Student Spotlight: Oonagh Devitt Tremblay

Oonagh Devitt Tremblay is a fourth-year English Specialist at Victoria College. Her academic interests surround links between Britain and Canada during the nineteenth century, and the literature that arose from transmigration. Through her participation in the 2016 Scholars-in-Residence (in the "Editing the Fiction of John Galt" project) she was further exposed to the landscape of nineteenth-century publishing in Britain and Canada. She intends to pursue postgraduate work in English. 

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate research experience – has there been a highlight?

One highlight was working on the “Editing the Fiction of John Galt” project in Scholars-in-Residence last year. We looked at different editions of the works of the nineteenth-century Scottish-Canadian writer John Galt and typed up the first editions in their entirety. We also annotated the differences between the editions to enable a scholarly editing process.

What do you find most exciting about undergraduate research?

I liked working in our Scholars-in-Residence research team, which allowed for a nice mix of independent and team-based work. It was like a research lab in the sense that we did our individual parts in conjunction with other researchers. That was a very unique experience to have as an English student.

I’ve also done an independent study on the nineteenth-century Canadian writer Susanna Moodie. My project considered Moodie and how her sketches operate generically in relation to descriptions of time and landscape. The research for that project took me to the national archive in Ottawa. I looked at everything they had in relation to Moodie: her letters, short stories, paintings, strands of her hair…everything.

Would you recommend an undergraduate research experience to other students? 

I certainly would. It’s a pretty rare opportunity to conduct your own research as an undergraduate, unless you’re exceptionally self-motivated. Undergraduates in general would benefit form exposure to research, specially if they intend to go on to graduate school. The Scholars-in-Residence program makes it easy: there is a template, an outline, and set goals. You don’t have to invent everything for yourself.

Have you had any teachers or mentors who were / are particularly helpful or inspiring?

I’ve definitely had wonderful professors and mentors who have been influential throughout my academic career. [English Professor] Elizabeth Harvey has influenced my studies quite heavily; Professor [and Victoria College Principal] Angela Esterhammer is very inspiring: she’s insanely brilliant and driven and her work ethic is an inspiration. It was an honour to work with her in Scholars-in-Residence last year.

Do you have any words of advice for other students who may be interested in pursuing this sort of research?

Take advantage of these opportunities! Just go for it and don’t let your own initial lack of experience stop you.

What are your goals / plans for the future?

I’m taking a year off to do a publishing certificate, and try to get some experience in  publishing and editing. Then I’m going to apply to grad school in English. We’ll see where it goes from there!


Student Spotlight: Shamaila Anjum

Shamaila Anjum is a third-year Victoria College History Major currently doing a study abroad year at Oxford University. In May, 2016, Shamaila participated in the Jackman Scholars-In-Residence project, working with Professor Thomas Keymer's research group on "Literature and Seditious Libel: 1660-1830." 

Tell us a bit about your current interests - what are you working on?

I'm currently very interested in the field of medical history, and am in fact researching disability in medieval England this term as part of my history course. There have been some really exciting developments in the field, including new theories regarding how emotional responses to grief or pain have changed. There is even research being done on the effectiveness of medical remedies in history- some really strange remedies actually worked! 

What do  you find most exciting about independent research?

Independent research is very, very fun, because you're looking at a question you're personally interested in, and in a lot of ways you're doing it on your own terms. It's also very exciting when you make a discovery, even a tiny one-the joy of finding something new and interesting is absolutely fantastic. 

Would you recommend an undergraduate research experience to other students? 

I cannot recommend independent research enough. It gives you a new appreciation for your field and makes you fall in love with it all over again. Plus it's a unique opportunity at the undergraduate level- not many undergraduates get a chance to actually experience what it's like to be an expert instead of just a student. 

Have you had any teachers or mentors who were / are particularly helpful or inspiring?

I've had many great instructors at U of T, and many have been very inspiring and encouraging of my academic career. In particular, Professor Alison Smith, Professor Jason Dyck, Professor Jeremy Lopez, and my Scholars-in-Residence supervisor Professor Thomas Keymer have been very supportive, and many of my current academic interests have developed due to their great teaching and their mentorship. 

Do you have any words of advice for other students who may be interested in pursuing this sort of research?

Firstly, do it. Secondly, make sure you actually are interested in your research. Don't be scared on this point, because research interests do change, but do be fairly certain that you will enjoy the topic, or else you won't benefit from it.

What are your goals / plans for the future?

I hope to continue on to graduate work in history, and eventually to obtain a Ph.D.

Student Spotlight: Andrea Davidson

To say that Andrea Davidson (1T6) distinguished herself as an undergraduate researcher at Vic would be an understatement. Davidson - who won the Professor D. O. Robson Graduate Memorial Scholarship to study abroad, the Prince of Wales medal, the Harry Morris Coyle Memorial Scholarship, and the Myrtle V. McCullough Prize for Renaissance Studies (twice) - was an undergraduate fellow at the Jackman Humanities Institute, where she worked under the supervision of Professor John Paul Ricco on a project entitled "A Gloss on Suffering and the Body of Christ: Philomela Matters in Aemilia Lanyer's Salve Deus Rex Judeorum (1611)." She is now continuing her study of early modern literature at the University of Oxford in the M.St. in English Literature from 1550-1700.

Tell us a little bit about your current interests - how did you come to the project?

I'm currently studying for a Master’s degree in English Literature from 1550 to 1700 at the University of Oxford. My dissertation conceptualizes early modern religious conversion as an experience of (dis)location in a revolving world. My interest in experiences of location and embodiment developed out of my two undergraduate research projects on medieval and early modern affective piety.

What do you find most exciting about your project?

I love the challenge of figuring out where my research will take me. Starting out with a long list of questions and a keen interest, I know that I have so much still to learn before completing this project. Also, it's incredible to engage with early modern books and manuscripts!

Was your undergraduate research experience helpful preparation for your current work?

An undergraduate research project is incomparable preparation for graduate research. Most of all, as an undergraduate researcher, I had so much support from mentors and peers. Even though graduate study has taken me overseas, I am fortunate to still be able to count on mentorship and friendship from my academic community in Toronto. 

Are there any teachers or mentors who were particularly helpful or inspiring?

I'm fortunate to have had many generous and supportive professors throughout my undergraduate studies. The best way to find a mentor is to introduce yourself to a favourite professor during office hours or after class. 

Do you have any words of advice for other students who may be interested in pursuing this sort of research?

Get involved in every way you can! Attend events in your field at the university and be confident in introducing yourself to the people you meet. You never know what opportunities your own confidence will open up.

Do you have any particular goals or plans for the future?

I have lots of questions and ideas to pursue as a scholar of early modern culture and literature. I guess I'll see where my curiosity takes me!