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

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.

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.

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

 

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.

 

Creating (and) the Critical
The critical component of practice-based PhDs

14 June 2018, Goldsmiths, University of London

What is the relationship between the creative and critical strands of practice-led PhDs? How should the critical commentary be thought of, when should it be written?

This CHASE training event will consider this relationship and the questions, challenges and, sometimes, anxieties that it causes, both for students and supervisors.

Join for a day of discussion, debate and reflection, open to all research students but especially aimed at those involved in creative practice.

 

Find out more and register here

 

 

Critical Excursion: Remapping the Arcades Project
25 & 26 June | Glasgow

This two-day critical excursion, organised by the Space, Place and Time Research Group and led by researcher Sam Dolbear will consist of workshops, walks and film-screenings that focus around Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project (1927-40).

This short course will aim to give a panoramic sense of this panoramic text. The first day will cohere around the themes of history, historiography, temporality, and methodology. The morning will explore these themes through a workshop, followed by a walk and a screening of films on related themes. The second day will follow the same structure, but the focus will shift to the spatial configurations of the city: to processes of urban generation and regeneration, the subterranean spaces of the city, the notion of the threshold, the street and the interior, as well as building materials and construction techniques.

Travel and accommodation will be organised by Space, Place and Time group.

 

Find out more and register here

 

 

Feminist Research Ethics in Practice
Thursday 12 July | University of East Anglia

This free one-day event provides an opportunity for researchers to discuss the process of building safe, productive spaces for both researchers and participants and asks what can institutions do to best support them. In so doing, this training event seeks to build a community of support, share experiences and document best practice.

Places are limited – Find out more and register here

 

 

CHASE writing summer school workshops and residential

Monday 16 July | SOAS, University of London
Behind the mystique: what academic writing is, and how to get better at it
This one-day workshop is for any student who wants to write more clearly and stylishly within their discipline. It strips down academic writing to its fundamentals.

Tuesday 17 July |  SOAS, University of London
Story time: how to create a narrative through your literature review
This one day workshop helps students to create a narrative by heightening their awareness of their relationship with the reader.

Thursday, 19 July | SOAS, University of London
Reaching out: writing about your research for non-specialist audiences
Many postgraduate students struggle to explain complex research, in writing, to people outside their discipline, or outside academia.

Thursday 26 July to Friday 27 July  | Birkbeck, University of London
Thinking, Writing, Advancing: a 2 day, residential writing retreat for mid- to late stage PhD students
This two day, residential retreat offers a breathing space for PhD students, allowing them to air writing issues with their peers, share best practice and re-examine their writing process. Day 1 tackles common writing problems and gives students exercises to stimulate creativity and help them gain perspective on their project. In the evening, there is a communal dinner and networking. Day 2 is a chance to write in a quiet and supportive atmosphere and to have one-to-one consultations with two successful professional writers.

 

Find out more and register here

Birkbeck Three Minute Thesis & Poster Competition

On Wednesday, BGRS hosted the second annual 2018 Three Minute Thesis and Poster Competition at the lecture theatre and foyer within the Clore Management Centre. There was a great atmosphere of interest, enjoyment and celebration among those who attended and took part.

Keith Jarrett (Department of English and Humanities) was named overall winner for his entry, The migration of meaning: writing a new London Caribbean culture by the panel of judges, which included representatives from all five Birkbeck Schools.

Cathy Rogers (Department of Psychological Sciences) was named runner up, for her talk Freedom and control: how do children achieve their creative goals? and Pavni Kohli (Department of Geography) and  Raul Valdivia (Department of Cultures and Languages) were named joint winner of the People’s Choice Award for their talks Looking beyond fear in Delhi: Mapping women’s everyday life, and Picturing Utopia: Photography against the odds in a Peruvian sunset, respectively.

The Poster Competition was won by Ajitesh Ghose (Department of Psyhcological Sciences) for a poster titled Grounded Semantics: A Neural Network Approach.

The full News Item for the event can be found here.

Videos of the talks will be coming soon. In the meantime, you can watch videos from the 2017 competition here.