My intellectual home

Today is my last day as Wellcome Trust Fellow at the PHRC, de Montfort University.

It took me several months to actually believe that I had got the fellowship. Seeing my first payslip, putting the Wellcome logo in a power point slide or having professional cards became small celebratory acts that reminded me that it wasn’t my imagination -I had been awarded THE fellowship!

It took me so long to convince myself that it was happening that now it feels weird it’s over.

Sounds like a cliché, but really: I don’t have words to express the gratitude that I feel today towards the Wellcome and my colleagues at the PHRC.

Being funded by the Wellcome Trust has probably been the best academic thing that could happen to me. They are not only extremely generous in their funding -fellowship, research expenses and open access fees – but they truly care about what they do. This is what makes them unique, and what really makes me want to work with them again. I have felt very supported by all the staff all along the way -can’t count how many times I have emailed Lauren! The workshops for grantholders where we discussed the issues that directly affects us were also very helpful and inspiring. Sharing problems with other ECR is always good, but having someone willing and able to listen and make changes is amazing.

They were enough brave to fund my crazy project in a department which had never worked with the Wellcome before: the Photographic History Research Centre, at DMU. Like the Gaulish, this small department in Leicester is struggling to do photographic history in a different, interdisciplinary in way. And medical humanities seemed the right place to experiment.

Elizabeth Edwards, previous director of the PHRC and my sponsor, said two weeks ago that I had found my intellectual home -and I agree. After years of going from one disciplinary field to the other, I finally found people who deeply understand what I’m saying. Such a relief! Of course, I don’t mean that other people don’t understand me -I’m not a French philosopher after all. But here they know where I’m going to, why I’m asking such and such questions. They see all the background thoughts in my head, even the ones that are not articulated yet. This hasn’t made me lazier, quite the contrary. With their help, their sharp minds and their incisive questions, I can dig deeper. I think better.

Two years at the PHRC have definitely made me a better scholar. I obviously learned a lot about photographic history -Elizabeth, Kelley and Gil are simply the best. But most important for me, they have showed me the kind of academic that I want to be. The one who cares about the job, but also about the others. The one who always has a kind word of support for PhDs and ECRs -even when they’re not at their best. The one who is generous and shares what she knows, because we’re all here to learn. The one who celebrates collective success besides personal promotions. The one who is happy when is surrounded by intelligent people -the one who doesn’t see them as a threat. The academic who cares about the politics of education, diversity and gender issues. The one who works to bring out the best in the students.

And the future? Still a mystery. But we always say that once a PHRC, always a PHRC. Wherever I go next, I know where home is.