Simon Walker

MSc Health History

What were your reasons for taking on a postgraduate degree, and why did you decide to study at Strathclyde University?

I chose the University of Strathclyde because it offered a course on Health and Medical history, which allowed me to pursue my interest in medical military history with some of the best historians in this field. Strathclyde also boasted great facilities, new learning technologies, and a dedicated study space for humanities and social science postgraduate students.

I also chose to do a Masters in Health History partially because of an internship I had with the National Library of Scotland during my third year which introduced me to history of medicine and partially because of how much I had loved studying history during my undergraduate studies.

I finished my undergraduate in History with the Thomas Telford Prize for the highest marks in History and a First Class Honours. I was then very fortunate to win funding from the Wellcome Trust which funded me for my Masters and then subsequently I was again lucky to be supported by the Economic and Social Research Council for my PhD.

What do you like about your course? 

The Masters in Health History was an interesting course to study. The classes covered a wide array of health and medical issues, which allowed me to both focus on my passion for military medicine, while also explore topics such as food health, drug regulation and 19th century medical advances. The courses were well taught and provided an opportunity to engage with the subject matter at a high level.

I originally came to University of Strathclyde as a mature student with few qualifications and I began with the intention to train to be a teacher. During my first year, one of my tutors took me aside and told me that I could make a career in academia and I have been committed to doing that ever since. I think this chance interaction sums up what makes Strathclyde a great place to study. I have always been well supported by the department and by particular members of the faculty. I know I would not have made it this far without that support.

What specialist knowledge / professional skills have you developed whilst studying the course?

I experienced a steep learning curve during the Masters programme. I started the course with core research skills that I had built from my undergraduate studies. However, studying at a higher level meant that I could advance these skills as well as hone my archival research methods. For me, the biggest challenge was improving my writing skills and the support I received during my Masters was a very important part of that process.

How is your course specifically helping to enhance you current career / prepare for your future career?

Without my Masters I could have not have achieved the funding for my PhD. My Masters helped me develop skills that I would later use to publish, present at conferences, research and teach. Additionally, my Masters dissertation allowed me to focus more specifically on a topic on which I was passionate. My research into military medicine went on to form the basis of my PhD proposal. 

What are your ambitions for the future? How do you think your postgraduate degree, and your time at Strathclyde, will help you achieve your goals

My ambitions are simple:  Finish my PhD, get a research or teaching job in academia and increase my bowtie collection. My Masters will certainly be essential for two out of three of these crucial life goals. The Masters programme taught me key skills that I use daily in my PhD and I was very glad to stay at Strathclyde after my Masters ended.

Additionally, Strathclyde also opened some fantastic doors to me by helping me develop my YouTube public engagement series ‘feedingunderfire’ and by putting me in touch with journals and academics at other institutions. Being at Strathclyde also gave me the opportunity to work at The Scottish Parliament as part of the Events Management team for the 2017 Festival of Politics. All of these fantastic experiences stem from the support and skills I gained as part of doing my Masters at Strathclyde. 

What have been the main challenges studying at postgraduate level?

The jump from undergraduate to postgraduate was challenging, but exciting. The pace quickens, the workload increases and it is important to keep up. Although you are much more responsible for your own development and your own learning, the learning curve is not too steep and you quickly adapt.