Demetra is a Czech/Cypriot PhD student in Architecture who was working as a Project Architect before undertaking her studies. Her research focuses on Mobility Infrastructures as Socio-technical Mediators: Unfolding the Blanka Tunnel Controversy.
On my research
My research investigates the role of mobility infrastructures and their relationship to the city.
More specifically, my study focuses on the complexities of the Blanka tunnel project in Prague, Czech Republic.
It asks how we can reimagine infrastructural landscapes of mobility as integral social and material constituents of an urban fabric; and why is it important to reread such infrastructures as multi-dimensional spaces of physical movement and social processes rather than three-dimensional structures built for the sole purpose of travel.
I am interested in cross-disciplinary methods that investigate infrastructural production and/or inhabitation in multiple cultural contexts.
Drawing insights from Geography and Anthropology, and using STS inspired methods, I am eager to develop new methodological tools for analysing infrastructural development and the parallel transformation of the city from an architectural lens.
On choosing my PhD
Architectural education is a difficult and lengthy study.
The research and teaching experiences I had gained during that time became much more interesting to me than the architectural profession itself.
Immersed in studying architecture and practising it for over a decade, I observed how specific disconnects between theory and practice can be equally fascinating and challenging.
I became eager to explore the complexity of cities and their components, a task that would not have been possible in architectural practice.
I find the breadth and depth of scholarship at The University of Manchester’s School of Environment, Education and Development very impressive.
I was eager to work with Professor Albena Yaneva on ANT as a new method of empirical enquiry in architecture, and I was also open to the prospect of cross-disciplinary supervision offered in the School, which would allow me to navigate the challenge of my topic in a constructive manner.
“The multicultural community at the University makes it easier to adapt to life in Manchester and makes the process of being in a foreign country less lonely.”
On my PhD student experience
The working environment at The University of Manchester is a positive one.
There is a strong sense of academic community, and I was lucky to find great colleagues to share the PhD experience with.
One of the highlights has most certainly been sharing the successes and difficulties of the PhD with my colleagues.
On my biggest challenge
A PhD researcher is expected to take on several tasks, some of which are not directly related to their research but are necessary for their academic career path.
Organising workshops and events, teaching assistantships, applying for various conferences and external workshops, networking, are some of the few things a researcher is expected to take part in.
Juggling many things while making time to complete my own research has been quite challenging.
On additional opportunities
I’ve attended workshops, conferences and lectures, both within and outside the university.
I had the opportunity to attend a week-long workshop in the Netherlands, organised by the Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture on the topic of Infrastructures. It was a great learning experience and I met a wonderful group of researchers with similar interests.
I’ve also taken a few training and development courses. There is a wide range of options offered at the University. I’ve taken an NVivo course at the Cathie Marsh Institute which was well organised and covered a wide range of topics.
On being an international student at Manchester
The multicultural community at the University makes it easier to adapt to life in Manchester and makes the process of being in a foreign country less lonely.
I also signed up to a kickboxing society and salsa dance classes, both close to the University.
It’s a good way to meet people and to clear your head after a long day.
On tips for future students
Communicate with your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice; don’t be afraid to feel lost at the beginning. The PhD can be a lonely experience, but it doesn’t have to be.
Use the resources the library has to offer, and other search tools, subscriptions and workshop opportunities that may be useful to you.
Talk to people outside of your discipline. You’ll be surprised how useful their insights can be.
Sign up for newsletters and use Twitter to find out what other academics are up to. Many conferences, grants and other opportunities are posted on Twitter, and many academics use it as a platform to rant, inform, and support each other.
Read more about our PhD Architecture programme.