Hey, I’m Dan, one of six new student fellows this year working with BILT. My main focus will be improving student research experiences and opportunities, especially for undergraduate students who can often feel restricted from engaging in wider academic life during their studies. As a second year PhD student in Philosophy, I’ve come to appreciate the barriers that new students can face when attempting to get their ideas heard and the benefits that can come with encouraging research from individuals at all stages in their academic careers.
My thesis involves looking at a novel theory, the Free Energy Principle, in the life sciences and so encompasses methods from a wide range of disciplines, although my primary focus is applying concepts from the general philosophy of science to this rather strange theory. At times this means analysing the sociological and psychological dimensions of scientific research, a process that has led me to think more deeply about the way certain assumptions are baked into our pedagogical approach to research. By working with BILT this year I hope not only to challenge some of these assumptions but provide creative ways for students to participate in new research communities and hone skills that are too often associated with postgraduate study.
For despite the efforts of many, traditional ‘banking’ models of learning persist within undergraduate teaching. These treat students as essentially blank receptacles to which knowledge has to essentially be inserted through repetitive teaching and examination. And while the adoption of this view is certainly due to convenience at times, it imposes a arbitrary separation between undergraduate and postgraduate life which is difficult to overcome without embracing new critical and creative pedagogies.
Yet, many of the pre-existing projects BILT has established can help bridge this gap. As part of my joint role in ‘Students as Co-creators and Researchers’ with Tasha, I hope to improve upon the well-received Undergraduate Research Journal and Festival of Research, turning these into wider projects that enhance the university experiences of students and help them take meaningful steps towards creating valuable and rewarding research. For despite having moved into postgraduate study, many aspects of my undergraduate education left me feeling a bit discouraged from a future academic career. If I can quell any similar feelings of disappointment and alienation through my work at BILT, then I would consider that a great accomplishment.
Business aside, I grew up in the West Country and have lived in Bristol now for over six years. It’s a city that never stops ceasing to interest and entertain me in equal measure and having co-run a record label here since moving, I like to (maybe vainly) think I have some insight into the brilliant artistic and intellectual movements happening within its borders. Beyond hearing about student experiences, I’m always keen for a chat about music, art and philosophy, so if you have any thoughts about any of the above, I’m all ears.