Welcome to our newest senior research associate – Gavin Brookes!

CASS just keeps getting fuller! Gavin Brookes is the newest senior research associate to join the centre, and will be working on our “Beyond the checkbox – understanding what patients say in feedback on NHS services” project. Here’s a little about Gavin, in his own words:

received_10153870011246093I am very excited to begin my role as Senior Research Associate working with Professor Paul Baker on the CASS project, “Beyond the checkbox – understanding what patients say in feedback on NHS services”. The purpose of this research is to help the National Health Service better understand patient feedback with a view to improving frontline healthcare service provision (you can find more info. here: http://cass.lancs.ac.uk/?p=1832). This project is corpus linguistics at its most applied. Its aims are timely and have clear and significant practical consequences and I am thrilled to be a part of it!

I am endlessly fascinated by the relationship between discourse and social life and have adopted corpus linguistic, (critical) discourse analytical and multimodal approaches to investigate this relationship in my research to-date. My enthusiasm for this project will come as little surprise when I tell you that I am particularly interested in how discourse shapes and represents our experiences and understandings of health and illness. My ESRC-funded doctoral research, undertaken in the School of English Studies at The University of Nottingham, examines the discursive construction of a contested condition known as diabulimia in a specialised corpus of online health messages.

Outside academia I spend my time walking, travelling, reading fantasy and science fiction novels, partaking in pub quizzes, and following my beloved (if perpetually under-achieving) Mansfield Town FC. I am delighted to be here and can’t wait to learn more about, and get involved in, the research that is being undertaken within the Department.

Welcome Jens Zinn – Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow

Jens ZinnCASS is delighted to welcome Jens Zinn to the centre after being awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship! This is an extremely prestigious award, named after the double Nobel Prize winning Polish-French scientist famed for her work on radioactivity. The fellowships support outstanding scholars at all stages of their careers, irrespective of nationality.

Jens has studied and taught at many universities in Germany, and in 2009 he was appointed Associate Professor and Reader in Sociology at The University of Melbourne. Jens has founded a number of international research networks on the Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty (SoRU). The joint internet portal of these groups is open to everyone to contribute to current debates and ongoing activities. His research activities include a number of studies on people’s management of risk and uncertainty during the course of their life (e.g. youth transitions into the labour market; certainty constructions in reflexive modernity; British veteran’s management of risk and uncertainty). He led a collaborative research initiative ‘Risk, Social Inclusion and the Life Course – A Social Policy Perspective’ at the University of Melbourne and a research project ‘Decision Taking in Times of Uncertainty. Towards an efficient strategy to manage risk and uncertainty in climate change adaptation’ funded by the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research. Most recently he has worked with Daniel Mcdonald on a project examining the change of the risk semantic in the New York Times from an historical perspective combining corpus linguistics with sociology.

Here at CASS, Jens will be working with Professor Tony McEnery on a project which aims to advance our understanding of the forces that have driven the proliferation of risk discourses in the UK and Germany since World War Two. Working at the boundaries of risk sociology and corpus linguistics, this is a highly innovative enterprise, both theoretically and methodologically. It will examine the contribution made by main-stream risk theories to explaining the increasing use of the risk semantic in media coverage during the last 50 years, and it will develop an empirically grounded theory of the observable shift towards risk. Jens will utilise cutting-edge corpus-based research strategies to systematically reconstruct the changing use of the discourse-semantics of risk and will complement these with interviews of media experts to examine how these changes are linked to institutional and socio-cultural changes and historically significant events.

CASS would like to congratulate Jens on securing this highly esteemed fellowship, and we are very much looking forward to working with Jens on this exciting project!

Check back soon for more updates!

Welcome to our newest CASS PhD student!

It’s the start of a new academic year, and the offices of CASS continue to get busier and busier! This week we welcomed our newest PhD student, Ruth Byrne, to the team. Here’s a bit aout Ruth and her research, in her own words:

Ruth ByrneI’ve just begun the first year of my ESRC-funded PhD, and will be using the British Library’s 19th Century newspaper collection to explore historic attitudes to immigration. I completed my undergraduate and masters’ degrees within the History department at Lancaster.

I’ve always been an avid reader and thrived on close textual analysis. So, although my background has firm roots in History, and not Linguistics, the study of language has naturally woven its way through much of my research. The main focus of my undergraduate study was the shifting media language surrounding the struggle for Indian Independence. Without realising it, I effectively conducted a manual hunt for collocates within lines of concordance. Terms I was not to encounter until I heard about the work of CASS during my MA. Unaware of Corpus Linguistics as an approach, and of how it could have hugely increased my efficiency and rapidity, I was frequently frustrated at the laborious nature of the process which I had chosen to undertake.

Perhaps because I’ve found my own work and interests so hard to categorise, I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of interdisciplinary research. I was thrilled to find out that I’d be joining an experienced team who are pushing the boundaries of Corpus Linguistics as an interdisciplinary research tool, and that I’d be working at the intersection of two departments. I am keen to compare the challenges which face researchers working with corpora to those traditionally faced by historians working with large archives.

Some extra-academic trivia: I’m from a family of wine-merchants and spent most childhood holidays being dragged unwillingly around vineyards. As a result I’ve accumulated a lot of odd knowledge about grape varieties and whisky distilleries. When not working on my thesis, I’ll most likely be hiking up a hill in the Lake District.