Meet the lecturer: Dr Egle Cesnulyte

Meet Dr Egle Cesnulyte, Lecturer in Politics and International Development in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Tell us about your journey into academia…

I was supposed to be an economist – I did my undergraduate degree in Economics and got a good job in the field after my studies. However, very quickly I realised that thinking as an economist does not help to answer many questions that I still had. I came to Bristol to do MSc in International Development, got super interested in gender and how it interacts with economic and political structures, and this led me to a PhD in International Studies and Politics at the University of Leeds.

In my doctoral research I explored the agency and its limits of women selling sex in Mombasa, Kenya. After completing my PhD I taught at the Universities of Leeds and Warwick before completing the circle and coming to work here at Bristol where my academic journey had started many years ago.

What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol?

I love that our MSc student body is so diverse – we have people coming from different places in the world, with different professional backgrounds and with a wealth of local, national and international experiences and knowledge. I teach an MSc unit ‘Gender and Development’ and bringing all those experiences and knowledge into a classroom is an amazing resource – I learn so much from my students, and our conversations and discussions are always so rich and thought provoking.

What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduate students?

Use your time at Bristol to explore things beyond the compulsory classes. SPAIS has three vibrant research Centres (Gender Research Centre, Global Insecurities Centre, Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship), the University hosts amazing institutes (Cabot Institute, Migration and Mobilities Institute, Centre for Africa Research and Partnerships to mention just a few) – all of them organise events, lectures, discussions and workshops that are open to students. This is your chance to engage with top researchers and hottest research topics in academia as part of our community – use it!


Meet the lecturer: Professor Katharine Charsley

Meet Professor Katharine Charsley, Professor of Migration Studies in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies.


Tell us about your journey into academia…

As an undergraduate I was enrolled on a Geography degree at Edinburgh, but took Social Anthropology as an outside subject and became fascinated by the study of people and society (which played a more minor part in the Geography curriculum), so switched to that as the main subject for my degree. By the time I graduated four years later with an MA, I was pretty sure I wanted to give an academic career in social sciences a stab, and applied for and was offered a research assistant job on an interesting project at the University of Bristol. So, that’s how I discovered this wonderful city and started my connection with this University.

I returned to Edinburgh to do a PhD (jointly in Sociology and Social Anthropology) on marriages between British Pakistanis and partners from Pakistan – a subject I had become intrigued by whilst working at Bristol. The fieldwork took me to Pakistan, and then back to Bristol, and the research led to a passion for the study of migration.

After my PhD I had a postdoctoral fellowship and a one year teaching job at Edinburgh, followed by a 3 year post at Oxford, setting up and running a Migration Studies degree. I have been so fortunate to work in three amazing places with wonderful colleagues, but Bristol always had a special place in my heart, so when a lectureship came up in Sociology, I applied, and have been back working at the University of Bristol since 2009. Here I’ve found a stimulating and friendly community of Sociologists, great colleagues in the wider School, and am part of developing a substantial and dynamic network of migration researchers from across the University.


What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol?

It’s hard to pick one favourite thing, but probably the opportunity to teach on subjects about which I am passionately interested. It’s good for the students – the research-led teaching which is a key feature of our master’s programmes means that you’re being taught by people actively involved in the field rather than just teaching from a text book. It’s also great for me – when I bring my own research interests into the classroom at master’s level I often get new perspectives which stimulate my own thinking. And in teaching on migration, the diverse backgrounds of our students makes for a particularly stimulating conversation.

I’m writing this having just taught my last master’s seminar for this academic year, and it has been so rewarding to hear from students about how their interest in the subject has blossomed across the course of the unit, and the new perspectives it has given them on issues of gender, family and migration.


What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduates?

Make the most of the opportunities available to you here, both inside and outside the classroom. Bring an open, critical and curious mind to your studies, and throw yourself into classroom discussions and your own research. Keep an eye out for all the other events and opportunities around the University such as those offered by our interdisciplinary Research Centres and Institutes. And apply your sociological imagination to the social world around you in Bristol, and the local or global communities and activities in which you are engaged. Each should enhance the others in terms of your intellectual development, and your experience during your degree.


Meet the lecturer: Dr Emma Williams

Meet Dr Emma Williams, Lecturer in Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, School of Economics, Finance and Management.

Tell us about your journey into academia…

When I was a student at university studying psychology, I never planned to be a university lecturer. Instead, I’ve taken a more roundabout journey in my career so far, following opportunities that arose and things that I was interested in, and here I am!

I’ve worked in many places, including hospital settings, Special Educational Needs contexts, and in behavioural and social science research roles in both the public and private sectors. In 2015, I decided to return to academia so that I could develop more specialist expertise, undertaking research to explore how people behave online, specifically how we can empower consumers and organisations to be more secure in online and digital contexts.

Last year, I became Programme Director for the MSc Marketing in our School of Management and have hugely enjoyed interacting with our marketing students this year, watching them grow in confidence, challenge their preconceptions and develop their interests and knowledge in relation to contemporary marketing.

What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol?

I love interacting with our students, discussing their ideas and critiques, exploring what they think about the various areas that we teach and how they consider this to apply to the challenges of marketing practice.

Within the programme, we very much focus on developing a critical view in students, understanding the ethical implications of marketing practice, as well as current global issues that marketers face, such as sustainability, social impact, and the responsible use of big data and other innovative technologies. In this way, we try and prepare students for the challenges that contemporary marketers may face in the future. This is something that we aim to continually develop on the programme, based on student feedback and emerging research, to identify the best ways that we can engage students and develop a supportive and friendly learning environment where they can work both with others, and with us, to learn about contemporary marketing.

Within the school, we also try and provide students with as many links to industry sectors as possible via visiting speakers and the opportunity to undertake an Applied Extended Project in collaboration with an organisational partner.

What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduates?

My top tip has to be: be open to exploring different interests, ideas and concepts throughout your postgraduate journey.

I was once told to constantly reflect on what it is you actually want to do with your life. Postgraduate study provides a unique opportunity where you’ll have the time and space to read a range of material, be encouraged to challenge and consider different views and experiences, and really explore what it is that you’re interested in and what kind of future you want to pursue. This is time that is often missing when we move into a full-time job! Within the MSc, we provide students with a number of opportunities to critically consider a range of different topics in relation to contemporary marketing practice and students are often surprised about what areas they actually find the most interesting. So, be open to the experience, curious about your interests, and ready to challenge your expectations…!


Meet the lecturer: Dr Lloyd Fletcher

Meet Dr Lloyd Fletcher, Lecturer in the School of Economics, Finance and Management.

Tell us about your journey into academia…

I took a long and twisting road, moving from my roots in science and engineering to the ‘dark side’ of social science! I had no long range plans, more a series of tactical steps as my interests and skills evolved.

After a first degree in physics in the UK, I studied computer engineering at master’s level in the States. Despite the urging of my dissertation supervisor to stay on for a PhD in computer vision, I then spent several years in the US telecoms sector as an analyst, project, and product manager. This developed my interest in business and management, so I went back to school for an MBA.

After graduating I spent some time as an independent management and research consultant in America, before returning to settle in the UK, where I ran IT departments for a scientific publisher. Following that, I became a freelance consultant again, helping organisations with their strategic thinking and project management problems.

Throughout my academic and business careers, I had developed a desire to explore and explain why businesses and organisations seemed to be so often dysfunctional, suboptimal, inefficient and disappointing! Plus, I’d nurtured that temptation to go back for a PhD, in part for the intellectual challenge, but mostly because I’d always enjoyed teaching and research, and wanted to do it at the highest level in an area that drew on what I’d learned on my journey so far. This led me to a PhD in management at Bristol, and a lectureship here.


What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol?

Light bulbs going off! (I mean metaphorically in the heads of our students.) Seeing someone ‘get it’ – a challenging or complex idea that we’ve been discussing in class or they’ve been reading about, and through applying it to a real life case, or exploring the theory in depth, they suddenly fully grasp it and get excited about how they could use it – that might be in their future careers or even in their own academic studies.

These sorts of ‘tangible truths’ are especially common in my project management courses, where students leave with practical tools and valuable insights that they can use right away. Projects are everywhere, and we need good project managers, so our focus is on helping students become critical, systematic, and rigorous thinkers about projects and their management: in other words, we try to shed light on the subject from both a theoretical and a practical perspective. So the more light bulbs the better!


What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduates?

Develop a clear rationale for why you want to study at this level and what you want to get out of it in the long term. Then be prepared to fully engage and commit to what it will take to get you there. And to figure out what that entails, talk to faculty and students: tell us what you’re hoping to achieve, and ask us what we think you’ll need to do to accomplish those goals on our programme. Armed with those answers, decide if you think you’re willing and able to ‘do what it takes’.

Meet the lecturer: Dr Jordi Paps Montserrat

Meet Dr Jordi Paps Montserrat, lecturer in Bioinformatics in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

Tell us about your journey into academia…

The X-Men made me do it! I am interested in how changes in the genetic makeup of organisms have driven the evolution of life. I was a nerd before being a nerd was cool. When I was a kid, I loved reading comic books and sci-fi novels. Well, I still very much do so! They were a fantastic first contact with science and how it provides some answers to life, the universe, and everything. Plus, mutants have very cool powers.

I went to university to study Biology, with a focus on molecular biology. During my degree, I discovered a previously unknown fascination for genetics and evolution, and I wanted to learn more. This led me to do a PhD degree on this topic (Barcelona), in which I also found out how much I enjoy teaching. After my PhD, I embarked on a couple of post-doctoral positions (Oxford). In 2015 I got my first lecturer position in Essex, and in 2019 I moved to Bristol. I love Bristol, the University is an amazing intellectual environment and the city culture is lively. In many ways it reminds me of my hometown, Barcelona, and I feel at home here.

What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol?

Teaching is one of the most rewarding activities as an academic. I am thrilled to see the impact the MSc in Bioinformatics is going to have on our students. I think research-led master’s programmes like ours provide skills to our students, allowing them to face modern problems in a way they couldn’t before.

During the last 20 years, all the life sciences have lived a major revolution, a true paradigm shift. Now we have access to humongous amounts of data, in many different fields, from genomics to biochemistry, to ecology or behaviour. And this data has changed how we see and understand the world, but also required new approaches to cope with it. This explosion of data is also impacting the public sector, with projects like Genomics England (sequencing the genome of 100,000 humans), and private companies (think of “23 and me” or “”).

Many employers seek to recruit intelligent graduate students that have advanced IT skills. Our students will work with world-leading researchers and leave the programme equipped with the critical thinking and skills required to work on any of these areas, from research to private businesses.

What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduate students?

Stay curious! In this master’s you will do science, and there is no more important quality for scientists. If you are curious about nature, you will be interested in one or more questions, and this interest will lead you to want to learn more and work hard on these problems.

Also, if you love life sciences but are concerned about things like programming, don’t fret! This is a programme designed and taught by scientists for scientists. We are not computer engineers (well, there is one!), we are scientists that have learnt a few computer tricks to tackle biological questions. This programme does not assume you have any previous knowledge of programming, and will teach you from scratch.

Meet the lecturer: Dr Naomi Millner

Meet Dr Naomi Millner, Programme Director for Human Geography: Society and Space, in the Faculty of Life Sciences.



Tell us about your journey into academia…

I completed my undergraduate degree in modern and medieval languages, but really loved engaging with social scientific questions and methodologies through some optional units in the second half of my degree. After a year taking part in voluntary community work and some paid work as a Research Assistant on a project about ‘learning to learn’ with young people who’d dropped out of education, I realised that I missed learning but wanted to develop my profile to explore issues of social inequality and processes of social change.

I scoured master’s programmes all over the country, but focused on Bristol as a city I found culturally and politically interesting. This led me to discover the MSc in Society and Space based in Geographical Sciences – a programme I now direct! I applied for a ‘1+3 award’ from the ESRC (Economics and Social Sciences Research Council) to study for a PhD as well, and was delighted when I was accepted onto the programme. That was the beginning of my career in Human Geography!

What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol?

Society and Space is a really dynamic course that allows students to explore rich cultural theories and dynamic political debates at the same time as training them in social science research methodologies. I think it’s an unusual programme at this level in that it does equip you with the research skills you’d need to go on to a PhD or a career using social science research skills (quantitative and qualitative), but you also get to go really deeply into the big social and political questions. There are also options to specialise your route through the programme, but these are limited and carefully designed so that you get a well-rounded degree, rather than a ‘pick and mix’ set of options that might not go well together.

What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduates?

I’d recommend that prospective students consider what they really want from a master’s degree. There are quite different options out there and they will suit different kinds of students. It’s important not just to choose a programme based on the academic reputation of the institution or where it is, although these are important factors to consider, but what skills you’ll be learning, and what the balance is between methodological training and units taking you into more theoretical or thematic based units. I think Society and Space really suits students who are looking to combine exposure to cultural theory and philosophical debates with strong methodological training and immersion in contemporary geographical debates. And of course our research culture is top-notch!


Meet the lecturer: Dr Gemma Ford

Meet Dr Gemma Ford, Programme Director for MSc Reproduction and Development in the Faculty of Health Sciences.


Tell us about your journey into academia…

I have always been interested in science and biology and initially considered a career in forensic science. However, I found that the more practical-based approach that was employed at my college to study Biology steered me towards a degree with opportunities for exploration and discovery. So, I went on to study an honours degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology which included a year-long research placement within industry.

It was during my undergraduate studies that I found myself being strongly drawn to the field of endocrinology. After my degree, I was lucky to be awarded a Needham Cooper CASE Scholarship which enabled me to study for a PhD in Neuroendocrinology at Bristol and GlaxoSmithKline, looking at the effects of stress and metabolism on hypothalamic neuropeptides. I then moved to Galway, Ireland for my postdoctoral research, maintaining my interest in stress and neuroendocrinology, but also extending my interests into pain medicine. I then became a lecturer in the Neuropharmacology department in Galway.

I really enjoyed training and teaching undergraduate, master’s and PhD students from a variety of different disciplines in Galway, but I saw an opportunity to move back to Bristol and the UK, so took up the post of Lecturer in the Bristol Medical School and I now lead on the master’s in Reproduction and Development.


What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol? 

I really enjoy getting to know my students and providing them with tailored support throughout their postgraduate journey.  We are lucky that the flexible nature of our programme provides opportunities for our students to continue to work or perform caring responsibilities whilst still being able to study with us for a master’s at the same time. Our unique, blended learning MSc programme attracts a fantastic community of learners (Scientists, Nurses, Midwives, and Clinicians), that come from different countries, medical settings, backgrounds and cultures, and this diversity really enriches our curriculum and provides a multidimensional learning experience for both students and staff.


What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduate students?

Research the programme and make sure it’s right for you. Talk to the staff, alumni and current students and ask lots of questions before you apply. Does it offer flexible study options? Will it enable you to reach your career goals and aspirations? What jobs or training positions have the alumni gone on to pursue? What types of teaching and learning will be used? What individual support is available to you during your studies?


Meet the lecturer: Professor Albert Sanchez-Graells

Meet Professor Albert Sanchez-Graells, lecturer at the University of Bristol Law School.


Tell us about your journey into academia…

Believe it or not, as a teenager, I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. But I started getting lost in the abstract world of maths and physics during my A levels, so I eventually decided to study law and business. These are two very ‘real world’ applied fields of study, although there is scope for rather intricate theoretical, ethical and philosophical approaches too! 

After graduation, I went to work as a lawyer for a British multinational law firm, and then for a Spanish industrial company with worldwide operations. After a few very stressful years, I decided to enrol in a PhD programme to follow my passion for economic law, and this opened the door to academia for me. In the 10 years since I finished my PhD, I held academic positions in Madrid, Hull, Leicester and Bristol. This has given me enormous opportunities to engage in exciting teaching and research opportunities, and to build a truly international network of like-minded colleagues. 


What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol? 

I love teaching at all levels, but postgraduate teaching offers the possibility to engage in the aspects of my field of knowledge closest to my current research. I have recently been researching the impact of digital technologies on several areas of economic law and public governance. Getting to discuss these developments with bright and engaged LLM students always helps me improve my own understanding and push the boundaries of our collective knowledge. Seminar teaching where we can engage with these issues in detail is always energising and a good way to open the door to even more concentrated research efforts, such as through the dissertation. Supervising dissertation work is probably another of the parts of my job that I love. 


What’s your number one top tip for prospective PG students?

My top tip would be to know yourself and your interests. Knowing what tickles your brain will help you find the right postgraduate programme for you. This is an intense experience that will have many demands but, if you are doing what you are passionate about, not only will you do better, but you will really get the most out of it. And make sure to do it in a place that supports you and excites you, so you can flourish.

I have found endless reasons to love Bristol, not only the University, but the city and all the opportunities it offers—for me, as a runner and a bit of a foodie anyway! So think about what and where to do it, and then go for your postgraduate programme with all your might. 


Meet the lecturer: Professor Pauline Heslop

Meet Professor Pauline Heslop, Programme Director for the MRes Health and Wellbeing.

Tell us about your journey into academia…

I suppose I’ve had a less ‘traditional’ route into academia than some of my colleagues. I started my working life as a nurse, specialising in working with sick children, but that was brought to an abrupt halt by a car accident. I wasn’t able to return to nursing and felt at a bit of a crossroads, not sure what else I wanted to do. I opted to go back to studying, which was hard financially, but absolutely the best thing for me. I studied for a degree as a mature student, then was awarded a scholarship to do a PhD, so I have lots of empathy for people trying to juggle home and family life, living on a tight budget, and seeing friends taking different directions in their own lives. It can be done though – I was awarded my PhD nearly 20 years ago now and have been working at the University of Bristol since. 


What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol? 

The MRes Health and Wellbeing course, for which I am the Programme Director, combines all my interests – it is research based, focuses on health and wellbeing from a range of different perspectives, and encourages students to think ‘outside the box’. It is one of the five South West Doctoral Training Partnership interdisciplinary pathways that are taught in partnership with the University of Bath, University of the West of England and University of Exeter. This means that students have the opportunity to take optional units from across the partnership, according to their interests. That is potentially a huge benefit to students, and past students speak highly of how this has helped them to develop their research skills and interests. 


What are your top tips for prospective postgraduate students?

Thinking about my own experiences and those of the students I support, I’d give my three top tips as the following: 

  1. Believe in yourself enough to make it happen. When we set out to learn anything new it can be hard and frustrating at times, but with effort, most of us can achieve what we sometimes don’t think we can….remember those first driving lessons? If you trust in yourself that you can study a postgraduate level, and work hard at it, most people can achieve great things.
  2. Work hard but maintain a sense of balance…this is a course about health and wellbeing after all!
  3. Take advantage of the opportunities on offer. The University of Bristol provides a wealth of study support and social opportunities for students, so take advantage of them if you can and you will have a richer experience of university life.  

And finally, I’ll sneak one more in…life has changed considerably due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we have all had a chance to rethink what is important to us in life. That might be social contact, a sense of community, a need to feel valued and to have a role to play in society etc. Hold on to those thoughts of yours – they are absolutely about health and wellbeing, the topic of this master’s. 


Meet the Lecturer: Dr Jo Rose

Meet Dr Jo Rose, Senior Lecturer in Education.


Tell us about your journey into academia…

I ended up as an academic in the field of education by chance. Age 16, I thought I wanted to be an accountant, as I was good at maths and liked the flexibility the career offered. I then decided that wasn’t “cool” enough (typical teenager!) and so made a different decision to apply to study psychology at university.

I ended up enjoying Social Psychology – both my undergraduate dissertation and subsequent PhD explored collaborative reasoning. As a PhD student, I enjoyed the undergraduate teaching that I’d done and thought that being an academic might be quite good fun. I’d always fancied living in the South West of England, so looked at jobs that I could do at universities in that area. I was fortunate to get the first job I applied for – which was a Research Fellow role in the School of Education at the University of Exeter, working on a project around teacher effectiveness. I knew nothing about this topic, but my background in psychological research methods gave me a good understanding of systematic observation, which was what was needed.

I worked at Exeter for 8 years, on a range of projects which helped me understand more about the context of education, and as time progressed I had more flexibility to explore my own research interests and began to think about the application of collaborative reasoning to the field of education. This is where I really started to become excited by what I was doing – and also started to research the application of psychological ideas to practice. This is what I thought psychology was when I applied to do it as an undergraduate!

I moved to the School of Education at the University of Bristol in 2009, to take up a permanent role – first as a researcher and then as a lecturer. I started teaching on the MSc Psychology of Education programme, considering the application of psychology to educational contexts, and there is an exciting range of research in the School of Education that demonstrates a real commitment to social justice. This made me feel as though I’d found a home for my interests.


What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol?

I really love leading the master’s portfolio in the School of Education. What particularly excites me is the way that students’ thinking changes as they progress through their master’s programmes. We have a diverse cohort of students – many with years of experience in teaching or related professions. They learn to think about education in a different way, to question and critically reflect on educational practice and policy, and to critically engage with educational ideas and theory.

Our master’s programmes are very much research-led: we teach students about current and classical educational research; we support students to become confident educational researchers; and our teaching methods are informed by educational research. Further, students are taught by tutors who are leading researchers in their own fields – and thus are sharing the latest thinking on their topics. All this supports the transformational experience of the master’s programmes.


What’s your number one top tip for prospective postgraduates?

Students who come to our programmes with an open mind, willing to change the way they think about education, willing to engage deeply and critically with theory and research, and willing to use their learning to critically reflect on their own practice as educators, will be best-placed to succeed!