Case study

PhD student — Abigail Jackson

Abigail Jackson studied MRes Dance at Plymouth University, and is now a full-time MPhil/PhD student in the university’s Transtechnology Research department

Why did you choose this institution and course?

I’d studied at Plymouth University at Bachelors level, and couldn’t fault the institution in any way. I’d always loved and been incredibly impressed by its close-knit community, making lasting friendships and learning how to become a researcher.

What’s more, there was always plenty happening to make university a great experience – for example, markets, book sales, free events and other social occasions. There was more going on than anybody would ever have time to experience.

How did the programme prepare you for research?

After graduating from BA Dance Theatre, I discovered that the job I wanted to do didn’t actually exist. This was daunting at first, but I soon realised that I was going to have to be the person to investigate the benefits of this area becoming an actual career.

The teaching staff at Plymouth University helped me to focus and build confidence in my research. They allowed me to see its developmental potential, and my career aspirations are ultimately based on the individual time and advice that I received throughout my undergraduate and Masters study.

I was constantly encouraged to put myself forward for more opportunities, which led me to apply for a three-year funded 3D3 Centre for Doctoral Training studentship to continue my project at MPhil/PhD level. This process was supported by staff from the School of Humanities and Performing Arts, the Transtechnology Research department and the Plymouth Institute of Education.

It was so exciting to find out that I was successful in my application. It felt like a huge achievement for me, and I’m now able to give research my full attention.

What does your research involve?

My research interests are in facilitating expressive movement sessions in the development of a creative intervention for autistic children, with digital mediation embedded in its investigation. I love the satisfaction of being in a studio with an autistic child facilitating a movement session.

What advice would you give to students looking to break into research?

Stay positive and determined, and talk about your career interests to anyone who’ll listen. Explaining your ideas to more and more people will help you to better articulate your aims – potentially opening many doors. Also ensure that you ask plenty of questions. This may lead you to discovering, applying for and successfully receiving new funding streams.

There’s just one thing that I’d change if I were to pursue MRes Dance again – I’d study on a part-time basis. I had several part-time jobs while I was studying, and therefore stretched my time thinly. This meant that I became more isolated in my second year, as I struggled to manage my time well. Although I’m currently working as a part-time dance teacher while pursuing my own research, I now find balancing work and study much more manageable.

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