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UA Alumni - Harriet Yates

Harriet was the Global Winner of the Philosophy category in 2020.

Since then, Harriet has graduated with a first-class honors B.A. in Philosophy & Linguistics, from the University of Sheffield and in September 2021, she graduated with distinction in M.A. Cognitive Studies, also from the University of Sheffield.

She is now preparing to begin a PhD in Philosophy of Language and Experimental Linguistics, at Radboud University in the Netherlands.

What are you doing now and what has happened since the award?

As I had a fantastic social and academic support system at the University of Sheffield, I decided to stay after completing my B.A. in July 2020, to work towards an M.A. degree in Cognitive Studies.

Despite the impact of Covid-19, I tried to stay active in the student community, as a postgraduate student representative on departmental committees and continuing my undergraduate involvement with the university Tennis Club. Alongside this, I kept busy by opening a craft-based Etsy shop!

Since submitting my M.A. thesis (regarding the philosophy of imagination and cognitive linguistics - a similar topic to my awarded work) in September 2021, I have been enjoying a break from research and had been doing some travelling while considering future career options. I knew I wanted to stay in academia, so I was thrilled to be offered a PhD candidacy in Philosophy of Language and Experimental Linguistics with Radboud University in the Netherlands. For now, my main focus is attempting to teach myself Dutch!

As I’m sure many students can relate to recently, I was thrilled to finally celebrate an official graduation ceremony in March 2022, two years after completing my B.A.!

Have you done something fun/weird?

Before I begin my PhD research, I have set aside a few months to work and travel. Most recently I have been in the Canary Islands, helping to restore the traditional architecture of a 200 year old house!

For the first time, I had the opportunity to learn hands-on carpentry skills, using both power tools and traditional methods, and ultimately helped to build an entirely new wooden floor! It was a very steep learning curve, but being so far out of my comfort zone was really exciting.

Stepping away from academia for a while has really helped me to refocus and reset after the stress of studying through a global pandemic, and I can’t wait to get back to my work!

What do you like the most about what you do?

My main academic drive is drawing together research from a vast range of different disciplines. My main interests lie in the philosophy of language and psycholinguistics, but throughout my studies I have taken modules in philosophy, linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, medicine, and cognitive science!

I really enjoy how each perspective brings something new to the table, perhaps some obscure knowledge or little-known theory, which can be used to answer a seemingly unrelated question.

My M.A. dissertation solved an issue in the Philosophy of Imagination, using a seemingly unrelated theory about how we use metaphors in everyday language – this process is incredibly satisfying!

Has receiving an award for your hard work helped?

In all honesty, amongst all the confusion of studying and graduating during the Covid-19 pandemic, I had forgotten I’d even submitted my work to the Global Undergraduate Awards. It was a big surprise when I got the call that I’d been selected at the Global Winner for the 2020 Philosophy category!

After getting over the initial shock, the confidence boost from the award has been incredible! Imposter syndrome is unfortunately very common in academia; as an undergraduate, I was constantly second-guessing my knowledge and abilities.

Now, I have a constant reminder that people other than myself consider my research to be somewhat interesting! This confidence motivated me to apply to highly competitive M.A. and PhD opportunities, which I otherwise may have found intimidating. As a bonus, the award definitely helps my C.V. stand out from the crowd!

Why should students submit their work?

My experience with the Global Undergraduate Awards has not only massively increased my confidence, but also gave me the valuable opportunity to improve my own editing, abstract writing, and presentation skills.

Outside of their graduation ceremony, I find that undergraduates have very few opportunities to celebrate their work, which should not be the case at all. If you’ve produced something you’re proud of, you deserve the chance to show it off!