Emma Thompson – MRes Archaeology
MRes Archaeology student Emma Thompson says the staff in the Department are "extremely knowledgeable, supportive, and constructive". We found out more about her experience as a postgraduate researcher within the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology.
Why did you choose to study your course in the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology?
I previously completed my undergraduate degree - in Ancient History and Archaeology - in the department and, though incredibly interesting across the board, developed a real passion for the archaeological elements of the course. During that time, I also built a strong rapport with the relevant academics and was keen to continue learning from them!
The department has always provided excellent opportunities for self-directed research and these were the assignments I enjoyed the most. The MRes was, subsequently, an obvious choice. I knew the direction I wanted to take my thesis from the start, so it was great being able to jump straight into it. The additional structure provided by the taught elements of the course was also very useful.
Why did you choose to undertake research at the University of Birmingham?
I chose to undertake my current research at the University for several reasons: pre-existing and strong relationships with the staff, fond memories of my undergraduate degree, and the substantial resources available—to name a few. Most importantly, my decision was made on the basis of identifying an excellent supervisory team for my thesis, whose support has been invaluable (both during my degree and whilst applying for it). There is a fantastic cohort of academics in the department who are all extremely knowledgeable, supportive, and constructive. I am sure any combination would make ideal supervisors for prospective students.
What are the best things about your course?
Getting to research a topic I am infinitely interested about on a regular basis, learning from experts in my field, listening to other research students talk about their work... There is a lot to enjoy about the course and its department. A postgraduate degree is rarely simple or easy, but the people on that journey with you (academics, support staff, students) really do add a lot to the experience. There is a strong sense of community within the department, and across the University as a whole, which is empathetic and supportive, but also keen to help you achieve the best you can from your degree.
What is life like as a researcher at the University of Birmingham?
Exciting! There is a lot of variety as a researcher, especially an MRes one. There are several extracurricular research forums - such as Rosetta and the CAHA Seminars - which allow you to engage with lots of different topics from lots of different speakers. It's great to hear about exciting research outside your immediate area and discover new approaches you might not have considered before. There are also opportunities to present your own work and gain experience in disseminating research. There is a dedicated researcher suite in the library that's absolutely lovely to work in, as well.
What support have you received during your course?
There is a variety of support available to students, ranging from academic development facilitated by your supervisors, module leaders, and services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS); pastoral and wellbeing support from your academic mentor or relevant Wellbeing Team; and peer-level support through the School of History and Culture's Student Mentor Scheme. I had a peer mentor at the start of my course and this was incredibly helpful, as they guided me through the initial phases of settling into my research.
Outside of your research, what experience have you gained and how will it help you in the future?
Though our research can seem all-consuming at times, the MRes programme, as well as the broader University experience, offers several other useful opportunities to develop transferable skills. The taught element of my course allowed me to develop a broader understanding of both my field and adjacent ones, as well as practicing elements I might not have encountered in my specific research project.
During my degree, I've been part of the editorial team for Ad Alta: the Birmingham Journal for Literature - which any postgraduate student can apply for – and a Student Representative, as well as undertaking part-time work for the University's Graduate School. For researchers looking to go into academic careers, this broader experience of the University system can be invaluable.
Find out more about our MRes Archaeology programme over on our course pages.