Dr James Stark

Having been based at Leeds since I began my doctoral research in 2008, I have always appreciated the supportive and exciting intellectual environment. My colleagues have been and remain the most important and encouraging “critical friends” that I could imagine. The interdisciplinary research culture, and the shared ambitions to translate this into our student education activities makes Leeds a wonderful place to develop as an early career academic. 

The University Academic Fellow position in medical humanities offered the opportunity to enhance my credentials in interdisciplinary research, connecting my existing research specialism in the history of medicine with centres across the University. Having protected research time early in the Fellowship was invaluable and enabled me to develop grant applications and external collaborations in way which would not have been otherwise possible for someone at my career stage. Senior colleagues were generous with their time as I developed my application, providing guidance on how to frame my earlier activities and future plans. 

Being an internal candidate does not take away the apprehension of an interview, but it is helpful to know that you are making your case to a supportive panel of (nine) colleagues. The University Academic Fellow programme encourages you to be ambitious in both your application and once in post, and it gives you a licence to apply for the most high-profile sources of funding, take time to push yourself, and allow new collaborative relationships to develop. I would definitely encourage prospective applicants to “think big”, but also to have clear alternatives if those bold plans don’t come off at the first time of asking. 

I was fortunate enough to have opportunities to develop my research, teaching and leadership profiles sufficiently to complete my five-year probation within two years. That would not have been possible without saying “yes” to lots of opportunities, but also knowing when to say “no”. As a University Academic Fellow  it was sometimes difficult to balance the needs of probation against my own plans; mentoring and advice from my colleagues was incredibly helpful when I wondered how and what to prioritise.

I’m delighted to be continuing at Leeds, taking a full part in research, student education and leadership activities. The University Academic Fellow  route is a wonderful opportunity to further your career and take on significant responsibilities – with incredible freedom – in a diverse and stimulating intellectual environment.

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