Alex Fitzpatrick

Ritual and Funerary Rites in Later Prehistoric Scotland: An Analysis of Faunal Assemblages from the Covesea Caves
University of Bradford
DiscoverPhDs_Student Profiles_Alex
Tell us a bit about yourself – what stage of your PhD are you in and what’s your project about?
I’m an American archaeologist who originally moved to the U.K. in 2015 to do my Masters in Archaeological Sciences, and I’m still here, just finishing up my PhD! I’m currently writing the thesis, which is actually a lot more stressful than I thought it would be (who knew writing at home all day in your PJs could be stressful?!). My PhD is focused on animal remains recovered from archaeological excavations in the Covesea Caves, located on the coast of Scotland. As these animal remains were found amongst human burials, I’m hoping to figure out why they were placed there, and what that may indicate about the beliefs and rituals of the Later Prehistoric Period.

Covesea Caves

The Covesea Caves in Scotland. Image source: Society of Antiquaries

What does a typical day or week look like for you?
These days, it’s mostly frantic writing! Alongside my PhD studies, I also do a lot of science communication work, so I’m most often at my laptop. I’m trying to get better at making a less strenuous work schedule these days, but it’s easy to end up working yourself to the bone without planning to.

What’s one thing that you’ve enjoyed the most during your PhD?
Throughout my PhD, I’ve had so many opportunities to go to conferences and talk about my research and ideas in person with other academics from around the world, and that’s probably my most favourite part of it all! I love being able to connect and eventually even collaborate with others.

What’s been the most challenging part of it?
Definitely getting over my own lack of confidence – especially at this point where I’m writing up my thesis. Luckily, I have a group of wonderful supervisors who have been really supportive in helping me get over these anxieties.

Where do you see yourself 5 years after completing your PhD?
Hmm…it’s definitely hard to say. My dream is to be working in academia still – I love researching and theory development and I feel like I have so much more I want to say about my chosen field.

Unfortunately, as a migrant it can be hard to have a good idea of what the future might entail…so fingers crossed I’m still here in the UK with a job!

Animal Archaeology Banner

What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer students that are thinking of doing a PhD?
Develop a good support system – this doesn’t have to be limited to your department, either. I have such a fabulous group of friends and peers from different universities, fields, and even countries, who are there for me when I most need them. This is especially vital if you’re a junior academic who is further marginalised in some way – as a migrant and a woman of colour, I face certain problems that other academics may not, so it’s very important to have folks of similar identities to talk with.

What makes your university a good place to study?
Definitely the academics – there’s so many great folks within our department that I’m so honoured and privileged to work alongside.

University of Bradford Building

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Video games! I’m a huge fan of the occasional procrastination day where I just play my PS4 or Nintendo Switch instead of working, haha.

Want to know more about Alex?
Visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Instagram and listen to her podcast using the links below:

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