Only showing posts tagged with 'PhD' Show all blog posts

City Space in St Louis

by YPU Admin on January 19, 2017, Comments. Tags: American Studies, City Space, Humanities, PhD, Research, St Louis, and UoM


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 and beyond.

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. 

In Depth

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.

Going Further

Here are some websites you may want to look at:  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 contemporary events.


Applying Maths to Movement

by YPU Admin on January 5, 2017, Comments. Tags: Anomalous Transport, Applied Maths, Equations, PhD, Research, STEM, and UoM


Hi! My name is Helena and I am a PhD student in applied maths at The University of Manchester. What that means is that after finishing my undergraduate degree in Physics, where I was taught a multitude of things about the world surrounding us, I decided I wanted to spend some time actually making discoveries for myself.

In Depth

There are hundreds (or even thousands) of equations out there describing ways movement happens; the movements which people observe all the time in experiments or real life are described by the so-called classical equations. Some of these you're probably already learning about at school.

What I do now is study what we call “anomalous transport”, which basically just means movement that somehow looks odd or unusual.  The equations for anomalous transport differ from the classical ones in that they in some way or another require `memory effects' in order to fit experiments. The scientific principles teach us that experiments must always be the starting point of any work we do: we build theories to fit the data, not change the data to fit the theory we already have. And so that's what I do. I try to find mathematical descriptions of the kinds of movements scientists working in e.g. biology see in the lab. Once I manage to find a good fit between my theory and the data they gave me, the experimental scientists can then go away and do more experiments to test the predictions of my models.

Of course it's not just my model, but that of my entire research group. Depending on how difficult a problem is, it can often take several of us to solve it. An example of such a problem is intracellular movement, so movement that happens inside of the cell. For example, researchers in biophysics and biology are interested in how essential nutrients are transported from the nucleus to the cell membrane. This transport happens partly through the work of “motor proteins”, and the movement of these inside the cell are known to be anomalous. An image of how the transport happens is shown below.

Drawing 1: The picture shows a motor protein (brown) moving a cargo (blue) along a microtubule. Microtubules are pathways to transport nutrients across a cell. 

When you think about all the different parts of a cell, and the processes that happen in it, it is not very surprising that the equations one would need to describe this kind of transport would have to be rather complex. In particular, what we find is that the movement you see any point in time will likely also depend on what happened a while ago. For example, if there are several motor proteins all moving on a microtubule they might cause some kind of `traffic jam', which will affect the motors for a while until the path becomes clear again. This, and many other things, can be the cause of `memory effects' in our equations so that we may have to account for all movements up until the point we're looking at in order to predict how the movement will continue.

While this makes the work harder, it is very important in understanding what might cause transport in cell to stop happening, leading to cell degeneration. This is linked to various neurodegenerative diseases and could potentially be instrumental in designing better medications.

Other examples of where you might see this kind of anomalous movement include the flights of bumblebees in a field, sharks hunting for prey in the ocean, and even the optimal part a robotic vacuum might take across your living room floor!

Going Further

If you're interested in learning more about anomalous transport, our research group has a website with more examples.

Otherwise, if you want to learn more about intracellular transport there is a very useful introduction here:

Finally, if you want to get an idea of all the other amazing areas maths can be applied to you can visit


Food for Thought

by YPU Admin on November 29, 2016, Comments. Tags: e-Agri Sensors Centre, PhD, Research, STEM, and UoM


My name is Charles, and I have been interested in electronics since high school. Being able to build a solution to a problem, with my hands has always appealed to me. Because of this I went down a scientific path through GCSE’s to A-levels and eventually university. There I learnt the wider impact that my interests could have, and the importance of sharing such knowledge and expertise beyond our realms. Today I am an engineer, and this is my research…

In Depth

With the huge availability of food today in the United Kingdom, it is very easy to forget that this is not the case across the globe. Farmers in developing countries, such as India, lack the fast-evolving knowledge required to manage their crops efficiently, and also the technology required to implement it. This means that small issues such as pests and disease, have a significant impact on their livelihood. This is an age old problem that requires new age technology to help. At the e-Agri Sensors Centre, we are developing a solution that will bring the power back into the hands of local farmers, and reduce the current destruction to their crops. This solution comes in the form of a low-cost attachment to their phone, which will be able to scan for disease signatures. In the field it can be put in the hands of field workers and charities.

Going Further

e-Agri Sensors Centre Website:

My research project:

Related research:

Radio 4 interview with myself and the centre’s Director:


Multilingualism among Roma in Kosovo

by YPU Admin on November 11, 2016, Comments. Tags: Kosovo, Multilingualism, PhD, Roma, Social Anthropology, and UoM


My name is Amelia Abercrombie and I am currently in the final year of my PhD in Social Anthropology. My research is about multilingualism among Roma in Kosovo. I aim to understand the way they speak four languages (Albanian, Serbian, Turkish and Romani), and how this is influenced by their ideas about these different languages.

How I got here

I studied Serbian & Croatian studies at UCL for BA. This is a language degree, which also included modules in literature, history and other areas, and as part of the course I studied in Belgrade for one year. This sparked my interest not just in learning languages and cultures, but also in travelling to places to learn first-hand how people live. I went on to study East European studies with Romanian language for Masters, and attended a summer school in Transylvania. This course focused on area studies research and methods.  After that I spent some time working as a support worker for people with severe learning disabilities before coming to Manchester to start my PhD in Manchester in 2012. I decided to research ideas about language among Roma in Kosovo as this group speak several languages from childhood, and I was already familiar with some of the languages from my previous studies.

In Depth

My research is an ethnography, which means that I spent an extended period (18 months) living with the people I am studying. My method involved living and working with these people, and also learning to speak Romani language. As a result my work focuses on a wide variety of issues ranging from the language used in drama, to language standardisation in schools and media. I also look at other issues which affect Roma in Kosovo, such as poverty, ethnicity and multiculturalism.

Going Further

Farrah Jarral has made a series of short radio programmes about anthropology. They provide a good background to the discipline with interesting examples.

The RAI (Royal Anthropological Society) has website with Lots of details about the discipline of anthropology, and various academic resources.

The RAI also have a film on YouTube which introduces anthropology, and has been made by lecturers from Manchester, as well as other universities.


Engineering meets Medicine!

by YPU Admin on October 27, 2016, Comments. Tags: aerospace engineering, Aneurysm, PhD, Research, simulation, and UoM


My name is Ben and I'm a 2nd year PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester.  I have always been interested in aeroplanes and space for as long as I can remember so studying Aerospace Engineering at University was an easy choice for me having studied Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths at A-Level.  I completed a four year integrated Master's at the University of Manchester in 2014 before beginning my PhD in 2015.  My research concerns the simulation of characteristics of blood flow through diseased arteries.  By modelling these characteristics we can begin to understand why these diseases, such as the growth of aneurysms, occur. 

In Depth

The main focus of my research is improving the criteria for when preventative surgery should take place for patients with an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA).  An aneurysm occurs when the artery begins to expand and swell, weakening the artery wall and can lead to a rupture.  Due to the amount of blood travelling through the aorta, 90% of patients who have a ruptured AAA die.  As a result, it seems sensible to perform the preventative surgery even if there is only a low risk of rupture.  However, AAAs mostly occur in men over the age of 65, for who surgery is more dangerous than the average person and shouldn't be taken lightly.  Therefore a compromise must be found between the two risks.

The current criteria for surgery is based upon the maximum diameter of the aneurysm, found using ultrasound similar to that used for pregnancy scans, is greater than 5.5cm for men and 5.0cm for women.  However, this isn't patient specific as it does not take into account the weight, height or family history of the patient.  My research, working with Wythenshawe Hospital and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Manchester, is looking to improve this criteria by taking the images obtained from the ultrasound, building a 3D geometry from them and then simulating the blood flow through the aneurysm to assess the risk of rupture for the patient.  The aim is to have the entire process automated so that it can be done quickly by the doctor to give a very fast decision which will hopefully reduce the number of patients who have unnecessary surgery while also reducing the number who die from the aneurysm rupturing.  We have a lot of work to do before it becomes clinical practice but the results so far have been promising.

The research I have been working on during my PhD isn't what is normally associated with an Aerospace Engineer at first glance.  However, I am able to use a lot of the same theory I learnt during my first degree and apply it to a new application, showing the diversity of career available to an Engineer.

Going Further

For updates on my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @b_owen92

Or visit my website

More information on Aerospace Engineering can be found at

Or general engineering at

Here is a fun video of the type of projects you will be involved in if you study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester: