Placement profiles

Our placement profiles see researchers and employers discussing their personal experiences of taking part in placements organised through the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership.

Stephan Schonlau – PhD in Music

During the summer, I took up a three-month full-time placement at the British Library in London to work on their continuing project to improve catalogue records of their holdings of 16th and 17th century printed music. I was also given the opportunity to curate two small exhibitions of early printed music, one of which was held during a study day at the Library. In addition, I published five blog posts for the British Library music blog, in which I discussed some interesting printed music, such as two songs in an English anthology of 1678 that use what appears to be a phonetic transcription of a text in a German regional dialect.

I am grateful to the NWCDTP for their support, both financial and otherwise, without which I would not have been able to take up the placement. It was a thoroughly rewarding experience, not least because of the welcoming atmosphere at the Library and the opportunity to get some hands-on experience behind the scenes at one of the world’s biggest and most important research libraries.

Stephan Schonlau

PhD Music

Thomas Wroblewski – PhD in History

The placement at the British Library was an excellent way for me to put my research to practical use in a non-HE institution, to make an important contribution to a vital project, and to gain essential skills for my research. I gained unprecedented access to the library and through close work with lead curators I gained practical experience as well as invaluable contacts and knowledge of how the British Library operates.

In addition to the new expertise I picked up at the library, it was particularly refreshing to see that I could use skills I have learnt during my PhD in an entirely different context. I couldn’t recommend more highly taking time to do a placement.

Thomas Wroblewski

PhD History

Christina Brennan – PhD English and American Studies

My placement at FACT provided a valuable opportunity for me to develop a series of events for young visitors to a cultural organisation based upon my research interests (science-fiction film). Organising the series, called ‘Science-Fiction Films to Challenge the Future’, challenged me to think about how I could present my research in a way which would encourage young people to talk and think about a range of contemporary themes in science-fiction cinema (including climate change). Applying for the placement was a rigorous process which enabled me to think about how my PhD project could support FACT’s educational designed to accompany their summer exhibition called the ‘New Observatory’.


Through the placement, I was able to collaborate with cultural and arts professionals and develop my organisational and project management skills. I found it particularly exciting to see how my research and teaching experience could be applied outside of the university environment. I think PhD students often forget the unique skillset they can bring to organisations outside of HE and the placement – from approaching FACT, to applying for funding, and delivering the workshop series – encouraged me to broaden my ideas of a post-PhD career. To round off my placement, I successfully applied to present at the poster exhibition hosted by the annual conference for the National Coordination Center for Public Engagement. I presented and discussed my exceptionally useful experiences on the NWCDTP placement scheme and endorsed the scheme to representatives from other consortia and universities.

Christina Brennan

PhD English and American Studies

Peter Kalu – PhD in Creative Writing

Football. The national game. Place of scandal, contestation, myth and gloire. It provokes passions, defines & inspires, unites & divides. I’ve spent my time at the National Football Museum digging into ancient texts that speculate on the origins of the beautiful game and document its growth and variegation. I’ve found myself rubbing research shoulders with among others Professor F. P. Magoun of Harvard University (who in 1938 wrote a formidable attempt to trace the game back to the 5th century; and the wonderfully named Morris Marples – Professor Magoun’s successor in research. I’ve used the research in an attempt to write four, football-related short stories.

Peter Kalu

PhD Creative Writing, Placement with the National Football Museum, Manchester

Dr James Perkins – Research and PG Development Manager

The PhD students who have participated in our placement scheme have developed and applied transferrable research, communications and analytical skills outside the university sector whilst making a tangible and meaningful contribution our work.

Placement projects support the Library to develop and enhance the accessibility of our collections, to create new research, teaching and learning resources, and to reach out to different public and academic audiences through cultural events and research engagement activities. The work carried out by the placement students supports our professional leadership role in areas such as preservation and conservation, as well as contributing to the development of our many international partnerships.

Placement students join a vibrant community of collaborative PhD and early-career researchers working with colleagues based across our specialist curatorial teams and beyond.

Dr James Perkins

Research and PG Development Manager, The British Library

Professor Rebecca Herisonne – Supervisor, Professor of Musicology

Stephan Schonlau undertook a three-month PhD placement at the British Library from June to September 2016, working on the project ‘European Music Print Culture in the 16th and 17th Centuries’. His work involved cataloguing and assessing the physical characteristics of a range of primary printed sources of early modern music held in the British Library, mainly from Italy, Germany, England and France, and developing ways of describing these materials both within the context of the library catalogue, and also to a broad audience, including both academics and the wider public.

Stephan’s ongoing PhD focuses on English music from the latter part of the seventeenth century, so his experience during his placement not only enabled him to become familiar with a much broader range of sources than he would have done during the normal course of his research — which in turn gave him new perspectives on the contexts in which his English sources were produced and used – but also to gain hands-on experience of working with primary musical materials that he would otherwise have used in digital reproduction only.

He discovered a number of interesting and little-known annotations in some of the sources, and was able to produce several blog posts to draw attention to the unusual features of these books. As well as learning a wide variety of codicological and cataloguing skills, he also developed a new network of contacts at the library, and gained a good deal of insight into post-doctoral career opportunities outside academia.

Professor Rebecca Herisonne

Supervisor, Professor of Musicology, The University of Manchester