MSc Political ResearchLauren Toner, UK

Tell us a bit about your background...
I was born and bred here in Glasgow and being lucky enough to have a university with such an outstanding reputation in my home city, choosing to study at Strathclyde was a no brainer for me. I began my undergraduate back in 2010 and took some time out at the end of my second year to gain work experience, most recently at the Scottish Parliament. I was thrilled that I was able to pick up where I left off after five years and finally graduated with a first class honours degree in Politics and International Relations in June 2019. I'm currently on the MSc Political Research course as part of my 4 year ESRC scholarship that I was awarded in May 2019 which will see me through the PhD programme in the Government and Public Policy department.

What inspired you to study your course?
I initially had aspirations to become a Modern Studies teacher and this led me down the Politics route at Strathclyde, though I've obviously since deviated from that path. It didn't take long into the second half of my undergraduate degree to realise that my passion lies with political research, and that working in this field would give me the opportunity to solve the political issues that keep me up at night. Plus I also get to teach, so it's a win win!

Why did you choose to continue studying for your MSc at the University of Strathclyde?
Choosing to stay at Strathclyde for my postgraduate studies wasn't a major conscious decision for me; there was no competition. The department's reputation for research preceded it and I'm confident that no other university could offer the combination of expertise, world-class training and constant support that could match that of the Government & Public Policy academics and support staff.

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde so far?
I've met incredible people and been given amazing opportunities here at Strathclyde so it's difficult for me to narrow it down to one specific highlight. Graduating top of my year and winning the John Mather Rising Star award was pretty cool though and are achievements that I can be proud of forever.

What specialist knowledge/professional skills have you developed whilst studying the course?
I'm still learning but it surprises me every day that I'm now able to use data science and programming to help solve the big political issues at hand. I had previously thought that skills such as coding or even quantitative research methods in general were beyond me, but after gaining confidence through the undergraduate dissertation process, here I am doing a postgraduate degree in developing these crucial skills that will be imperative for my PhD research and beyond. More generally though, through this course I've been fortunate enough to attend research conferences which have offered me countless networking opportunities. Not only do these experiences force me to be comfortable and confident in my own abilities when discussing my research with colleagues and leaders in the field, but networking is a valuable skill that will undoubtedly bode well in any professional situation. 

What would be your advice for people considering taking this course?
Absolutely go for it! The personal and professional rewards far outweigh the challenges that come with studying for an MSc. 

What have been the main challenges studying at postgraduate level?
I've definitely felt a shift in dynamic going from being an undergraduate to postgraduate student and the main challenge that this has presented for me is accepting that my ideas are valued by a department of incredibly talented researchers who lead their respective fields. 

What do you think of the support available?
I honestly couldn't have asked for better supervisors at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. They make sure I have the tools necessary to deal with whatever lies ahead and I have them to thank for giving me the confidence to pursue political research, and for the teaching and research collaborations/publishing opportunities that come with it. It's never a problem to knock on any door for advice and I've received unparalleled personal and professional support from the Government & Public Policy department in particular throughout my studies. 

What are your ambitions for the future?
My immediate ambitions are to finish my PhD and enhance my research and teaching skills in the process. My long term goals are to continue my research beyond this to influence policy that can help shape politics positively for the future!