Scholars tell their stories

  • October 16, 2017
Scholars tell their stories

Four Gates Cambridge Scholars will talk about the reality of field work at an event this week.

Four Gates Cambridge Scholars will tell their stories of life in the field at an event on 19th October.

The Scholar Stories event will cover archaeology from the Mediterranean to Central America, the role of technology in education, research on sex workers in Latin America and what our relations with dogs tell us about ourselves.

In her talk, Why we Dig It: Behind-the-Scenes Stories of Archeological Research, Sara Morriset [2016], who is doing a PhD in Archaeology,  will give an exciting, unpolished account of life in the field as an archeologist. From the islands of the Mediterranean to the jungles of Central America, Sara has had the opportunity to travel far and wide for her research and her presentation will include experiences as varied as getting caught in a huge rainstorm in the jungles of Guatemala amongst Mayan ruins, rushing to a jungle hospital after being bit by a poisonous spider in Belize and living for two months in the sand dunes of Ica without any cell phone reception or internet.

Mike Meany [2016], who is doing a PhD in Education, will be talking about the intersection of educational equity and technology. He will weave these themes into three stories about his former students: Alvaro, now attending Northwestern University; Ramon, a high school dropout; and Alejandra, a young woman who passed away long before her time. He says his reflections will “raise questions about the role that technology plays in our lives, how it holds tremendous promise for social good and human advancement while at the same time imposing insidious control and distortion onto our lives”.

Jessica Van Meir [2017], who is doing an MPhil in Development Studies, will speak about research she carried out in 2016 on sex work in Argentina and Ecuador. She will talk about how not obtaining security clearance in time for an intended internship with the US Embassy in Ecuador serendipitously helped her to be in just the right place at the right time to find sex workers to participate in her research. She spent her time wandering the streets of Buenos Aires till 5am, entering brothels with sex worker leaders in three Ecuadorian cities and working for a transgender rights organisation in Quito. She says: “While my talk is meant to be more entertaining than academic, most important for me is to convey the challenges that the 109 sex workers I interviewed faced in their daily lives and how they organised to demand their rights.”

Saba Sharma [2015], who is doing a PhD in Geography, will also talk about her fieldwork experiences meeting two dogs with very distinct personalities and a very antagonistic relationship with each other. One was endlessly affectionate and scared of everything and the other was aggressive, dominating and aloof. She will talk about an incident where one of the dogs was injured, how the other dog reacted, how she and others reacted as their carers and the different tricks of dog psychology that were tried on them to achieve peace between the two. She says: ”Our solution to the problem helps us realise why people/dogs can be aggressive or moody, and how dogs and humans tend to react much the same, depending on how you treat them, whether you decide to punish them, or just show them some love.”

Scholar Stories takes place from 7:00-9:00pm in the GSCR on 19th October.

Sara Morrisset

Sara Morrisset

  • Scholar
  • United States
  • 2016 PhD Archaeology
  • St John's College

I am an archeologist interested in the arts and architecture of the cultures of Peru. It is through my personal experience as a classically trained artist that I became fascinated at how artifacts can express individual and cultural identity. The study of art and architecture of the past allows us the privilege to uncover information about forgotten peoples and cultures. This interest led me to pursue Bachelors degrees in both Art History and Anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles. My past research has pertained to the topics of agency, heritage, phenomenology, iconoclasm, ontology, gender, and materialization of ideology. My PhD research will serve to fill a lacuna in the knowledge of the Late Intermediate Period on the south coast of Peru and will shed light upon the shrouded origins of the Ica culture that lived in the region. This project will help to understand this understudied area of Peru and will ultimately serve as a collaborative project with the local population to preserve and display the artifacts in a local heritage museum.

Previous Education

University of California (Los Angeles)
University of Cambridge

Michael Meaney

Michael Meaney

  • Alumni
  • United States
  • 2016 PhD Education
  • Churchill College

I am pursuing a PhD in Educational Research with concentrations in Economic Sociology and Information Science. My research focuses on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other open-scale educational resources, and how these resources are reproducing inequalities in society. I also investigate how to make them more equitable for all learners, and their impact on learners' labor market mobility. Before Cambridge, I worked as a public school teacher in Phoenix, Arizona, and worked as a designer and technologist as an Innovation Fellow at Arizona State University. My interest in education and technology emerged out of my childhood experience speaking with a pronounced stutter, a failed technological intervention to correct it, and the gratitude I have to my parents and teachers for eventually helping me forge a stable voice. I received a bachelor’s degree in International Politics from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University.

Previous Education

Georgetown University
Arizona State University

Jessica Van Meir

Jessica Van Meir

  • Alumni
  • United States
  • 2017 MPhil Development Studies
  • Pembroke College

As an undergraduate at Duke University majoring in Public Policy and minoring in Psychology and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, I have focused on using policy for the advancement of gender equality, whether through combatting campus sexual assault, advocating for transgender rights in Ecuador, or increasing menstrual product access for girls and women in Kenya and the US. I recently completed my honors thesis on sex work in Ecuador and Argentina, examining the importance of physical workspaces to sex workers’ conditions and how states regulate sex work space. Through the MPhil in Development Studies at Cambridge, I plan to further study how states and citizens negotiate space in cities and explore methods for combatting poverty in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. I am honored to have been selected to become a member of the Gates-Cambridge community.

Previous Education

Duke University

Saba Sharma

Saba Sharma

  • Alumni
  • India
  • 2015 PhD Geography
  • Hughes Hall

As a researcher at a think tank in New Delhi, I have developed an interest in how research can feed into policy discourse. My PhD project will focus on studying the state in Assam, in Northeast India, from the perspective of recurring violence. In particular, I will look at how everyday practices of governance influence the way conflict unfolds in the Bodoland region of Assam, where violence has been a persistent phenomenon for several decades. At the undergraduate level, I studied Economics, before moving on to studying Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Masters level. During this period, I developed an interest in field-based research, which I was able to pursue further as a policy researcher. For this project, I plan to employ an interdisciplinary approach towards the study of the state and conflict, using primarily ethnographic methods, and considering factors of contested resources, territoriality and political economy as well. I’m excited to be undertaking this research at Cambridge, and hope to remain engaged with research and writing on the state in India in the future.

Previous Education

University of Delhi
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Catholic Universit

Latest News

Gut bacteria links to immune responses in the brain

Bugs in the gut may hold the key to protective immune measures in the brain which could have implications for diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, according to a new study led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Zachary Fitzpatrick. A paper based on his PhD research has recently been published in Nature and it highlights […]

Exploring the social barriers to take-up of green technology

How can rural communities be encouraged to take up green energy solutions? A new study co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath investigates the social barriers to uptake of household appliances fuelled by green energy. Based on research on more than 14.5K households in rural communities in Rwanda, the study, published in Renewable Energy, found […]

A new technique to decode the way the nervous system works

How do the billions of neurons in the human brain work together to give rise to thought or certain types of behaviour? A new study led by Gates Cambridge Alumnus Eviatar Yemini [2007] outlines a colouring technique, known as NeuroPAL (a Neuronal Polychromatic Atlas of Landmarks), which makes it possible – at least in experiments […]

An innovative approach to plant protection

Shauna-Lee Chai is passionate about working on wicked problems, about using her entrepreneurial skills to improve the lives of others and about seeing the big picture, something she says her experience as a Gates Cambridge Scholar contributed to. Her expertise is in invasive plant species and for three years she was Board Director of the […]