The Westmere Scholars

The Westmere Scholars will be engaging with postgraduate researcher communities, initiating and delivering researcher development activities and promoting the postgraduate researcher hub, Westmere.

Sophia Butt (College of Arts and Law)

My PhD takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining the impact of the UK's counter-terrorism strategy on the education sector. Now in my second year, I am registered with the Departments of English Language & Applied Linguistics, and Social Policy, which makes me the 2017-18 Westmere Scholar for the College of Arts & Law.

My son, who studies at the University of Surrey, is also in his second year of a four year degree, which means that, all being well, we should both graduate at around the same time!

 I have been working in higher education institutions (HEIs) across the UK and internationally in different guises (lecturer, examiner, course designer, academic programme director, dissertation supervisor, staff trainer...) since 1997. I have a keen interest in Forensic Linguistics and Politics, and enjoy photography and travel in any spare time.

I look forward to combining my experiences of employment in HEIs with being a doctoral researcher myself to support the postgraduate researcher (PGR) community from the five colleges of the University of Birmingham (UoB) through the Westmere PGR Hub - the same building where I first became affiliated to the UoB over 20 years ago.

Matthew Porter (College of Engineering and Physical Sciences)

I am a second-year Doctoral Researcher from the School of Metallurgy and Materials in the Advanced Ceramic Composites group developing the next generation of aerospace engine materials for the United States Air Force laboratory.

Specifically, I am looking at how to manufacture these materials quicker using microwave energy to produce dense and high quality ceramic fibre composites that can operate at higher temperatures with a lower mass than the equivalent metallic component used in current engines.

The aim of this research is to first prove the method and then test the capabilities of the material, which if successful will offer improved engine performance, reduced greenhouse emissions and reduced fuel burn.

I consider myself a bit of a UoB veteran having studied for my undergraduate degree and masters here as well totalling over 6 years, however, I’m originally from a sleepy market town in Devon a world away from the brilliant city I now call home.

In my spare time, I play a variety of sports, enjoy a bit of cooking and of course eating, as well as getting back out in the countryside at every opportunity.

I’m excited to part of the scholar team and ready to start showcasing what the Westmere School offers the whole PGR community through a series of events to help everyone feel welcome and flourish at UoB.

Olalekan Lee Aiyegbusi (College of Medical & Dental Sciences

 I am currently in the second year of my PhD programme at the Centre for Patient Reported Outcomes Research (CPROR), Institute of Applied Health Research. Using a mixed-methods approach, my work focuses on the use of patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) in the management of patients with advanced chronic kidney disease.

I look forward to organising, with other Westmere scholars, exciting social events and seminars for PGRs throughout the academic year.

I also hope to assist with the promotion of an active online community for PGRs via social media. When I am not working on my project or collaborating with other PhD researchers on theirs, I enjoy long walks in the woods watching the seasons change.

Charles Goode (College of Life and Environmental  Sciences)

I am a first year doctoral researcher in the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (School of Geography). My broad research interest is in the UK’s pressing housing crisis and which policies would most effectively help to solve this crisis.

Specifically I am looking at whether the Green Belt policy needs to be reformed to accommodate housing need which is a very controversial topic! The thing I really like about planning, especially the housing crisis, is that it is so intertwined with the real world and people lived experiences that everyone has their own view on it!

Outside of the direct research I am enjoying working as a Student Ambassador and Postgraduate E-Learning Assistant in Careers Network. As an E-Learning Assistant in particular I have got to know about many of the things which a whole range of postgraduates face and have really enjoyed tailoring online resources to meet these issues.

Also, I have particularly enjoyed arranging and taking part in events for postgraduates and am passionate, as a Westmere Scholar, to further increase the amount of events available to postgraduates at Westmere.

I really look forward to meeting you all and hearing your views on the sort of events/ activities which you would like to see to further establish Westmere’s reputation as a postgraduate hub.

A lot of my spare time is taken up with my Christian faith and company which I attend but I also enjoy reading history books on Early Modern England, walking in the countryside, exploring cities and swimming, especially in the sea!

Ana Alecsandru (College of Social Sciences)

I am a second year PhD student in International Relations, researching the role of trust between negotiators in nuclear arms control. In the nuclear arena, arms control/disarmament verification is often viewed purely in terms of a dispassionate, scientific process.

I am interested in understanding the human factors, in particular the role of trust between negotiators in shaping the boundaries of verification in an agreement. At the very least, I hope that my research can contribute to constructing safer and more stable ways to manage the existence of nuclear weapons. 

When I’m not working on my own research, I’m still very much interested in everything that relates to nuclear issues (i.e. books, movies, music, art, places etc.). Nuclear weapons have played an important part in popular culture throughout history.

When time permits, I love travelling the world, hiking, running, and just being away from the city noise. I’m also a proud foodie and I love baking.

I am excited to be part of the Westmere team this year and I hope we can build a programme of events for PGRs to feel they can grow intellectually and socially at Birmingham.