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July 2015 - Student research

Research has long been a central pillar of university life and development, and Warwick has achieved great research success. Postgraduate and undergraduate students have been researching varied subjects across all faculties since the university first opened for business in 1965. Some of them are included below:

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Having retired from his legal practice in 1994 at the age of 67, Dr Geoffrey Gibbons came to Warwick to study an MA, and eventually a PhD in History. “I was introduced to the [PhD] supervisor, Peter Marshall who had just joined the university when I had. Intellectually, he was as inspiring as one could hope and he was an enormous help and really guided me. I ended up studying Thomas Wriothesley, who appears all over the [English, 16th century] state papers and it was time for a full-length study of his political life. I was spending 40 hours a week in the library looking through every book and document I could find about Thomas Wriothesley and also spent some time at the record office around Kew and visiting the area where his home was.”

Anna B studied for an undergraduate Sociology degree from 2007 to 2010. “I loved medical sociology, it was so engaging and interesting. In my third year I took a module called ‘The sociology of health and illness’, which was phenomenal! My dissertation title was, ‘To what extent is it the corporate social responsibility of the global pharmaceutical industry to supply patents as a form of aid to developing societies?’ I loved the research.”

Elizabeth Ballantine applied to be the first student to take an External Research MA in Biological Sciences at Warwick from 1971 - 1974, supported by her employers in Wellesbourne. “It was mostly to do with the project I was working on at Wellesbourne, with some added extras - new techniques and some collaborative work on electron microscopes. Eventually I was seduced by my supervisor to come and work in his lab. Wellesbourne was linked to the scientific Civil Service, it had a career and pension structure, conditions of employment, et cetera. In the lab at Warwick, it was absolutely the other end of the spectrum, it was new, different. If you could try it, you could do it, invent it. Whatever exciting opportunity or option you wanted, you could do it! Everybody said I was completely mad because I was moving from this career structure for life to a one-year temporary research contract!”

Current Theatre and Performance Studies PhD student David Coates studied undergraduate and research Master’s degrees from 1989 – 1994. “I was encouraged by my supervisor who looked after my undergraduate dissertation, she was keen for me to carry on this research. So I decided to stay on to do this MA by research, the reason being that I’d really enjoyed my dissertation which was all about theatre in country houses through the ages, and brought me to focus on Chatsworth House for my MA by research.”

Frances Cook undertook a Physics PhD between 1968 and 1972, and describes the research she was doing: “It’s very hard to explain. It was to do with the photographic materials silver chloride and silver bromide and was funded partly by 3M. And it was to do with how do they really work, why do they go black when you shine a light on them. And we were using EPR, and I had to grow little crystals of this stuff, and you had to put impurities into them, which are key to understanding why they work. We didn’t find out, but it was enough to be awarded a PhD and publish a few papers!”

Sarah Jane Bodell came to Warwick as an MA student after studying at the University of Louisville, in America. “I wanted to work on early female physicians and the suffrage movement, but as soon as I showed up at Warwick, I found out the academic I wanted to work with was on research leave! Our course convener suggested researching missionaries in India, because tonnes of early female physicians went over with missionary societies, since they couldn’t get jobs in Britain once they qualified. So when it came to dissertation time, I wanted to say something new, and I thought, in 1947, with the partition of India, people stopped talking about medical missionaries, but they were still there. So that’s how I ended up with an MA topic, and it’s a really interesting story because medical missionaries are almost alone in this picture of western medicine in the Punjab. I’m now doing a PhD in medical missionaries in Britain, which has largely been ignored in the secondary literature. I’m enjoying the new topic even more than what I worked on for the MA.”

Sophie Rees began a Health and Social Studies MA in 2010, followed by a PhD, with the Centre for Lifelong Learning. “My thesis is about women who have had breast cancer under the age of 45. So, it’s about their experiences and perspectives, their identity and how they feel about their body. I’m doing semi-structured interviews asking them to talk about their experiences in a general way, and then about specific things, such as, how their body feels to them. A lot of research focuses on how the body looks, so I tried to focus more on how they feel about it and how it feels to them.”

Listen to the IAS podcast here for more on Warwick's research, and stay tuned for August’s instalments.

Click here to listen to the full interviews featured in the blog (and podcast). Browse the page by searching for a particular participant in the search bar, or scrolling through the alphabetical list.