstname.lastname@example.org). Get in touch with any and every idea no matter how big or small, and let’s make this a great conference. Please let Tim have your ideas by the 2nd of December so we can discuss them at our planning workshop.
If Birkbeck did not exist would we need to invent it? What is the relevance of Birkbeck’s mission and its particular character in relation to society today?
What have Birkbeck’s contributions to society and to research been? The conference could showcase this in relation to alumni. What should Birkbeck’s future research focus be?
What are the historic and current roles for Birkbeck in terms of activism and research? Birkbeck has a radical history but should a university be radical?
Is London a global city-state? If so, is that good or bad for the UK? It was agreed that the relationship between education, social mobility and migration could be explored in the context of London and the rest of the UK.
Access and engagement. What is the future of the university in relation to race and migration, borders and decolonisation of the curriculum? What does a modern doctoral graduate look like and what journeys have led to our research students coming to Birkbeck? It would be interesting to explore some of the different stories and the role of a PhD in different cultures, with opportunities to interact and to explore these issues further at the conference.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative research? This could work as a debate – with representatives from both sides.
What role does objectivity play in research? How does storytelling and narrative relate to research? What is reality – and what are the consequences of choices made when framing research?
What relevance do issues of privacy and digital data have in research? This could include discussion of artificial intelligence, deep learning, big data and ethics.
The BGRS is pleased to announce a call for current Birkbeck research students to seek funding and support to pilot training initiatives in 2019/20. This call offers current Birkbeck PhD students the chance to propose training that will benefit themselves and their peers and to develop and deliver them with support from the BGRS. Funding awarded will be used to support well-defined initiatives which will deliver training accessible to all Birkbeck PhD students.
Submit an expression of interest
Current PhD students are invited to submit a brief expression of interest by 27 September. If you think of a training idea after this date you can still submit an application but we suggest that you contact the BGRS so that we can provide advice and support.
Develop a proposal
BGRS support in October will give you the chance to consider your ideas in more detail and will provide you with the support needed for you to prepare and submit a full proposal by 15 November.
In developing their own training initiatives those awarded funding will be able to build professional relationships with other research students and staff, improve their organisational skills and meet the training needs they identified.
If you have any queries about this call for student-led training proposals please do contact the BGRS in the first instance
When considering your training ideas it is recommended that you look at previous events listed on the BGRS and BPSN timetables to see whether any similar training has been run before and to get ideas about the format and type of training that you think would be useful.
Further information and how to apply
Further information about this call and the expression of interest form are available below:
On Monday 1 July the BGRS held a Summer Party in the Keynes Library which was attended by around 50 Birkbeck PhD students from across the College. During the event the winner of the inaugural Gwynne-Vaughan Medal was announced. This medal was awarded to the student best able to demonstrate the most notable contribution to their field while undertaking their PhD.
Entries were judged by members of the Research Student Sub-Committee who agreed that the quality was extremely high and demonstrated successes for a diverse range of researchers who had entered the competition. The winners were announced by Dr Sarah Lee..
Gwynne-Vaughan medal awarded to Aren Roukema
Aren Roukema was announced as the winner of the inaugural Gwynne-Vaughan medal. Aren is a full time PhD student in the Department of English & Humanities, School of Arts. Judges agreed that Aren had made a significant contribution to his field through his monograph, “Esotericism and Narrative: The Occult Fiction of Charles Williams (Brill, 2018)” and his chapter “Naturalists in Ghost Land: Victorian Occultism and Science Fiction,” which is included in The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875–1947 (Routledge, 2018).
While carrying out his PhD Aren has also acted as Editor of Correspondences: Journal for the Study of Esotericism and had contributed to published research from leading scholars in the field as well as providing opportunities for researchers who were at an earlier stage in their careers.
Aren co-founded the London Science Fiction Research Community (LSFRC) in 2014. This community which is based at Birkbeck has been successful in hosting conferences and events including evening lectures and reading groups. The most recent conference drew 40 speakers and 100 delegates from 11 different countries. Aren wasn’t able to attend in person and the medal was received in his absence by Dr Joe Brooker, Assistant Dean for PGR in the School of Arts.
Our congratulations and thanks to Aren who receives the Gwynne-Vaughan Medal, a certificate and a prize of £200.
Runner Up: Ilaria Bucci
The runner up prize was awarded to Ilaria Bucci, a first year PhD student from the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology (School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy).
During the first year of her PhD studies Ilaria had begun working on a publication with Marco Moriggi, professor in Semitic Philology at the University of Catania . The resulting work “Aramaic Graffiti from Hatra”, was published in May 2019 and is the first study on Hatra’s textual graffiti. The publication provides insight into the linguistic, social and cultural environment of the city and how it was experienced by its inhabitants and visitors. Ilaria receives a certificate and a prize of £100.
Highly commended: Alex Cook and Natalie Phillips (Lancer)
A further 2 PhD students, both from the School of Science, were highly commended.
Alex Cook is a PhD student within the Department of Biological Sciences whose research objective has been to characterise a component of the cell division machinery of Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly species of malaria. Alex has been an invited speaker at 2 international conferences and an author on 3 publications. His mechanistic insights and methodologies have made notable contributions to the field.
Natalie Lancer (Phillips) is a PhD Psychology student who has foregrounded undergraduate professional one-to-one coaching as part of a pre-emptive strategy for mental health provision for university students. Natalie has published a highly cited textbook for coaching (as first author) as well as presenting her research at conferences and acting as a committee representative and secretary for the British Psychological Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology.
Birkbeck Graduate Research School (BGRS) aims to highlight the activities and
successes of our research student community. We are pleased to announce the inaugural
Gwynne-Vaughan Medal which will be awarded to a Birkbeck PhD student able to
demonstrate the most notable contribution to their field while undertaking
winner will be awarded a £200 prize and a medal at the BGRS Summer
on Monday 1 July 2019 and will also be featured on the BGRS blog.
competition is open to all part time and full time PhD students at Birkbeck
achievements you include must have taken place while you were registered as a
Birkbeck PhD student
All entries will be considered by the Research Student
Deadline for entries: Friday 21st June
If you would like to be considered for this prize please submit a completed entry form, including brief student and supervisor statements by the end of Friday 21st June 2019.
I guess what prompted me to go in for the Three Minute Thesis was the sheer challenge of whether I would be able to sum up my research in a short time and in a way that would appeal to a broad audience. Whenever anyone outside my area of specialism asks me what my PhD is all about, I tend to say, ‘insect imagery’ and then try to gauge how much more detail to go into. My hope for this competition was that it would give me a boost to expand upon my two-word ‘insect imagery’ answer without the equivalent of giving a full-blown paper, and I’m pleased that condensing the thesis into a maximum of 180 seconds really did help me concentrate on what’s attention grabbing and interesting in my work. It also revealed a clear trajectory from horror to ecology. I wondered if my supervisor might think I was crazy to compete, but he was happy for me to go for it and that was a nice endorsement in itself.
Anyone who puts themselves forward for the Three Minute Thesis is given a short training session in presentation skills, and I went along to the workshop feeling slightly uncertain whether I would have the confidence to enter the competition. There was absolutely no pressure to take it all the way. A few chose not to, but most of us did follow through and we really enjoyed the experience. During the training as well as on the evening itself everything took place in an incredibly supportive environment. Even though students were competing against each other the overriding feeling was that we were all in the same boat sharing the same nervousness and the same excitement, and so there was lots of mutual help and encouragement.
Presenting a paper free paper
I took my first degree in the 1980s and my return to academia (part time) is a comparatively recent phenomenon. My business career has so far spanned marketing, transport logistics and property legislation, but never involved presenting to a large group of people against the clock. I felt quite exposed talking about a research project designed by me, supported by only one slide and without the benefit of any written prompts. Outside of university I perform with two choirs, so if I’m on a stage I’m fairly used to singing somebody else’s words. Speaking my own words about my own special interest to an audience and panel of judges is a different matter entirely. My thesis is on ‘Locating the Sympathetic Insect’, and I like to think of it as wonderful and weird. The primary focus is on prose literature, whilst also incorporating art and film and entomological science, and I’m absolutely thrilled it was so well received. Before the Three Minute Thesis competition I’d presented at a small number of conferences and had positive feedback, but I’d never done it without holding onto my notes. I now feel I have the unhampered ability to put aside those pieces of paper so I can talk in a more spontaneous and engaging way at future events. And that’s important to me as I am keen for my research to have the best possible impact.
I’ve got the competition to thank for that leap and would encourage any fellow PhD to participate.
Birkbeck doctoral researcher Gabriella McGrogan tells us about taking part in the 2019 Birkbeck 3 Minute Thesis Competition
Trying to figure out how to condense something you’ve been passionately thinking about and shaping over many months, into around the same amount of time you spend brushing your teeth before bed, seems beyond tricky. My supervisor suggested that the Three Minute Thesis competition would be a great opportunity to refine the key points of my project and give me a handy synopsis to roll out at conferences, meetings and in the pub. This seemed worthwhile, if only to avoid the baffled looks my poor friends give me when I’m trying to explain what I do now.
Having worked as a TA in secondary schools in London and Paris, I thought I might have had an advantage in the public speaking stakes. What could be more terrifying than getting 35 teenagers to first, be quiet, and second, listen to you? As it transpires, academic conferences are. Put on by famous institutions and renowned journals, full of ‘grown-up’ academics who have earned themselves the blue tick on Twitter, my first attempt earlier this year was nerve-wracking. The competition was such a brilliant opportunity to develop skills and alleviate imposter syndrome!
Almost exactly three years ago, I submitted an application to study for Birkbeck’s MSc in Global Criminology. Up until then, I had completed two degrees in Literary and Cultural Studies, but realised that I wanted a change. It’s an understatement to say that the existence of Birkbeck has changed my life for the better. I think the competition, and ensuring my research is accessible and comprehensible to as many people as possible, is a great way to embrace and celebrate the ethos of the college. My research will benefit hugely from the interaction and input of those outside of my discipline and academia in general. Most importantly, I got to engage with students from other departments and learned some fascinating things from their presentations!
I’d strongly encourage any students considering taking part in future to do so. The tips I gained from the training alone were well worth the time spent and I’ve definitely noticed I can explain my project with ease in the aftermath!
You can read more about the 2019 Birkbeck 3MT Competition here.