Dr Alexandra Woodall - "You just have to get out there and get involved in those networks"
Dr Alexandra Woodall
Dr Alexandra Woodall received her doctorate from the University of Leicester in 2016. Her research was entitled “Sensory Engagement with Objects in Art Galleries”. She currently works freelance in museums and galleries focussing on interpretation projects.
On completion of her PhD she worked for the Royal Armouries in Leeds, managing special projects as the temporary exhibitions manager. Following that, she took a job at the University of East Anglia as Head of Learning at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Alexandra explained that she came to study for a PhD a bit later in her career: “I’d already had a career working in museums for some years, and prior to that I was a teacher. I was doing really interesting work and I wanted the opportunity to do some proper research, and to write, reflect and disseminate what I was doing”.
In terms of her freelance work, Alexandra says: “It’s partly the nature of museum work, a bit like academia when you are an Early Career Researcher; there often aren’t many permanent jobs available. It’s also that I quite like the independence of doing projects as a consultant, and not necessarily being part of an institution”.
Alexandra was asked if doctoral study had benefitted her career. She said: “Hugely. Interestingly I’ve always juggled practice and working within a profession with my academic research, but I think having a PhD has definitely enabled me to get some of the jobs I got afterwards. Particularly the Head of Learning post at the Sainsbury Centre at UEA. I wouldn’t have got that without a PhD”.
She then spoke about how she developed her subject specific and general, transferable skills. She said: “I learnt an enormous amount, especially in terms of research skills and different qualitative methods and how to develop confidence when running things like focus groups”. Alexandra also touched on the importance of past and current networks: “The people I met because of my PhD are still part of my networks and the opportunity to talk about my research with academics was fantastic. Those relationships have continued to this day”.
“You just have to get out there and get involved in those networks”
When asked about any advice she might give to current students or potential students, Alexandra continued: “Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way during the PhD. It’s not just the writing of it; it’s about all the other things you can do along the way, alongside it. Getting involved in sector related networks, engaging with your student body, sitting on committees, attending conferences and curating exhibitions – they’re all great opportunities. You just have to get out there and get involved in those networks”.