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Postgraduate research interns explore the first PGR degrees at the University of Bristol

4 August 2020

Three postgraduate researchers explore the first PGR degrees at the University of Bristol as part of a celebration of 100 years of postgraduate research in 2021.

A team of three postgraduate researchers (PGRs) is working with the Brigstow Institute and the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Postgraduate Research) to conduct some initial archival research into the first postgraduate research degrees conducted at the University of Bristol, from the first PhD, awarded to Lily Batten in 1921, to 1939. The project is being supported by the Special Collections team within the University of Bristol Library

The database of archival materials collated during this project will be accessible for use by stakeholders across the university. The materials will also provide a starting point for a co-produced digital artwork developed by a team of four postgraduate public engagement interns and a local creative or artist between November 2020 and May 2021.  

The final output will be presented as part of a celebration of 100 years of postgraduate research at Bristol in 2021. 

If you would like to join the celebrations or access archival materials relevant to your own faculty or school, please get in touch with Alice Ferns.

Meet our research interns

Lena Ferriday, Department of History

‌‌Lena Ferriday - research intern

What is your research focused on?

My MPhil research examines tourist movement in early twentieth-century Bristol, through the lens of environmental history. Considering the mobile networks which spanned the city in this period, my thesis proposes a reconceptualisation of the traditional scholarly definitions of ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ landscapes, arguing for comprehension of the city as a natural and living system.

Why did you decide to take part in this project? 

Having spent the last four years studying at Bristol, and preparing to continue here for a further three, as I embark on my PhD in October 2020, the chance to explore those histories which underpin the research excellence of our University was particularly exciting. I have briefly engaged with post-war student experiences of Bristol in a previous oral history project, but I am intrigued to uncover much more about the University’s academic and social history.

What are you hoping to get out of it?

The opportunity to work alongside two other interns and a number of academic staff is particularly exciting. Whilst PGR degrees in the sciences often take place within research groups, those in the humanities are largely solitary. This project presents a unique opportunity for collaborative research between scholars with wildly different approaches to historical enquiry. I also value the opportunity for promoting this project beyond the academy, showcasing not only the history of postgraduate study at the University, but also the research we are undertaking today!

Surangama Datta, Department of English

Surangama Datta - research intern

What is your research focused on?

My research engages closely with the evolution of feminist comix and graphic narratives in the U.S between the 1970s and 2000s. By looking at ‘comix’ from the 1970s underground movement (such as the early works of Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Trina Robbins) to the more contemporary graphic novels by creators like Alison Bechdel, my project critically analyses the shifts within this artistic form over these four decades. The goal of my research is to investigate the ways in which these texts offer new ‘ways of seeing’ and visualising female subjects through alternative modes of visual storytelling.

Why did you decide to take part in this project? 

This project is fascinating to me for various reasons. For one, it allows me to engage directly with material of great historic value — I get to work closely with material from an entire century ago, and the value of such an experience is not lost on me! Secondly, this project makes me feel more connected to the PGR community in Bristol, as I get to study the works of my predecessors and get a sense of the larger picture. And finally, and perhaps what is most exciting, is that I get to tell the story of 100 years of postgraduate scholarship in this university! 

What are you hoping to get out of it?

I see this project as a very exciting opportunity to work as part of an extremely competent team of leading scholars and fellow PGRs. This would allow me to develop new skills, discover fresh ways of engaging with archival material, and would be a very inspiring experience, in general. Perhaps I will also find new ways to approach my own PhD project! 

James Watts, Department of History‌

Jame Watts - research intern

What is your research focused on?

I research the place of the empire in Britain, 1880-1930 through imperial propaganda. I examine journalists, novelists, and campaigners to see how the empire appeared in domestic debates, individuals' worldviews and broader society. 

Why did you decide to take part in this project?

I am really excited about this project because it looks at the broadening of education in the early twentieth century, especially with women like Lily Batten. I wanted to get involved in this project because of this interest in the history of education, but also because of my interest in the history of Bristol and it'll be great to see where my predecessors have gone before me!

What are you hoping to get out of it?

I'm hoping to learn a lot more about the history of the University of Bristol and how that links into the wider histories of education in the early twentieth century. I'd also really like for the stories of early postgraduates to be better known. I am sure it will tell a different and more interesting story than people expect! 


Further information

Find out more about the 100 Years of Postgraduate Research celebrations.

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