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Small Bursary for PGR Students

The Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy has established the SSPP Small Bursary Fund to support postgraduate students when carrying out original research, such as field work or attending conferences, that is crucial for their PhD. 

Below you find stories from some of our students, talking about their experiences from a recent project supported by the SSPP Small Bursary fund.

AmySeakinsAmy Seakins, PhD Student in the Department of Education & Professional Studies attended the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) conference in Cyprus in September this year.

"I received support from the SSPP Small Bursary Fund to attend the ESERA conference in Cyprus in September. I presented at the conference as part of an invited symposium, and also took part in a poster session, both of which proved extremely valuable to be a part of.  

Taking part in the conference enabled me to present my work to a much wider audience than I had done before! I also received positive feedback on my presentation, and had many interesting conversations at my poster which I really enjoyed. I met lots of new people and was able to have many in-depth discussions around my research which since then has helped build my contacts network. I continue to keep in contact with those I met at the conference, and I am confident that these relationships will form the basis of many future collaborations!"

AvinashPaliwalAvinash Paliwal, PhD Student in the Department of War Studies, travelled across India to carry out original research for his thesis.

"I received support from the SSPP Small Bursaries Fund to help me fund travels within India. My thesis is on the shaping of India’s Afghan policy since 2001, but being contemporary in nature, the research requires collection of primary data and conducting semi-structured interviews with India’s foreign policy and security elite.  

Among the many people that I met, I interviewed for example two former Indian diplomats in Agra, and an Indian Army officer in Gurgaon. Now retired, all these officials played a crucial role in determining India’s developmental and security approach towards Afghanistan while in office. Of the total 36 interviews I conducted, these three proved crucial in highlighting different strands of thinking in New Delhi over the Afghan question. It was a very rewarding journey, not only for data collection purposes and for the knowledge gained through interviews. But also for the chance of meeting so many new people along the way that helped me whilst being on the road, and for giving me a deeper understanding of the cultural context behind my research topic."

AgaTytusAgnieszka Tytus, PhD Student at the The Centre for Language, Discourse & Communication, visited a bilingual summer school in Plymouth, UK and a neurobilingualism workshop in Groningen, the Netherlands during the summer this year.

"The bilingual summer school took place between the 24th and 28th of June and during that week, I attended a number of interesting seminars and workshops. The theme of this summer school was ‘Bilingual minds, bilingual machines’ and was a unique opportunity to interact with researchers from both human and computer language processing backgrounds. Plymouth University is one of a few centres that work with humanoid robots and we were given the chance to get to know iCub which is one of 25 robots used to do research into human cognition and artificial intelligence. Three summer school participants were also chosen to give presentations and I was one of them! I was thrilled to get a chance to talk about my own research, and I also received valuable comments from experienced researchers from my field of study.   

The neurobilingualism workshop in the Netherlands took place between the 25th and 27th of August and was a great learning curve for me. The main focus of this workshop was on the use of neurophysiological tools to investigate various aspects of bilingual language processing. Since I am planning to use eye tracking and EEGs in my future research, this workshop was a great opportunity to learn more about utilising those methods!"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Eugenio_LilliEugenio Lilli, PhD student in the Defence Studies Department, visited Washington DC earlier this year;

"I stayed in Washington DC for ca 4 weeks between January and February this year as part of my PhD project where I  collect material on the Obama administration’s response to the 2011-12 Arab Awakening, in particular toward the uprisings in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. The method of data collection was interviewing  members of the US State Department and of top-think tanks such as The Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Atlantic Council, The Middle East Institute, The Stimson Center and others"

The information and feedback obtained through these interviews are of great help for my research and will be indispensable to the completion of my PhD. In addition, my stay in Washington DC helped me to build an extremely useful network with experts and practitioners in US foreign policy.

The SSPP Small Bursary fund has made a much appreciated contribution to my project, the data gathered during this field work is of substantial importance to the understanding of US Foreign Policy today and the contacts I made during my visit will benefit not only myself but also fellow PhD students in my research team as well as the research culture at my Department and our School."

Mark GriffithsMark Griffiths, PhD Student in the Centre for Public Policy Research, Department of Education & Professional Studies visited the AAG (Association of American Geographers) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles recently; 

"I was awarded a small bursary from SSPP to fund a visit to the AAG Annual Meeting. The conference is the largest of its kind and a great opportunity to exchange and develop ideas with other researchers. I gave a paper ‘The affective spaces of international volunteering’ on a day long panel focused on volunteer travel. I received very positive feedback and was asked by the panel organisers to write the paper into a full length article for publication in the journal Tourism Studies that will hopefully be published in 2014.

I also made a lot of connections with people who have done some very important work in my field, and the chance to meet people face to face and discuss relevant issues has been invaluable and is very much appreciated. 

Writing a PhD is difficult and conferences such as these are hugely beneficial for that process. The SSPP Small Bursary fund made an invaluable contribution to this experience."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Sakiko-Kaiga-IISakiko Kaiga, PhD student in the Department of War Studies, recently travelled across the US to collate archival data for her PhD thesis. 

"First of all, I would like to thank SSPP for supporting me via the Small Bursary Fund which has enabled me to conduct an archival trip to the United States from 18 August to 1 September 2013. These materials are essential for my PhD thesis where I analyse the cooperation between the Anglo-American pro-league of nations groups during the First World War and the development of the issue of the League of Nations in international relations in 1918. 

Following on this, and on the subject of war-time Anglo-American relationships, I am now preparing both a conference paper, due for publication in 2014, as well as a journal article by 2015. Again, I would like to thank SSPP for their help, I would not have been able to conduct this crucial research for my PhD thesis without their support!"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

James-CockayneJames Cockayne, PhD Student in the Department of War Studies, visited the US National Archives and Research Centre in College Park Maryland, US, earlier this year;

"I am a grateful recipient of the SSPP Small Bursary. It proved invaluable in assisting my research towards my PhD on the political strategies of criminal groups. The US National Archives proved to be a goldmine of official records documenting cooperation between the American mafia and Batista government in Cuba, and later between the American mafia and the CIA. 


During my research visit I found evidence challenging the traditional understanding of the relationship between the CIA and the American mafia in their collaboration to assassinate Fidel Castro. The traditional view is that the CIA approached the mafia for help. This new evidence suggests that the mafia already had assassination and coup d'etat plans under way, and that the CIA simply 'piggybacked' on those plans.  


This evidence has a number of important historical and theoretical implications. Ultimately, these findings should also provide significant support for the proposition I am developing for my PhD thesis."

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