Q: What is your role in the department?
I am the module lead on the Learning Entrepreneurial Skills and Entrepreneurial Start-up modules, the LANS Core optional modules offered to Final Year students. The modules are all about enhancing the employability of LANS graduates: they require students to work in groups to develop a line of products/services from ideation up to pitching to a panel of industry experts and they are a great opportunity to learn by doing skills that will be needed on the job. Plus, they are lots of fun to run as the students always come up with great ideas for their businesses!
I also lead the LI optional module Research Methods Made Easy. The module is a crash-course into the basics of research methods in the humanities, social sciences and evidence-based sciences and is an excellent preparation for the Final Year dissertation and going forward into MA/MSc studies. I always felt a bit of an eccentric because of my fascination with research methods but I feel that they are absolutely essential across the board and they go to the heart of interdisciplinarity by enabling functional reading, evaluation, and integration of knowledge from all disciplines.
On the admin side, I am the Year Abroad tutor, helping students choose the best destination for their Year Abroad studies and managing communications during their studies abroad.
Q: What are your research interests?
I am a Food Historian by training and an interdisciplinarian by way of consequence. My PhD research was on the transition from mămăligă (polenta-style dish) to bread in the 1960s Romanian countryside, spurred by the work of Sidney Mintz that such dietary changes are the result of significant and far-reaching changes in society. This research took me through the History of dietary changes in Europe, from the grits, gruels and porridges that were the staple of common folk up to the modern age to the bread that almost universally replaced them. Then to the Psychology of: why we eat what we eat? What governs appetite? How can people change the dietary habits they were socialized into early in their life? The research took me also to Anthropology and Sociology, to understanding that people consume not just the food in its materiality but also the sign and symbols associated with it: the prestige that came with bread and the socially negative judgment that came with mămăligă. It took me, finally, to the primacy of Economics, to how the command economy and forced collectivization of agriculture initiated by the Communist Regime made eating bread cheaper than eating mămăligă, reversing a long-established tradition of the pricier wheat being sold to city dwellers or exporters to bring much-needed cash into the household.
More recently, I branched out into studying the dietary transition in the Romanian countryside more broadly (the change from a predominantly plant-based diet, which was the norm for most of humanity during much of its history, to the modern, animal-based diet), the changes in the living space and in clothing (from homemade, gender-specific clothes to modern, Western, unisex ones) and the disease burden of various dietary habits.
Always happy to discuss these topics with anyone, along with anything that has to do with Food History, History of Nutrition, Economic Development in Eastern Europe and Mixed Research methods.
Q: What advice do you have for new LANS students?
Enjoy your time at the University, everything from meeting people from all over the World, finding the group of people you immediately click with, reading a good book in the Library, and just learn new things. Plus, get to know Birmingham and the surroundings. Be relaxed about it all and look forward to your time with us!