Alumni

Alumni profile - Zoe Adams

As a Teaching Fellow, I prepare and deliver content for Language & Health Communication, as well as supervise the students’ final research projects. This was a module that I designed as a PhD candidate in 2016, so it’s great to return and be the course convenor!

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Why did you choose to study an MA in Linguistics at Queen Mary?

This was a super easy decision for two reasons. First, I had looked at linguistic courses at other London universities, but they seemed more specialised. Queen Mary’s MA programme was more holistic and I thought it would offer a brilliant overview of all topics in linguistics, both formal and socio. Second, the department’s reputation was brilliant!

How did you first become interested in Linguistics?

I studied French and Spanish at university, so I had some experience of linguistics and it was by far my favourite topic. While languages were fascinating, I was more interested in the science of language itself which led me to apply for the MA.

What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable and was there anything that surprised you in your studies?

I absolutely loved the range of topics we could explore! I studied various things, from the language of hip hop in Sociolinguistics, to the whistling language of La Gomera for Language Planning and Policy. Not only that but the learning formats were varied as well. For example, in the Research Practicum, I worked with Jenny Cheshire on the use of ‘still’ in Multicultural London English, which offered a real first-hand insight into what ‘doing’ linguistics meant. And then in Sociophonetics, we analysed waveforms and spectrograms in a lab. This diversity in the content and type of modules was great!

You went on to study your PhD in Linguistics at Queen Mary. What inspired you to stay on at Queen Mary for further study?

I’ve always loved academia, and the MA solidified this passion further. A PhD in such a supportive and stimulating department seemed like the natural next step.

Linguistics can shed light on so many phenomena like graffiti as political discourse, the endangered languages of Austronesia, online discussions among OCD sufferers, language processing in bilingual children, stereotypes about British accents…I could go on! 

You now work as a Teaching Fellow in the Linguistics department at Queen Mary. Can you describe what your role entails?

As a Teaching Fellow, I prepare and deliver content for Language & Health Communication, as well as supervise the students’ final research projects. This was a module that I designed as a PhD candidate in 2016, so it’s great to return and be the course convenor!

You have a particular interest in behavioural science and the advertising industry. Can you explain the crossover between these areas and Linguistics and your interest in these subjects?

The path to my current situation certainly hasn’t been linear! After leaving university, I knew I was interested in understanding people’s behaviour and started working at a media agency. This was fun and fast-paced, but didn’t satiate my thirst for knowledge, so I returned to academia. After completing the MA, a PhD opportunity emerged exploring the persuasive effects of British accents for dental health campaigns. My exposure to persuasion in the advertising industry combined with such an enjoyable MA experience meant that I jumped at the chance! Plus, I’ve always loved interdisciplinary projects because they’re exploratory and challenging. Although it was daunting to navigate the realms of public health and social psychology, it was highly rewarding. The intersection of behavioural science, language and advertising is fascinating, and particularly relevant at a time like this when public communication is so important.

Which aspects of studying Linguistics do you feel have helped you professionally?

In the Dissertation Proseminar on the MA course, we completed an annotated bibliography which summarised each article we’d read and evaluated its contribution to the topic. This was a highly useful task which taught me how to produce literature reviews in my PhD, postdoctoral research positions and current role as a freelance researcher at a wellbeing agency. More generally, understanding how language permeates our lives in a multitude of ways has allowed me to incorporate linguistic insights into other disciplines. For example, in my most recent postdoctoral position, I explored the language of cooperation from a macroeconomic perspective.

What do you love most about Linguistics as a discipline?

Where to start! I think it’s the variety of topics which appeals most. Linguistics can shed light on so many phenomena like graffiti as political discourse, the endangered languages of Austronesia, online discussions among OCD sufferers, language processing in bilingual children, stereotypes about British accents…I could go on!

Were there any academics that had a strong influence on shaping your time and studies at Queen Mary?

It was 2011 when I attended the open evening for the Linguistics MA and I met Devyani Sharma. Not only was she incredibly welcoming, but she spoke about the course with such enthusiasm (I can see why!) and offered an insight into this whole world of knowledge that I found fascinating. I also worked closely with Jenny Cheshire during the MA who sparked my passion for Multicultural London English. Her encouragement and expertise were invaluable for my publication on address and reference terms in Grime music. Generally speaking, the entire department strike this perfect balance of warmth and knowledge which creates a great environment for any student! From the psychology department, Magda Osman has been instrumental in sharpening my behavioural science research skills.

What did you love most about your time as a student at Queen Mary?

The autonomy and support to learn more about what sparked my curiosity.

What advice would you offer to undergrads about planning for a future of further study?

Focus on discovering what you genuinely find interesting. Challenges will undoubtedly arise, but if you have an inquisitive mind that keeps asking questions about a particular topic then the rest will follow!

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Zoe or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at n.grey@qmul.ac.uk.