PGR Profile- Gemma Edney

Name: Gemma Edney

Discipline: Film Studies

Location: Usually in my office in Queens Building, Streatham Campus, although I also spend a large amount of time on trains.

What is the working title for your research project?

Sounding Girl(y): Music and Girlhood in Contemporary French Cinema

Can you describe your research project in more detail?

My PhD focuses on the representation of girlhood in contemporary French film, specifically the way that music can help articulate the experiences of girlhood characters. I examine the different ways music can ‘mean,’ using a combination of cultural, musicological, and film analysis, and explore how our engagement with (and perceived meaning of) music is largely dependent on our prior experience of music; the stereotypes and associations attached to different music; and the context in which the music is heard. I then apply these findings to film, to show how music is able to communicate sensations, feelings, and experiences that are not expressed vocally or visibly in the film, and therefore offer a means of making a French girlhood subjectivity accessible, even to those who may not be French, young, or female.

…and explain it in a single sentence?

My thesis explores the way that film music can articulate the feelings, emotions, and experiences of French girlhood on screen.

What is a typical day like?

I live in Taunton, so I commute in on the train each day. I am usually on the train at 7.07, which means I’m on campus by around 07.50. I use the time on the train to read for fun (shocker, I know!) and have a few minutes to myself so that I am ready for the day ahead. When I first get to campus I usually head to the gym and then make my way to my office around 9/9.15. I then check my to-do list in my diary and get started. I am often more productive in the mornings, so I will start with whatever writing/editing goal I have that day, and then try and work the other tasks in to times when I need a break from the thesis! My office is like clockwork when it comes to lunchtime, and everyone tries to take a break out to eat lunch together (although recently I’ve had more al-desko lunches than I would like!). In the afternoon I usually continue with the writing, and then later on, if I have completed my main goal for the day, I will usually tackle other tasks like seminar planning, conference prep, admin, or work for other projects. Before I leave in the evening I will usually make my to-do list for the next day, and do any last-minute email admin. I generally leave the office between 6pm and 7pm to get the train home. Once I’m there, I try to have a strict no-work policy, so that I can properly wind down and actually see my partner for a few hours!

What would you say is your proudest moment during your research journey so far?

I think the most excited I have been is when I found out I had been cited by a leading academic in his recently-published book, and when I was accepted to write a chapter for a forthcoming collection on French adolescent film. My proudest moment, though, has to be when an undergraduate student emailed me following a lecture to say “it was great listening to you explaining how to deconstruct social stereotypes!”

What do you like to do when you are not researching?

You can find me every so often at SID, where I work part time, teaching on undergraduate modules, or delivering sessions at local schools through my work with The Brilliant Club. On weekday evenings, I can usually be found playing games with friends, in rehearsals with my Taunton choir, or dog-sitting through BorrowMyDoggy! I also like going to the cinema, walking/camping around the beautiful Somerset countryside, and travelling – last year my partner and I went on a two-week campervan tour of Europe which was an amazing experience (don’t worry, my thesis came with me!).

If you could start again, what would be your advice to yourself as a new postgraduate researcher?

It’s OK to have bad days or days that are less productive; and it’s definitely OK to take a break every now and then! Some of my most productive days have been after a slump, so listen to your head when it says to slow down. Also, get yourself a decent diary, some more waterproof shoes, and tidy your desk.

And finally- can you explain your research project in 5 emojis?

This is actually quite easy for me! As my research is based in a visual medium, images lend themselves quite well to explaining it (being based in contemporary culture is helpful too!!).

‍‍-My first emoji is a girl emoji – my research explores girl experience. I like that she has got attitude as well, like lots of the girls in my films!

-Secondly, I have the zipper-mouth emoji to show how the experiences of the girl characters are often left un-vocalised, and how it is possible to communicate in non-verbal ways in film.

-Thirdly, I’ve chosen the music notes emoji because I look at how these experiences can be communicated by music!

– Finally, I have my last two emojis together – the French flag and the clapper board, to represent French Film!

Exeter e-profile:

Soapbox Science: a celebration and cheer for female scientists, and one of the best experiences I had during my PhD

Isabel is a PhD student in the Complex Disease Epigenetics Group as part of the Alzheimer’s Society Exeter Doctoral Centre. Her PhD focuses on evaluating genomic consequences of Alzheimer’s Disease pathology.



It all started with an application…

I was introduced to Soapbox Science in 2016, a few months after I moved to the United Kingdom to join the University of Exeter as a PhD student. When I first heard about it, I was very happy to find there was such an initiative in place, immediately feeling very enthusiastic about participating in it. Although I was not very confident I would be selected, and was afraid it would be too early in my career to do it properly, I still decided to turn my enthusiasm into an application to be a speaker anyway. To my surprise, my application was successful. I could not put into words my excitement when I read the email telling me I was selected to be a speaker at Soapbox Science Exeter, and little did I know then that it would turn out to be one of the best and most fun experiences I had so far as a PhD student – from the preparation, training, interviews, networking, inspiration from other female scientists, to actually standing in the soapbox per se. From that moment on, Soapbox Science won a very special place in my heart. Even after my involvement as a speaker came to an end, I remained accompanying Soapbox Science closely, always wishing to return and continue being involved. Two years later, Dr Safi Darden and Dr Ana Neves challenged me to join them as organizer of Soapbox Science Exeter and my answer could not have been other than “yes”. The three of us are looking forward to receiving enthusiastic applications for Soapbox Science Exeter 2018 from inspiring female scientists, which can be submitted here.

Exeter Soapbox Science organising team. From left to right: Dr Ana Neves, Dr Safi Darden, and Isabel Castanho.

About Soapbox Science…

Soapbox Science was co-founded by Dr Nathalie Petorelli and Dr Seirian Sumner to increase the visibility of women in science and challenge gender stereotypes about the ‘typical’ scientist. The first Soapbox Science event was held in London in 2011, reaching Exeter for the first time in 2015.

Even today, the public perception of ‘a scientist’ is still that of the male researcher, so initiatives such as Soapbox Science are irrefutably vital to change misconceptions and highlight that women can be (successful) scientists as well. Moreover, science, as many other areas, is still male-dominated, particularly in higher positions. An example of this is that less than 10% of all professors in the UK are women. And the problem does not seem to be related with attracting more girls to science. Although some fields are more unbalanced than others (Maths, Physics, Computer Science, and Engineering, as a few examples of scientific areas with a higher percentage of males compared to females), the major problem seems to be related to career progression, particularly when it involves balancing a successful career with building a family, which can become quite challenging and often impossible for some women. By having an all-female group of speakers, Soapbox Science events aim to raise these issues and promote and encourage female scientists and the science they do. Needless to say male colleagues are more than welcome to join as collaborators and volunteers.

Join us!

Soapbox Science is open to any enthusiastic female scientist, from PhD students to Professors, from academics to industry researchers. Come bring your work to the streets and help us inspire and encourage the next generation of scientists.

Soapbox Science Exeter:
Soapbox Science Exeter on Twitter: #ExeterSoapbox
Soapbox Science website:
Soapbox Science Twitter: @SoapboxScience

Written by: Isabel Castanho- PhD student in the Complex Disease Epigenetics Group as part of the Alzheimer’s Society Exeter Doctoral Centre




PGR Profile- Cameron Hird

Name: Cameron Hird

Discipline: Biosciences: Marine Ecotoxicology

Location: Lab 201, Geoffrey Pope Building, Streatham Campus

What is the working title for your research project?

Common pharmaceutical contaminants have mode-of-action effects and reproductive toxicity which are sensitive to pCO2 conditions in marine invertebrates.

Can you describe your research project in more detail?

My research looks at the effects of pharmaceutical chemicals on marine invertebrates. These chemicals are excreted by humans and often not directly removed during sewage treatment processes; consequently they are released in to the environment where they come into contact with marine organisms. Furthermore, I look at the impacts of carbon dioxide in water (ocean acidification) on the uptake and toxicity of these chemicals to marine organisms.

…and can explain it in a single sentence?

I study the effects of human pharmaceuticals released from sewage treatment on marine organisms and how aspects of climate change impact these effects.

What is a typical day like?

My days are highly varied. Often I can spend weeks in the office writing and researching but I prefer lab work. My lab work can range from testing the effects of cocaine on marine worms to performing artificial fertilisations with sea urchins. On the odd occasion I even get to enjoy a bit of muddy fieldwork around Devon.

What would you say is your proudest moment during your research journey so far?

Getting my first citation. Although there is something special about having your PhD work published with you as a first author, there is something even more exciting about people citing your work in their research. It shows that the reach of your research truly is global.

What do you like to do when you are not researching?

I am obsessed with the sport of korfball. It is a Dutch sport that is a basketball / netball hybrid. I train 5 times a week with both Exeter University and Exeter City and play matches at the weekend.

If you could start again, what would be your advice to yourself as a new postgraduate researcher?

Don’t get too caught up in the finer details! I am self-confessed obsessive-compulsive about things and like things to be just right. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to spend the vast majority of my time perfecting small things and not focussing on the bigger things. A certain amount of perfection is beneficial, but don’t get too carried away.

And finally- can you describe your research project in 5 emojis

– The pill because I work on pharmaceuticals.
– The wave because I look at the effects of pharmaceuticals in the ocean.
– The crab because it is a marine invertebrate which is what I study.
– The factory as they release carbon dioxide emissions which contribute to ocean acidification.
☠️- The skull and crossbones because ocean acidification changes the toxicity of the pharmaceuticals.

Cameron Hird is a fourth-year postgraduate research student looking at the impacts of pharmaceuticals on marine invertebrates at the University of Exeter. Passionate about the marine environment from a young age, Cameron achieved a 1st class BSc(Hons) degree in Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth in 2014 before progressing to postgraduate research at the University of Exeter. In his free time Cameron likes to spend time with his pets and playing korfball, as well as running a postgraduate indoor hockey group.