Health PhD student wins prestigious grant

Well done to Laura Maguire, a third year PhD researcher in the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences who has been awarded a prestigious grant from the British Sociological Association to hold a postgraduate research event next year. The bidding process was very competitive and the grant is a considerable achievement.

The event will be called ‘It’s a Family Affair: Researching with Families,’ which will reflect on the dynamics of researching with families and/or while with family of your own. Laura herself is a mum of 3.

More details about the event will be announced in the new year.

Conferences calls for papers

There are two calls for papers at the moment for upcoming internal conferences; all research staff and students from all faculties are welcome to submit if it fits with your research.

The abstract deadline for both is Friday 20th May 2016.

Research Matter(s), conversations about research in art, design and media, 8 July 2016

Research Matters poster

Research matters(s) offers a forum for you to playfully and critically communicate/articulate/present/re-present your research through/as matter. It aims to enable the making, creating and becoming that is part of research process.

Download the full call for papers (PDF)

Please email proposals to by Friday 20th May 2016.

CSPACE/CELT conference: Research, Teaching and Learning in Education across Birmingham City University: Pedagogy, Practice, Politics and Policy: Where to next in teaching, learning and research in education? 11th July 2016

Proposals are invited for lightning talks, posters, presentations and workshops on researching education, education policy, pedagogies and professional practices in teaching.

Download the full call for papers (PDF)

Please email proposals to by Friday 20th May 2016.

The summer of a Landscape Architecture PhD student

With such a busy schedule and intense periods of academic study, it’s hard to imagine that a PhD student gets a summer holiday at all. But one way of seeing the world whilst continuing the intense pathway to a doctorate is to combine studying and research with travelling, as Landscape Architecture PhD student Anastasia Nikologianni has done this summer.

Anastasia’s busy summer schedule kicked off on 7 June with a trip to Barcelona to see the Landscape Observatory and its Olot Headquarters, along with a range of other landscape projects, with the trip lasting until 4 July.

However, the Greek student didn’t have much time to relax once she had arrived back in Birmingham, as she then jetted off to the Netherlands, visiting the project of Lent in Nijmegen as part of the Room for the River landscape project all over Holland, a government design plan surrounding flood protection and the environmental conditions in the areas around Holland’s rivers. This trip lasted from 8 July until 3 August with a two-day trip in Berlin integrated as part of the Climate KIC board.

Climate KIC is Europe’s largest public-private partnership focused on climate innovation to adapt to climate change, they are also funding Anastasia’s PhD. Anastasia enjoyed a slight break from the travelling before she prepared to jet off to Frankfurt for the PhD Summer School by Climate KIC on 24 August. This was the final destination of her summer trips, with the theme surrounding Green City Frankfurt: Shaping Transition Pathways for a Future Economy, lasting up until 5 September.

Anastasia said:

Anastasia now continues her PhD studies, progressing onto her second year of academic study.

Follow Birmingham School of Architecture and Design on Twitter @BCU_BSoA

This was originally posted on the University website.

The Postgraduate Research (PGR) Hub

A new, dedicated facility for research students has been opened at City North Campus.


The PGR (Postgraduate Research) Hub, based on the third floor of Baker Building, provides a number of resources for research students and their supervisors including room for flexible working, seminars and meetings, as well as a social space.

Research students from every part of the University will be able to make use of a variety of new equipment including desks, 25 PCs; 24 laptop docking stations with mice and keyboards, lockers, kitchen facilities and two separate rooms for meetings. In addition, there is a furnished seminar room for use as a teaching space.

The PGR Hub has been created as part of the University’s work to ensure that research students have access to improved resources until new research facilities become available at City Centre Campus and City South Campus from summer 2017.

Jane Farrow, Research Support Manager, commented: “We want to make sure that our postgraduate students have easy access to facilities that will really help them in their studies. The PGR Hub also provides a central location for lectures and seminars which will help to bring together research students from across the University.”

Find out more about City North Campus >>

BBC performance for postgraduate composer

Kirsty_Devaney-130832515616432393A talented PhD student is set to see her latest piece of music played on BBC Radio after impressing critics with her unique style of composition.

Kirsty Devaney has had one of her pieces chosen to be played on BBC Radio 3 as part of a special programme featuring new compositions.

The researcher wrote the piece titled [as if on a pivot], as part of the Adopt a Composer project. The scheme pairs amateur music groups with a talented young composer to create a new piece of music, culminating in a premiere performance and a recording by Radio 3.

The project is a unique opportunity for amateur musicians to work directly with a composer, actively involving them in the creative process. The composer has a chance to form a close working relationship with the group, something which is not always possible with professional commissions.

Kirsty has been working with the Arden Recorder Orchestra to help compose the new piece which was premiered at St Catherine’s Academy in Bolton on Saturday 27 June. She explains: “The Adopt a Composer scheme pairs composers with a range of different ensembles including choirs, orchestra, string groups as well as more unconventional ensembles.”

Kirsty commented: “I enjoy creating new and unusual sound worlds through experimentation with timbre and using extended techniques. Structurally the music grows and develops organically within a harmonic landscape that is familiar but tainted.”

Kirsty works as a freelance composer and was shortlisted for a British Composer Award in 2011. She has worked with organisations including THSH (Town Hall Symphony Hall) Birmingham and Stratford Literary Festival and composed for ensembles such as Orkest de Ereprijs, The Schubert Quartet, Noszferatu and BCMG.

In 2013 she was awarded the Principal’s Prize and gained a place as a Junior Fellow at Birmingham Conservatoire. She is currently completing a PhD at the School in Education under the supervision of Professor Martin Fautley and Professor Janet Hoskyns. Kirsty’s research looks at how composition is taught at secondary schools.

David Curtis, Artistic Director of the Orchestra of the Swan, has praised Kirsty’s work commenting: “Kirsty has a clear and refreshing voice as a composer and engages with musicians, students and audiences alike.”

Listen to Kirsty’s piece on YouTube >>

BBC profiles PhD research project

A research project by a postgraduate researcher from the University has been featured on BBC Radio 4’sToday programme and BBC Radio 5 Live.

The Harkive project, created by PhD student Craig Hamilton, is an annual, online music research project that gathers stories from people around the world about how, where and why they listened to music on a single day. Since launching in 2013, the project has gathered over 5,000 stories.

By gathering and sharing these stories, Harkive aims to create a global snapshot of the ways in which people interact with music and technology. Fans are able to contribute their stories by emailing the project, posting to social networking sites such as Twitter using the #harkive hashtag, or by posting on the wall of the Harkive Facebook page.

Craig, who is funded by the AHRC’s Midlands 3 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership, has already received contributions from a number of prominent music journalists including Andrew Harrison from Q Magazine, Jude Rogers from the Observer and Rob Fitzpatrick from the Guardian.

Craig explains: “The landscape of music consumption has changed radically over the last decade. Services that many of us take for granted, such as YouTube and Spotify, simply did not exist ten years ago. Meanwhile, the resurgence of some physical formats and vinyl in particular, show that these still resonate for fans.

“Harkive will discover how we each create our own patchwork from what is available to us, and will map how these change in the years to come when Harkive plans to return in 2016. My intention is that these stories help contribute to the furtherance of knowledge and study of popular music culture.”

Listen to Craig’s appearance on BBC Radio 4 (2h42m) >>

PhD Survival Workshop



The best advice I was given is that this is probably the only time in your career where someone will have read your work, shown an interest in it and want to talk about it for hours. It’s all about frame of mind.


This is an extract from PhD student Rachel Marsden’s great write up of the recent Viva Survival workshop held by PGR Studio. For those who missed the workshop, Rachel’s blog post is as good as being there.

Being a Midlands 3 Cities Student

Karen Patel’s research is carried out with the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. She is looking at how creative and cultural workers in a particular city use social media, and questioning its role in their personal and professional lives.

Karen previously completed her BA and MA with the Birmingham School of Media, and also currently works in the Research, Innovation and Enterprise department at Birmingham City University, running the web and social media presence for Research.

Last week we had our residential induction for the Midlands 3 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership in Nottingham.It was a fantastic two days that made me feel really lucky to be a part of this prestigious and unique scheme.

For a bit of background, Midlands 3 Cities is a new scheme with the usual features of a studentship (such as an annual stipend and fees paid for) but you also get the benefits of working across six universities in three cities in the Midlands. These are Birmingham City University, University of Birmingham, Nottingham Trent University, University of Nottingham, De Montfort University and University of Leicester. This means we can access training and expertise from all of those universities, and work collaboratively with fellow Midlands 3 Cities students on funded projects.

The projects were a particular feature of the residential, we spent most of the time working on our ideas for a Cohort Development Fund, which is available for us to carry out projects and events which would be of benefit to postgraduate researchers (PGRs) across the six institutions. My group, which included PGRs from all types of backgrounds (from poets to historians to musicians) came up with an idea for a series of workshops to help researchers with public speaking, media handling and communicating their work to a wider audience. We’re working on submitting our application formally, so fingers crossed! What we wanted to emphasise is that any events/workshops should be made available to all PGRs at all institutions, not just Midlands 3 Cities students.

There was also a talk by artist Bill Drummond, who talked about his ten commandments of art. He asked us to think of our own ten commandments then agreed with Sharon, the Midlands 3 Cities Director, that he will meet up with us all in 3 years’ time to paint our commandments underneath Spaghetti Junction. They shook hands on it, so expect a blog post about this in 2017!

What was apparent from the two days was the sense of collegiality amongst the group; everyone got along really well and everyone is so enthusiastic about their research. I personally feel I could work with anyone in my cohort. That can also be said about PGRs in the faculty of Arts, Design and Media. So far it’s been an enjoyable first few weeks as a PhD student and I’m looking forward to the next three years.

Applications for the 2015 cohort of Midlands 3 Cities is now open, visit the website for more information.

PhD blog: Identifying a focus and staying on topic

By Carolyn Blackburn, PhD student, School of Education

Identifying a focus

One of the most challenging initial tasks a PhD student is faced with is identifying a topic to be studied that is sufficiently focused to be manageable and ‘doable’ but not so narrowly focused that it feels like a straight jacket and inhibits creative lines of inquiry. The focus can arise from personal interest, from work you’ve been involved in and are motivated to extend, from listening to experts in a particular field or from discussions with your supervisor.  Regardless of its origin, the focus must be justified by identifying gaps in the current literature so that you ensure contribution to new knowledge and avoid ‘re-inventing the wheel’.  It’s crucial at this point to ensure you’ve really explored the relevant literature including original sources and keep-up-to-date with new and emerging research in the field.

Staying on-focus

Once a focus is identified, it’s a challenge to follow the multiple lines of inquiry necessary to systematically review the literature whilst at the same time not becoming distracted and diverted by areas of interest that are complimentary to your study, but nevertheless outside the scope of what you intended to study.  If you’re not careful it’s easy to write a whole literature review that neither aligns with your research aims, title or questions. Similarly when you collect data and analyse it, keep your research questions in mind. It’s easy at this stage to become distracted by something that would be really interesting…if you were doing an entirely different PhD.

Regular meetings with your supervisor will help with this, but I found it useful to keep talking about my research to diverse audiences.  Make sure you present at research cafes and other internal mechanisms for dissemination, but also try to talk about your research at external conferences. The more you talk about your work in relation to existing studies in the field, the more you can see any pitfalls with your chosen topic. In addition conference audiences can help to identify where you’ve strayed too far from your aims and questions in a supportive and collegial manner.

Once you’re confident about your topic and have presented at some informal research events, submitting your early thoughts to a journal in the form of a research paper is another effective way to get peer review and identify any deviation between your aims, questions, literature, methodology and findings.

Above all, enjoy the process of becoming an expert in your field.