My name is Charlotte Coull, and I'm a second year PhD
student at the University of Manchester, based in the History department. I did
both my undergraduate and masters degrees at Manchester, both in History, and
was extremely excited to be offered both a PhD place and funding (the History
department's own Elsie Farrar award) to continue my studies here. As part of my
PhD I also lead seminars with undergraduate students, and have chosen to work
as a Widening Participation Fellow because I firmly believe everyone should
feel able to go to university if they wish.
In the future I'm hoping to get into public History, and
connect with people about my research and encourage them to explore history in
general, as knowledge is for everyone!
Many people walk away with the idea that I am an
archaeologist when I first explain my subject area to them- what I actually
do is look at the history of archaeology in the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, with no digging involved! I study the work of British archaeologists
in India and Egypt during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; I want
to know how they decided what to dig up and study, how they wrote about the
artefacts they found, and what they did with those artefacts afterwards (are
they in Britain, are they in a museum basement, or did they stay in countries
they were discovered in?). I also want to know how discovering the history of
Egypt and India changed the way Britain thought about her own history, and why
Ancient Egypt is so present in our minds today (think Pyramids, mummies etc)
whereas Ancient India is not so well known.
Studying two countries may seem intimidating at first, but I
find you can use comparative history to fully open up an area to explore: for
example, I want to know what is was about Egypt in the nineteenth century that
influenced British archaeologists to behave so differently to archaeologists in
India, and what this can tell us about how archaeology as a discipline evolved.
My work is also very interdisciplinary- I use aspects of the history of
science, intellectual history and museology alongside colonial history and
other ideas. One of my supervisors is from the History department, the other is
from the Centre for the History of Science Technology and Medicine. I find
interdisciplinary history incredibly exciting- why stick with one way of doing
things, when you can craft your own style using your favourite aspects from
I work with a variety of historical sources- I have to be
creative with finding the material I study! I can go from looking at the
personal letters of a famous scholar from the nineteenth century in the British
library, to looking at museum records of object acquisitions and displays, to
spending time on the internet looking for nineteenth century academic books
that have been digitised. I have also recently decided to look at images as
part of my research- so last time I was at the British library I spent a
morning marvelling at early twentieth century photographs of archaeological
digs in India.
I find people often see history as a static and unmoving
subject- you pick a topic and are trapped in the library with dusty books
looking at that topic forever. Nothing could be further from the truth! History
is such a varied and broad subject, with so many different ways of approaching
it; you can really get creative with your thinking and push the boundaries.
What you find will never cease to surprise, and in some cases amaze you!
- a wonderful website with blog posts about female pioneers in archaeology
and other science fields. Click on the articles tab and explore! I would
particularly recommend Hilda Petrie, and Adela Catherine Breton.
- not many people know much about India's archaeological history. This is the
website of the Archaeological Survey of India- take a look at the 'photo
gallery' tab and check out the massive variety of Indian archaeological sites!
My name is Elena and I’m a second year PhD student at the
University of Manchester School of Law. I research the ways in which the ideas of how people think
and make decisions impact regulation of banks and banks’ handling of risk. This
is an important matter because banks have a significant place in the economies
of most countries, and their behaviour is key to the economic and financial
welfare of society.
How I got here
I completed a 4-year law degree in Russia, after which I
decided to continue my education in the UK. After a law conversion course (GDL)
I enrolled on an International Business and Commercial Law Masters programme at
the University of Manchester. I was particularly attracted to the financial
regulation module because of the enormous impact financial services have on
society – the crisis of 2008 being a stark example. One of the lectures
included a small bit about behavioural economics – a study of how our
psychological traits influence our purchasing, investing, and other economic
decisions. I thought that that was a fascinating topic – and after reading more
about it, decided to do a PhD on it even though I had never considered becoming
a researcher before.
To make any (not necessarily economic) decisions, our brain
needs to process large amounts of information in a short amount of time.
Processing all of it in a comprehensive manner would require a lot of mental
effort. Considering the amount of decisions we make on a daily basis, if every
one of them required a lot of time and effort we would not be able to function
normally. To rectify that, our brain developed thought patterns that help us to
process information quicker. One of those thought patterns is called
‘availability heuristic’. When thinking about a certain topic or the
probability of an event happening, our mind immediately refers to the most
prominent belief or a vivid piece of information in our memory. This can cause
a mistake in judgement. For example, people start worrying about a possible
earthquake a lot more if they recently saw an earthquake report in the media.
Another example is people estimating the crime rate in the area a lot higher
after seeing a murder report on TV. And these are just a couple of examples – there are
many thought patterns, or heuristics, that make our decision-making easier but
also make us make mistakes along the way.
For a large part of the 20th
century, the common
academic opinion was that people tend to be rational, process all available
information in a comprehensive way, and only make the most beneficial decisions
for themselves. This approach became popular with governments as well,
particularly in the US and the UK. This view resulted in designing policies and
regulations that were aimed at those perfectly rational individuals. When
confronted with human irrationality, government regulations and policies failed
because people did not act as they were expected to. This was a part of the
reason for the 2008 crisis.
Now that academic and government circles have largely
accepted inherent human irrationality, policies can be adjusted to reflect the
reality of human behaviour. In some areas – for example, consumer protection –
there is a lot of progress. But others, such as financial regulation, require a
lot of modification to reflect the true nature of human decision-making. My
research aims to make regulation of banks more effective by designing a
behavioural framework of board-level financial decision-making that can be used
as a policy foundation.
I enjoy my research because I find
learning about how humans make decisions, and how the way our brain works
influences the law, fascinating. Here are some interesting websites where you
can learn more about this area:
- a comprehensive introduction to behavioural economics, including the primary
research in the field.
- a Harvard Business Review article explaining the role of the presumption of
rationality played in economics.
- a Financial Times article on applications of behavioural insights in public
- Behavioural Insights Team’s website. It’s a social purpose company partly
owned by the UK government that is dedicated to devising ways to apply the
insights of behavioural science to public policy.
- a blog about choice architecture.
Hi! I’m Nikki Tomlinson and I’m in my second year of a PhD
in Spanish Studies. My project involves analysing films made in Spain in the
past 10 years to see what they can tell us about regional identity. Spain is
made up of 17 autonomous regions, a bit like counties in England, but they are
often much larger as there are not as many of them. I’m researching two
autonomous communities: Andalusia, the largest region in the country, in the
south of Spain; and Catalonia, in the north-east.
The two regions of Andalusia and Catalonia have very
different histories and cultures, but over the course of Spain’s history, they
have often been unable to express an idea of what constitutes their own
regional identity. Film is an incredibly powerful story-telling tool that can
reach a huge number of people, so I use film to investigate what these stories
can tell us about how each region perceives itself – and wants to be perceived
– today. I do watch a lot of films for my research, but I find my project so
interesting because I see it as combining several disciplines – cultural
studies, politics, history, and even law and economics..!
At a time when debates surrounding national identity and
what it involves are in the news on a daily basis, my topic feels exciting and
relevant, and the field is certainly fast-paced! I have recently come back from
fieldwork in Spain, where I have so far attended four film festivals in
Andalusia and Catalonia. Film festivals play an important role in my research,
as they can determine how many people see a film, or which countries those
films are distributed to – often, if a film wins an award, it means that it can
reach an international audience. I was able to see a huge number of
recently-released films, as well as to meet filmmakers and discuss their work
with them. I find it highly enjoyable seeing the changing shape of the film
industry in the regions and the innovations that professionals are devising to
continue making the films they want to make. I am able to keep in contact with
the people I met at the events in Spain, and it’s very interesting to see
people winning awards for their work. There are new developments every day, so
it’s certainly a dynamic project to work on!
How I got here
I completed an integrated Masters in Modern Languages
(specialising in French and Spanish) at the University of Manchester, which I
loved. I then worked in a range of fields, from managing the development of a
start-up business in Spain, to marketing, to teaching English as a foreign
language! I had always thought that I wanted to take my studies of Spanish
culture further, and while I was working in Andalusia as an English teacher, an
idea for a proposal came to me. I finally bit the bullet and wrote to my
previous lecturer at Manchester, explaining my idea. I put together a proposal
and applied for funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I was
delighted to receive the funding, and have never looked back!
Manchester is very lucky to have a branch of the Instituto
Cervantes, a Spanish language centre with a library, dance and culture courses
and lots of activities: http://manchester.cervantes.es/en/default.shtm
There are a number of Spanish film festivals around the UK
throughout the year, which are great for seeing a range of films from Spain and
the Spanish-speaking world. One of these is the ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin
American Festival, held at Manchester’s HOME arts centre around the Easter
For more news and information about the Catalan film and
television industry: http://www.catalanfilms.cat/en/index.jsp
And for Andalusia: http://www.fundacionava.org/
I’m Katie Myerscough, a PhD candidate in American Studies. I
study part-time and work in Personnel at Marks and Spencer. I’m also a teaching
assistant at the University of Manchester where I lead class discussions on
American history, African-American literature and culture, and the southern
United States. Like all busy students I prioritise my workload to meet my
commitments; good time management is an essential skill to have at university
How I got here
I went to the University of Oxford as an undergraduate and studied
History. I was the first member of my family to go to university. After I
finished my degree I tried a few different jobs; I’ve worked in museums, retail,
and administration. I travelled around the world for a year and when I returned
I started a Masters at the University of Manchester. I loved studying at Manchester,
because it’s a very inclusive environment where I felt free to express my ideas
and opinions, and I was supported to continue my own independent research into
topics which interested me. American Studies is a very varied discipline, where
you can study film, literature, politics, history and today’s society. Due to
the really vibrant academic community at Manchester I decided to take the
plunge and enrol for a PhD.
When I finally finish my PhD I will have a doctorate, which
means that I will be Dr Myerscough and I can apply for jobs as a university
lecturer and write books and articles about my work. I want to go into
education of some sort, as I am fascinated by how people learn and how teachers
can support different types of learners.
My PhD is about city space and how it can be used to convey
and construct ideas about gender, class, ethnicity and race. The particular
city I focus on is St. Louis between 1890 and 1925. This period in American
history is loosely described as the Progressive era. Groups of reformers,
politicians, business leaders, artists and journalists were worried about the
state of the urban environment and the people who lived in them, so set about
finding innovative ways to help American cities progress in a positive and
healthy way. The progressive programs were interested in housing and schools,
but also in the development of mass entertainment, fairs, and festivals.
Progressive policies almost always focused upon helping
white Americans. During this time there was a massive amount of discrimination
against African-Americans, and I look at how Progressive ideas could work to
further that discrimination through segregation of city space.
To fully research St. Louis, the city plans, and Progressive
programs created there I’ve visited the city and used the archives in its
various libraries and universities. The archives I’ve used are very varied and
include newspaper reports, maps, city plans, investigative reports, photographs
and posters. Using archives is exciting because they offer a window into what
people thought about the space they lived in, and how they tried to shape it.
It’s important to understand what people thought about urban
space and how they demonstrated their hopes and fears for the places where they
lived. Many of these fears are long-standing and are still around today. For
example, why are certain areas of any city seen as dangerous? Why and how has
that feeling been generated? Is it because there has been chronic
under-investment in that area? Do the people who live there have the same
access to schools, hospitals, parks and recreation as others? If not, why not? Asking
questions about the city’s past can help understand its present and future.
Here are some websites you may want to look at:
http://www.baas.ac.uk/ For the British Association of American
Studies: great for resources and opportunities in American Studies in Britain.
This is something I wrote for U.S Studies online. This is a great forum for new
writing from postgraduates and early career scholars. This piece relates to my
work on race and ethnicity at the World’s Fair held in St. Louis in 1904.
This is one of the places in St. Louis where I did my archival research.
For African-American intellectual history and great think pieces concerning
name is Tom and I’m in the first year of an ESRC-funded PhD in Planning at the
University of Manchester.
How I got here
I went a bit of a roundabout route to get here -
certainly not a conventional path to doing a PhD. I did my first degree in
History and Politics at the University of Sheffield, finishing in 2006. I then
went on to work in political relations and policy for a host of different
organisations and clients, which involved talking with politicians, the media
and the general public about various issues. Some of the projects involved
working with developers on new housing, shops, offices and energy
infrastructure…which is how I became interested in planning.
the same time, I was becoming increasingly interested in the economic
disparities between the North and South of England. As someone who has lived in
the North for most of my adult life, I wanted to understand more about why much
of our region seems to be struggling economically, and what we could do about
it. So, in 2014 I decided to do a part-time MSc in Urban Regeneration and
Development at the University of Manchester, which combined my interest in
planning with a focus on local economies and what you might call ‘place’ issues
- what makes a city or town a good place to live, work and play? Soon after
starting my MSc I decided I was enjoying research so much that I wanted to do
more of it, so started a PhD titled Sustainable Spatial Rebalancing for
Northern England: Alternative Models and Future Scenarios in September
PhD is co-sponsored by IPPR North, a think tank based in Manchester who do lots
of fascinating work on how to improve the Northern economy. You can find out
more about what they do here: www.ippr.org
in rebalancing the UK economy isn’t new. A wide range of policies have been
tried over the last 100 years, yet huge economic inequalities exist not only
between the north and south but within Northern England itself. Manchester, for
example, has been hugely successful in creating jobs in the city centre and making
the city a much more attractive place for businesses to invest, yet just
outside the city centre are some of the most deprived parts of the country. My
research involves understanding why these economic inequalities exist between
places and how these problems might be resolved.
in the first year of my PhD, so a lot my time is spent reading what others have
written on this issue, and trying to formulate my own ideas about how we can
make the North of England a more economically successful place. I also try to
spend plenty of time out and about, visiting different parts of the North to
try and understand which policies are working well and which aren’t. Aside from
that, we have lots of training. Methods training is a big part of being a first
year PhD, as we start working out how we’ll be carrying out the main part of
our research from second year onwards.
have a really vibrant and varied group in the School of Planning and
Environmental Management here at Manchester, which includes people from all
over the world studying various aspects of planning, urban design, architecture
and environment-related subjects. With so many different perspectives on how we
see the places around us, it’s a really interesting department to work in.
can read my blog about my research and other related interests here: https://tomjarnolduk.wordpress.com
also on Twitter: @tj_arnold
on the School of Environmental Management at the University of Manchester: http://www.seed.manchester.ac.uk/planning/