Jaime is a Spanish PhD student in Sociology, whose research is fully-funded by a School of Social Sciences studentship.
Tell us about your research and what you hope to achieve with it
I'm currently conducting research on men who have unsafe sex with men with the intent of contracting HIV. My interests are mostly based around qualitative research, with an emphasis on creative approaches (such as narrative writing, performance etc.) and ethnography. I am also interested in research ethics and policy impact.
In general, I am more focused on sexuality, HIV/AIDS, masculinity and the impact of new technologies on sex. I want to explore two things: first, how our views of HIV have changed in recent years and, second, how the internet has facilitated these changes. While my actual research subject (bugchasing) is quite niche, it is a perfect way of exploring these larger changes and, hopefully, providing new avenues for public health and sexual health to open conversations with people.
Why did you choose to do your PhD at The University of Manchester?
Manchester is a world-leading institution, with an outstanding sociology programme. I trusted my supervisory team here and felt welcomed by the department from the start. My project is quite complicated and I knew I needed a department and supervisor who were experienced and supportive.
The School has been very kind to provide me with funding for the project. In addition, Manchester being such a large institution provided me with lots of opportunities to engage in training and activities. Manchester itself is a great city with an amazing city centre and lots of LGBT options.
What has been the highlight of your time with us so far?
I LOVE my department. I have felt welcomed and supported by both staff members and other PhDs throughout my time here. Not only do we enjoy plenty of academic activities, but we have quite a few social outings and gatherings, which helps create a sense of community. So far, I would say that I have been incredibly happy to have organised a few events over the past months, particularly the LHIVES: Narratives of HIV that we hosted with support from the department and ArtsMethods.
What has been the most challenging part of your PhD?
I think adapting to the new way of working is challenging. After all, this is the first time doing a PhD, so coping with a degree of uncertainty is a must. My first few months, I felt like I was just rambling on without much idea of where my research was going, but I've come to realise that's quite normal when you start. So yeah, trust your supervisor and enjoy the process.
Have you had any additional opportunities outside of your studies?
Yes, LOTS! I've presented at both national and regional conferences, as well as collaborated with charity organisations in Manchester. I have been able to secure funding for a large research trip to the US (Florida and Chicago) which has provided me with invaluable contacts and research experience. I have also developed a strong working relationship with ArtsMethods and taken advantage of much of their fantastic training opportunities, and worked with ResLife caring for students. I have undertaken training in methodology, publishing, creative methods etc. I have even been delivered training on conference organising!
I think Manchester offers a vast amount of amazing training opportunities, so you're bound to find something that works for you. From multi-day or semester-long programmes (DILP, writing retreats) to hour-long sessions on a multitude of topics. I think some of this training will come very useful in my own research and to show future employers that I'm always on the lookout for knowledge.
Do you have any tips for future students?
I was so anxious before I started, but people around my school and department were so friendly and made it so easy. So, my first tip is to talk with people, be friendly, and ask anything you need. The staff here will go above and beyond to help you. Thanks to their support, I feel at home now. Also, trust in your supervisor - they're the best placed to help you, but they need to know that you're struggling (either academically or because of personal issues). Let them know how everything is going and be sincere. I really like the Whitworth Gallery Café for working on a rainy day, and my guilty pleasure is the lasagne from Simon Building.