Agata Frymus, a former AHRC-funded doctoral student, talked to us about her experiences as a White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH) DTP doctoral student and the impact this has had on her career.
Dr Agata Frymus began her AHRC-funded doctoral studies at York University in 2014. Since graduating in 2018, she was awarded a Marie Curie fellowship and recently took a position as lecturer in film and screen studies at Monash University, Malaysia. Her monograph, Damsels and Divas: European Stardom in Silent Hollywood, which is based on her doctoral research was published in 2020.
Agata’s PhD which explored the construction of gendered images of three, largely overlooked, yet important, silent cinema stars - Vilma Bánky, Pola Negri and Jetta Goudal - and situated them within the flux of newly emerging concepts relating to women and immigration, helped cement her expertise in this area of research. Agata is clear that she “wouldn’t have a career now if it wasn’t for the PhD and the various opportunities it offered.”
Agata explains that she would not have been able to undertake her doctoral studies without AHRC funding. However, the extensive and varied opportunities provided, including funding for training and conference attendance, were further incentives to apply.
As a DTP student Agata was given the opportunity to network with other students researching similar topics from different universities who she would not have had the opportunity to meet without the consortium. She continues to maintain many of these relationships. She also took up the opportunity to undertake teaching whilst a PhD student which she identifies as being helpful when applying for jobs.
Part of the first intake of White Rose consortium, Agata took advantage of their Researcher Employability Project (REP) to work at New York University with experts in her field of research (Prof. Antonia Lant). The REP scheme gives doctoral students the opportunity during their second year of the studentship to complete a 1-month REP with an external partner organisation. Agata had to postpone her REP which at the time she found frustrating; however, this delay eventually worked in her favour as the opportunity to conduct research in New York City Library towards the end of her PhD gave Agata the chance to develop an idea for her Marie Curie fellowship application: “because I was thinking about next steps after the PhD and had the opportunity to discover African American magazines through access to this material at New York City Library, it gave me the idea to write a Marie Curie proposal. The proposal wouldn’t have been as good if it hadn’t of been for the placement and the access it afforded me.” She adds that it was “brilliant opportunity” which has undoubtedly helped advance her career.
Agata continues to use many of the transferable skills she developed during the PhD especially in terms of managing a research project. Another skillset that Agata has continued to draw on has been in writing a research proposal. She explains that White Rose DTP required students to provide a justification when claiming additional expenses for conference attendance. Agata explains that although she didn’t realise it at the time, this experience has been incredibly useful when writing applications, including for her Marie Curie fellowship.
Asked what advice she would offer to current PhD students wishing to pursue a career in academia, Agata explains the importance of forward planning and building your CV. It was as a result of planning that Agata was able to smoothly transition from doctoral student to Marie Curie fellowship to lectureship. She adds that it also helps to apply for as many opportunities as possible in part because academic jobs are so competitive: “accept failure is part of the process and so apply for everything you can as this gives you lots more opportunities!”
Another piece of advice that Agata offers to current students is to get in contact with people who have been successful in an area they are interested in pursuing or who have experience of a funding scheme they want to apply to. She explains that this is a great way to get advice and make connections, and most people are happy to help in any way they can.