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Jamie Stark
Jamie Stark

Jamie Stark - PhD student

Why did you choose this MSc?

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I had ambitions to enter science journalism, and also to keep some connections with my subject (physiology) without having to undertake laboratory-based research. Not having a background in science communication or the history of science, I felt that taking a Master's degree was the best way to start. Manchester appealed to me because the department was strongly centred around postgraduate study, and also because of the diversity of topics available within the course.

What did you enjoy most about the course?

The rapport between staff and students was great, and the teaching was very individual. In most of my tutorials there were fewer that three other students, and this meant that the sessions really felt as though they were geared towards what you were interested in discussing. It was a pleasant change from the rigidity of an undergraduate course!

What did you do your project on?

I wrote my dissertation on responses to scientific creationism in Britain and the US, and focused on the period from the 1960s onwards. It was great to be able to engage at length with a topic which I was particularly interested in. During the course I wrote essays on a wide variety of topics besides, including the emergence of molecular biology, national differences in university education, the scientific basis of racism, and physics in 1930s Germany.

“The MSc gave me a fantastic grounding in the history of science, technology & medicine... It was essential preparation for my doctorate, and although I had never intended to stay in academia, the course hooked me to the extent that now I can't imagine doing anything else.”

What are you doing now?

I am currently in the second year of a PhD at the University of Leeds, and my research project investigates the history of anthrax in Britain during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

What does it involve on a typical day?

The great thing about doing a PhD is that there really isn't a "typical" day as such. I tend to divide my time between hunting for archival sources, reading secondary literature and trying to fuse the two together. During term-time I also teach on a number of undergraduate courses in the history and philosophy of science. As part of my doctorate, I am also designing an online exhibition based around my research in collaboration with the Thackray Medical Museum, so my days really tend to be very varied. You are given plenty of freedom to work on the aspects of the project that interest you most, so I often have no idea what I'll be doing from one week to the next.

It still shocks me that you can get paid to do something which is so much fun!

How do you think the skills you learnt on your MSc helped you get where you are?

The MSc gave me a fantastic grounding in the history of science, technology & medicine, and a chance to take a wide variety of courses in a subject which was new to me. It was essential preparation for my doctorate, and although I had never intended to stay in academia, the course hooked me to the extent that now I can't imagine doing anything else.

Do you have any advice for potential applicants?

Having come from a science background, I applied for the course with almost no knowledge of the subject. Lots of my contemporaries made me feel uneasy about starting off in a new discipline, but I need not have worried. If you are taking up the MSc and are coming from a different subject area this shouldn't put you off: in my year there were economists, mathematicians, social scientists and philosophers, as well as historians and scientists.

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