UA Alumni: Melanie Hechenberger
Melanie was the Global Winner in the Classical Studies & Archaeology category in 2017.
She says about herself: "I am one of those people who have arguments with CD players and call upon their tech-savvy brother whenever there is a computer issue. The choice to study history—and not just any history, but ANCIENT history—was in part giving way to a natural desire to interact with material from a time when the CD player didn’t exist, as it was out of genuine curiosity (which, of course, was also a motivator)."
What are you doing now and what has happened since the award?
It has only been a few months since I officially completed my research thesis but I’m already enrolled in another course with the design of setting myself up to work in the one place that every student goes to for resources and assistance: the library.
Going to the UA Global summit was an eye-opening experience for me in that I had the opportunity to converse with students from across all disciplines and I loved hearing what they had to say.
Since then, I have mentored many undergraduate students from various disciplines in transitioning their coursework into a research paper that they go on to present at a conference. I would like to continue doing this kind of work for a career and see university libraries as a good base for assisting students in the future.
Has receiving an award for your hard work helped?
It has certainly helped. Most importantly for my research degree, it helped me realise that I have the ability to undertake such a project. If I had not taken a chance and submitted my work to this program, I would not have even contemplated doing a research degree for I had no reason to suppose that my work was good enough to be counted among the amazing work produced by academics.
My UA experience taught me that my work was on par with the best of my peers from around the world, which gave me the confidence I needed to put my hand up to take on a research project.
I encourage anyone who is uncertain about whether or not to do a research degree to submit to the UA, for it is a fantastic way to discover the quality of your work as well as a great achievement to list on your resume.
What advice would you give to students?
If you plan on pursuing a research degree, the best advice I can give is find a topic that you love.
When you commit to such a project, you commit to dedicating yourself to reading about, writing about, and talking about that one subject for the next few years. This process will be a lot easier and more rewarding for you if the topic is one you are excited about.
Your enthusiasm will also help you champion your research and commit with pleasure to doing those extra things that postgraduate students are expected to do, like go to conferences and write journal articles—things that if done well, could be what gets you over the line when it comes to getting work at the end of your degree.
"A chance comment from a tutor inspired me to test my abilities and I submitted my work to the UA. The success I had in the program got me thinking about doing postgraduate research in the field of Egyptology and now I have a Master’s thesis to my name in which I explore 42 ancient Egyptian tomb autobiographies for insight into how ancient politics shaped these mortuary texts."