Helen Falconer Jameel MA scholar
Helen completed the MA in 2010 and is currently working as a Research Governance Officer in the Research & Commercial Division at Cardiff University.
What would you recommend about studying for the MA in Islam in Contemporary Britain at Cardiff?
As the study of Islam in the UK is constantly evolving, the MA moves with it. Even in the two years since I completed the course, so much has changed both in Britain and on the world stage, making it an extremely dynamic and fascinating area of study. The course is very well taught and there is an excellent support network in place.
The MA course is also very multi-disciplinary and broad in the areas it covers. I enjoyed the fact that it balanced qualitative research methods training (taught through Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences) with modules on the sociological, historical and theological backgrounds to Britain’s diverse Muslim communities. The dissertation module allows you the creative freedom to pursue the areas which most interest you and to put your research skills into action out in the ‘real world’ if you choose to.
How did your Cardiff studies help you in the job you have now chosen?
The skills I acquired when setting up and managing my own research project with Muslim women in Cardiff (for my dissertation) equipped me well for my current role in research policy and management. Going through the process of completing ethics applications and thinking about informed consent proved to be directly relevant to my current role, part of which involves guiding students and staff through the same processes.
What did you enjoy most about your course?
For me, the highlight of the course was the dissertation module. It allowed me to put the research methods I had learned about in lecture theatres and the library, into practice with Muslim communities in Cardiff. It was a privilege to learn about an area of life which, as a non-Muslim, I had previously known little about and to speak with participants who generously gave up their time to speak with me.
Another exciting opportunity was the chance to attend the Jameel Scholars Conference in Cairo (June 2010). It was great to be able to meet up with other Jameel Scholars (past and present) from all over the world, from a wide range of academic disciplines and hear about their research. We were also fortunate enough to have some time to visit the mosques and markets of downtown Cairo after the conference, which was fantastic.
What was the best thing about your time as a student at Cardiff?
I loved the fact that the University is very much part of the city. As Cardiff is quite compact, you feel at home and part of the fabric of the city almost instantly. I am very reluctant to leave now!
Tell us a bit about your current job, how you got into what you are doing and what you enjoy about it most.
I currently work as the Research Governance Officer for Cardiff University. Whilst waiting for my MA result, I started some temping work within the Research and Commercial Division and became interested in the work of the Research Policy and Management team. My experiences on the MA meant that I had some understanding of the challenges and considerations that student and staff researchers have to take into account when planning research. After providing administrative support for the team for a while, when a job became available, I decided to have a go and apply. My role largely involves approving research taking place within the NHS, advising students and staff on areas such as research ethics and considering the risks research might pose, both to participants and to the University.
I really enjoy the work, which involves dealing with every type of research project going on across the University, from PhD studies to large clinical trials. Every day is different, forces me to think on my feet and presents new challenges. Doing the MA has enabled me to understand things from the researcher’s point of view and I like being able to assist researchers and make the approvals process quicker and easier for them. It is always fascinating to have an insight into the wide range of research going on across the University.
Tell us about your career path in brief since leaving Cardiff.
Since completing the MA in Islam in Contemporary Britain in September 2010, I have been fortunate enough to find work within Cardiff University. Although this wasn’t necessarily what I had planned when I finished the course, I love working for the University and really enjoy the field of work I have ended up in. I hope to continue to work within Higher Education and to maintain an active link with the world of academic research.
What opportunities do you feel have opened up to you as a result of being a Cardiff University Jameel Scholar?
So many! The study of Islam and multi-culturalism in Britain has fascinated me since I completed my undergraduate degree in 2007 and I had always wanted to do an MA in the field, but had been restricted by finances. Being fortunate enough to be able to focus on the MA full-time and engage fully in a subject which I really love without having to worry about extra debt, has made a huge difference. I certainly wouldn’t be in the job I’m in now if I hadn’t possessed the experiences that doing the MA provided and it has opened up lots of ideas for potential future study. Most of all, I have met some really inspiring and interesting people as a result of being a Jameel Scholar and feel part of a large international network of Jameel Scholarship Alumni.