My beginnings in archaeological/imaging research.
CT reconstruction of the Egyptian mummy Ta Kush from Maidstone Museum. The imaging of this mummy occured during my employment at KIMS Hospital, whilst studying MSc Forensic Imaging. Suffice to say, I had an interest.
In my youth I studied archaeology at Newcastle University, gaining a BSc (Hons) in Archaeology and Bioarchaeological Science in 2004. The job market for archaeologists was poor and I ended 'the best years of my life' in a despondent mood. It dawned on me that my degree had equipped me with excellent research skills but absolutely zero vocational skills. I went back to university for a second time. This time I was determined to come out with a paid skill and good prospects for a job.
Myself (left) at an archaeological dig in Howick, UK, with Newcastle University back in 2002. Good times, living in tents and lugging dirt from one place to another.
In 2008 I graduated from Portsmouth University with another BSc (Hons), this time in Diagnostic Radiography. Thankfully I've been in employment ever since, but I often think back to the period shortly after graduating first time around. Should I have continued in archaeology? Did I give up too quickly? Am I happy with the choice I've made?
A rather grumpy picture of myself on my last day working at St Richard's hospital in Chichester, UK in 2010. I would then move onto Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.
The answer is, I have no regrets. Everything that I've done has made me what I am. Over the years I've dipped my toe back into archaeology every now and then to see if it still floats my boat. In a bid to validate the years (and the money) spent on my degree in archaeology I've organised and led a research project into a Norman earthwork in Shropshire and written for a professional magazine for radiographers exploring paleoradiology. And now it's about time I explored paleoimaging with this website and blog.
In 2016 I completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Forensic Radiography with Teesside University. My motivation was twofold; combine my interests in radiography with archaeology and stave off the chronic boredom of a comfortable occupation. Having worked in radiography for nearly 8 years I was searching for an academic challenge, the work was skilled enough but I had long since mastered the skills and knowledge necessary to turn up to the job and go home again without really waking up.
Teesside University, in Middlesbrough. I only visited the campus once for my graduation. It was a superb place for students, lots of modern buildings and a vibrant community.
The PgCert in Forensic Radiography was engaging and encouraged me to read and research more than I had done before. I was hooked, I had an outlet to my OCD/ADHD temperament. Despite being stuck in the same job for another year, I found that the PgCert had enriched it and made me look into what other higher education courses I could do in my spare time.
My first publication concerning the use of medical imaging in archaeology. Imaging & Therapy Practice is a quasi-academic professional magazine that encourages grass-roots research on radiographic practice. A colleague told me that it is a good platform to start writing academically. I wrote the majority of this article during a train ride to Hull, with the sole intention of proving that forensic radiography has direct applications to archaeology (contrary to my MSc supervisor's opinion).
I had the option to continue onto a full Masters in Forensic Radiography (all distance based learning and in my own spare time), but I wasn't sure what I would gain. Sure, I would have new research skills and a credible high-level qualification but it wouldn't change my career in radiography because knowledge and training in forensic radiography is not valued within the NHS (National Health Service in the United Kingdom). I wouldn't get a pay rise or recognition for my efforts at my place of work. What was the point? I had a year out of academic learning with the arrival of my first born, although I liked the idea of continuing straight away the lack of sleep dictated otherwise.
The benefits of my PgCert were delayed and indirect. I offered to give a forensic radiography lecture to students from Canterbury Christ Church University, and because of my PgCert they accepted and I began having paid work in higher education as a sessional lecturer. I had my foot in the door. At that stage I wasn't certain that university work was right for me, but I thought it was worth considering. I was informally told that a part time job was going to be available at some stage and that I could apply. Within diagnostic radiography it is fairly uncommon to have a PhD, and therefore lecturers do not need to have one to teach. But a general requirement for applicants is to have or be working towards a Masters in a relevant subject.
I started the MSc Forensic Radiography with Teesside University again. It is a relatively cheap course (important as a self-funding student), it would provide me with research skills, and I was already a third of the way through the process. Stupidly, I also accepted to do another PgCert in Nuclear Medicine at the same time because the NHS had offered to pay for it and I had already been waiting two years to get on the course. So I had my hands full; two masters-level courses (60 credits each), a two year old at home, a full time job and another baby on the way...
Although exceedingly stressful, I must have been in the zone because I did very well in both courses and managed to succeed in the job interview for lecturer in diagnostic radiography. Simultaneously I also had to apply and succeed in gaining a part time job in the NHS. Through sheer luck and determination I got that job too. I now find myself employed at Maidstone Hospital for half of the week (within nuclear medicine) and the other half in Canterbury Christ Church University. What a gamble! It was a very worrying period in my life because I had to financially provide for the family at a stage when my wife was reducing her income through maternity leave. Can you imagine what she said when I suggested going part time and the reciprocating job was not guaranteed? Luckily she is very supportive (and the love of my life).
One the courtyards at Canterbury Christ Church University. My office is out of sight on the right!
All is well now, I have the academic time to learn new skills in teaching and develop my research interests whilst also maintaining my skills in the clinical environment. The last third of my MSc is due to start the month and although my research area is unrelated to paleoimaging or paleoradiology, it will provide a great experience for primary data collection and analysis. But now my mind is beginning to wonder already, perhaps a PhD is the next logical step? What would I study? Which discipline would I focus on – archaeology, radiography, forensics? What benefits would I reap?......................
Images: Ta Kush CT 3D reconstruction with permission from Maidstone Museums. Photos of author are from the author.