Interdisciplinary Experiences as PhD Students

In recent years, there has been an increasing move towards recognising the merits of interdisciplinary study within and outside of academia. Interdisciplinarity is all about combining two or more academic disciplines into one activity, such as a research project. The idea is to think across boundaries, and to draw in knowledge from other fields of study.

“The world has problems while universities have disciplines” (Gordon, 2009)

Interdisciplinarity is often applied in subjects where the traditional disciplinary structure of research institutions are not the most complete way to answer their questions – for example, women’s studies or ethnic studies. It can also be applied to complex subjects that can only be understood by combining the perspectives of two or more fields – think of globalization issues or climate change.

We, Hive Scholars, often see this for ourselves when we either seek support from disciplines beyond our own in order to view our research more holistically, or when we have conversations about our research with people from different educational/socio-political backgrounds who have some deeply useful insights to offer.

Aanchal’s experience with Interdisciplinarity:

I pursued a Liberal Arts and highly interdisciplinary course for a year after my under-graduation in English Literature. I studied Maths, Economics, Music and Art Appreciation, Statistics, Filmmaking, Communications and 12 other subjects! Instead of taking me off-track, they further consolidated my roots, interests and understanding of Literature (which I then went on to pursue from a position of strength).

Devyn’s experience with Interdisciplinarity:

My research focuses on using technology to support synchrony and social behaviours in autistic children and young adults. I belong to the School of Psychology; however, there are elements in my research that cross into Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). I am interested in the affordances of technology for facilitating synchrony and social behaviours; yet, my technological knowledge and skills are close to zero!

Collaboration with Computer Scientists and programmers has been crucial for me to be able to implement my research and to help draw out log data about synchronous game play, which would otherwise be inaccessible for me. I have also had the opportunity to attend both HCI and Psychology conferences, which have been inspirational in developing my research ideas and have helped me to look at my work from different angles.

As I come to the stage of data analysis, my work becomes even more interdisciplinary. Understanding and analysing behavioural synchrony takes me into realms of neurobiology and even mechanics (via dynamical systems theory). These are entirely unchartered territories for me, so embarking on complex analyses on my own is daunting. Meeting and collaborating with people from different schools with expertise in these areas will be important for me going forwards. Bring on the unconference – any synchrony researchers or dynamical systems theorists, give me a shout!

Louise’s experience with Interdisciplinarity:

I like to say I’m interdisciplinary by nature. I did two undergrad degrees at the same time (Communication Studies and Psychology), and I was always making connections between the two fields, so I don’t think I have ever known research without it being interdisciplinary! Moreover, my mom is an Architecture professor, so I frequently had an environmental perspective at hand.

My main research interests are not confined to one discipline – I’m interested in identity and representations in all their glory, which are “keywords” used in several social science disciplines, as well as other areas. For my PhD, I’m looking at international students and social media, and although I’m officially based at the School of Media, Film and Music, my background in Psychology is often called upon. Moreover, my second supervisor is in Education, bringing a whole new perspective to my work.

Doctoral Interdisciplinary Unconference

As PhD students, while we might be interested in interdisciplinarity, it’s not always easy to accomplish. What are the odds of finding a space where not only is it possible to meet people from other schools, but also those who are working on similar research areas?

So, as Hive Scholars, we wanted to create that space for you! The Doctoral Interdisciplinary Unconference will happen on the 19th of November (12:30-2:30) in order to fulfil precisely this lacuna. The idea is to offer a space where such interaction between research areas is possible. Moreover, we hope that your newly formed bonds will stretch well beyond those two hours and take the shape of something fruitful (but more about this later on this blog post…).

Doctoral Interdisciplinary Unconference

At the Doctoral Interdisciplinary Unconference, we will urge you to think about your research in a ‘zoomed out’ fashion. We hope to allow each attendee to envision their research and interests in larger terms and see its scope beyond their discipline. Consequently, it will be possible to make connections with your peers from other schools who might be working with similar concepts and offer the exciting possibility of working together in different ways.

For instance, someone working on trauma literature in the School of English could we have a fruitful conversation with someone working with trauma or mental health in the School of Psychology or with someone working on women in trauma during the Second World War in the School of History. The Unconference will encourage groups such as this to engage with each other and assist them in potentially taking their engagement forward in whatever form they deem best: a reading group, a symposyum, or even a book publication (who doesn’t want a new publishing credit for their CVs?).

By giving Doctoral Researchers the opportunity to bridge disciplines, we are hoping that new connections will be forged and important contributions might be made to the world of higher education and beyond (we are thinking big here!).

We hope to see as many of you as possible at the event! Lunch will be provided.

Event details:

Doctoral Interdisciplinary Unconference
Tuesday, 19 November 2019 – 12:30-2:30
Open Learning Space, Library
Lunch will be provided.
Register here:


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