Just a minute with… Amy Shields

amyAmy Shields a third year history PhD student, and current editor of our postgraduate journal, Pons Aelius. Her research focuses on seventeenth century republicanism in England, Venice, and the Dutch Republic. She is on twitter @ahshields90

  1. What did you want to be as a child?

An Olympic swimmer, an author, and a vet. I think I may have been a bit over ambitious.

  1. What advice would you have for current UG or early stage PG students?

Get involved in as many things as you can! Not only is a great way to meet new people, but you gain new skills and your CV will look great.

  1. What is the most important life skill you learnt whilst being a PGR student?

How to blag confidence and ignore that gnawing feeling of panic that I’m out of my depth. Imposter syndrome is all too common in academia, but if you act like you know what you’re doing and just go for it, you’ll surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

  1. What has been the most significant/memorable moment of your academic career so far?

When I got accepted to give a paper at Berkeley in California. I’d written the abstract just a few days before the deadline, and didn’t really expect to be accepted. I’d also never been to the US before, so that was a really great experience.

  1. If given complete freedom to start over, what profession would you like to do and why?

When I was little, I really wanted to be a vet because I absolutely love animals. I gave up on that dream because I found sciences much more challenging than humanities at school, and also because I’d get upset far too easily! But if I went back now, I wouldn’t let myself give up so easily.

  1. What book are you currently reading?

One Hundred Years of Solitude is sitting on my bedside table right now, but I’m only a few pages in. I have a habit of getting too distracted by a good book – I won’t notice that hours have passed because I’m so hooked! Last week I read the Hunger Games trilogy in four days….and my supervisor wonders why I miss deadlines… (sorry Rachel!)

  1. What has been the highlight of your week?

It was great to see the finished version of the newly renamed E-Journal, Pons Aelius, going live this week. Linda and I spend a lot of hours working on it, so we were really pleased to see it finally published. It also helped that we could celebrate with a few glasses of wine at the PGF party!

  1. Do you have favourite hidden gems of Newcastle?

It’s not hidden as such, but I love going to Intermezzo at the Tyneside Cinema. It’s a great place to while always the afternoon over a glass of wine and a good book.

Thanks, Amy! Hope you have a wonderful holiday period, and we will see you all in the New Year!

Newsletter, week 14.12.2015

It is the last week of term before Christmas, just a couple of things are happening this week, then we are all free! Happy holidays everyone!


Lunchtime Seminar
Thursday 17th December, 1-2pm, Armstrong Building, Room 3.41
Amber Roy and Andrew Marriott (both archaeology)

Research Seminars

Roman Archaeology Seminar Series

Tuesday 15th December, 6-7:30 pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.06
Tatiana Ivleva (Newcastle University): ‘Global adornments: glass banlges in Late Iron Age Roman period Europe and Britain’


Wednesday, 16th December, 5-7pm Armstrong Building, Room 1.04
Mark Knights (Warkwick University): ‘Corruption and anti-corruption in seventeenth and eighteenth century Britain’


Newsletter, week 7.12.15

There is a lot going on this week, so here is this week’s events newsletter.  If you would like to promote an event, please get in touch


The Importance of being ‘Visible’
Tuesday 8th December, 6:30pm, Armstrong Building, Room 3.38 Question and answer session on academic life and career perspectives
Ask your own questions beforehand on twitter and facebook #AskThePGF

PGF Christmas party
Friday 11th December, 5.30pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.09 Everyone is welcome

Research Seminars

Roman Archaeology Seminar Series
Tuesday 8th December, 6-7:30 pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.06 David Mason (Durham County Council): ‘Research excavation at Binchester Roman fort and extra-mural settlement’

Classics and Ancient History:
Monday, 7th December, 5-7pm Armstrong Building, Room 2.50 Hector Williams (UBC): ‘Goddesses, Whores, Vampyres and Archaeologists: Excavating Ancient Mytilene’


Further School Events

Archaeology Careers Fair
Wednesday 9th December, 4pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.06
Archaeology drinks
Wednesday 9th December, 5:30pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.06

Newcastle University Public Lectures

9th December, 5:30-6:45pm, Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building
Baroness Altmann (Minister of State for Pensions) ‘Pensions and ageing society’


Just A Minute With… Dr. Rob Dale

rob daleDr Rob Dale is Lecturer in Russian History, specialising in twentieth-century Russian and Soviet history, especially the late Stalinist period (1945-1953). He studied for a BA in History at York, an MA in History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies and a PhD in Russian History at QMUL. Find him on twitter @DrRobDale

  1. Which famous historian would you most like to meet for a drink, and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of my historiographical heroes for a drink. I’d most like a drink with Elena Zubkova, the historian who almost singlehandedly put the study of late Stalinism back on the map.

  1. What advice would you have for current UG or early stage PG students?

Never ever go anywhere without a book. You never know when your bus breaks down, the person you are meeting will be late, and ten minutes appear when you could read something interesting.

  1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m reading several. Owen Hatherley’s Landscapes of Communism, which is introducing me to the architecture of parts of the Communist world I’ve never visited, and Sheila Fitzpatrick’s new book On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics, which is written with her usual wit, precision and deep understanding.

  1. What is the most important life skill you learnt whilst being a PGR student?

The ability to root out the cheapest flights, rail tickets and hotel rooms, and live off a diet of buckwheat, salted cucumbers, and kefir.

  1. What do you enjoy the most about being part of the history, classics and archaeology department at Newcastle?

Interaction with our students. Having taught in a number of institutions, I think the make-up of our student body generates really fascinating discussions. I love working in the Armstrong building too.

  1. What would your perfect day away from work be?

I’d probably still be reading and working, but in the Russian National Library in Saint-Petersburg. I’d spend the day reading different materials in the different reading rooms, but spend lots of time in the tea room and buffet talking to Russian colleagues.

  1. What’s the question you’d most like to have been asked (and why)?

Are you available to keep wicket for England next week? I’m a huge cricket fan, and love keeping wicket.

  1. If given complete freedom to start over, what profession would you like to do and why?

I’d probably want to do something where I could spend more time in the open-air. I like idea of working for the forestry commission in some capacity.

  1. What is your favourite movie quote?

“With great power comes great responsibility.” (Peter Parker, Spiderman)

  1. What’s next for Rob?

I’m about to start working on an article about the upkeep of soldiers’ graves in the late Stalinist period. The material is really exciting, and I think it tells us something important about Soviet War Memory.

Best of luck with the research, Rob. Until next time…!

Organising a Conference, or: How to act like a swan!

By Mareike Ahlers (Archaeology PhD)

Graciously gliding across the water, swans have the uncanny ability to present a serene picture of themselves to the world above the water. Underneath the water, however, their feet are paddling frantically to keep them afloat. This sounds very much like organising a conference.

On the 20/21st November 2015, my colleague, Lucy Cummings, and I hosted the 2nd Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium (NEBARSS). Full of new experiences, it was both our first go at organising a conference and our first time presenting an academic paper. You can imagine then, that this was a little daunting! Our conference was a great success. Everyone—guests, colleagues, and staff—was really pleased with how it went. Our effort and organisation certainly paid-off, but it was not without its difficulties.

Starting on Friday evening, Newcastle’s own Dr Chris Fowler gave the keynote on ontologies in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain and Ireland, followed by a wine reception. This was a great start to the conference. The excellent keynote set the tone for the rest of the conference, and the wine reception provided the opportunity for everyone to meet. The occasion also gave the speakers the chance to loosen up and calm down any nerves with a glass of wine (or two!) … While we proceeded to stress about making dinner plans, double-checking that people had places to stay, and cleaning up and clearing everything away before rushing down to meet everyone for dinner. But the world seems much more relaxed after an amazing curry!

But the organisation does not stop there. On Saturday morning (the main day of the conference), Lucy and I met at the department well before 8am, doing more clearing and setting up coffee, biscuits and poster boards… These are wobbly A4 folding screen boards onto which we had to fit A1 posters. Just a little hiccup.

Trying to get your nerves under control throughout the morning is especially tricky if you know that your own, very first, paper is coming up in just a few minutes. While finally getting the chance to tell your audience about henges and long barrows, a little piece of paper telling you that only there are only 5 minutes remaining is vying for your attention. They seemed really off-putting! But, we are told that it happens even to the best.

After that it is finally time to relax… well, at least until lunch time. While everyone else was enjoying the delicious food platters and sandwiches, we were already starting to think about the next session: making sure that all the power point presentations are working, water is ready at the lectern to slake any sudden thirst, and the session leader has some information to use when introducing the speaker.

Finally, after the last session and when all thanks have been given, the first sip of your cold drink in the pub is the best feeling of the whole day. Everyone is happy, the conference is a success, no fatal mishaps, no wine or coffee on the carpets. You managed pass the whole day off like a swan. Time to breathe … and start thinking about the next one!

The Importance of being ‘Visible’

By Sam Petty (PhD History)

Tuesday 8th December, 6.30pm, Armstrong 3.38: “The Importance of being ‘Visible'” question and answer session.


I’m sure many of you would agree that academic life can be a fairly bewildering experience. Trying to get on with your research is a difficult enough enterprise in its own right. When you factor in applying for conferences and funding, planning research trips, and partaking in the oft-maligned practice of ‘networking’, it can all seem a bit too much.


The idea for this event came from several discussions about the value of the advice that our more experienced colleagues can give to us. My own experience of organising an academic conference for the first time was made much easier by being able to repeatedly saunter over to a colleague’s desk and ask her how she’d done things for her conference the year before (“never underestimate the frequency and cost of refreshments”). Equally, being able to pitch my conference paper to non-specialist colleagues was a great way to learn how to get my argument right for an audience that would only know the basics of my research.

I also wish that I knew things ‘then’ that I know now. I wish I could go back and tell undergraduate me what it would be like doing a Masters. I wish I could go back and tell the Masters me how the PhD funding and application process was structured. I wish I could go back and tell first-year PhD me not to spend six months on a mostly fruitless research thread that I still haven’t fully resolved.

The point is, is that although I have had to learn things through trial and error, it doesn’t mean we need to perpetuate this cycle of misery (there’s only so much ‘character building’ I can take). I’d like to give advice to other students who went through the same experiences as I did. I’d also like to talk to some of our academics so that I don’t make the same mistakes as they did when they were at the same point in their career.

Sometimes it seems, however, that there is rarely the right forum to receive (and give!) this sage knowledge – there are only so many times you can ambush someone in the corridor or the staff room before you feel like you’re unduly imposing on their time and freedom of movement!

With this in mind, the Postgraduate Forum have teamed up with several of the School’s academics to try and help you navigate the murky byways of academic life.

Our academic panel will consist of Dr. Chris Bannister, Dr. Robert Dale, Dr. Katie East, Dr. Philip Garrett, Dr. Patrick Gleeson, Dr. John Holton, and Dr. Lisa-Marie Shillito. We hope that this group represents the different disciplines in our School, so that there will be something relevant and representative for all of us who attend. Our panel will take questions from the crowd, and then when we’ve drained their knowledge (but hopefully not their patience), we can all just meld into informal groups to carry on the conversation.

Use the hashtag #AskThePGF to get your questions in before the event (although there will be time at the event to ask any you might have.

This is an event is for any students that are interested in attending, not just PhDs. This includes any Masters or MLitt students who are thinking about ‘the next step’, or any UGs who are contemplating postgrad study. We’re hoping for a useful, inclusive, and informal event that will hopefully set the ball rolling for more interaction in the future.

Newsletter, week 30.11.15.

Apologies for the delay, this week’s newsletter is now here.  If you would like to promote an event, please get in touch

Research Seminars

Thursday 3rd December, 4-5pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.06 Audrey Horning (Queens University Belfast): ‘Worlds in Motion: archaeological exploration of early modern identity in Ireland and America’

Classics and Ancient History:
Wednesday 2nd December, 5-7pm Armstrong Building, Room 2.50 Phillip Horky (Durham University): ‘The spectrum of animal rationality in Plutarch’

Wednesday 2nd December, 5-7pm Armstrong Building, Room 1.04
Sean O’Connell (Queens University Belfast): ‘Looking beyond the Troubles: social memory in Belfast’s docklands’


Further School Events

Night at the Museum
Thursday 3rd December at the Great North Museum from 6-9pm


Newcastle University Public Lectures

1st December, 5:30-6:45pm, Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building Naveed Sattar (Professor of Metabolic Medicine, Glasgow University) “Cholesterol, statins and heart attack risks: the truth of the matter”

3rd December, 5-30-6:45pm, Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building Karen Sands-O’Conner (Professor of English, Buffalo State College, New York) “From abolition to Zephaniah: a brief history of literature for the Black British child”