Elena Romero-Passerin

PhD 2021

HEI: University of St Andrews

Funding: AHRC DTP

Title: Public botanic gardens and the early institutionalisation of science – Edinburgh, Florence, and Pisa in the second half of the eighteenth century 

Supervisors: Dr Sarah Easterby-Smith and Professor Aileen Fyfe 


What was your research about?

My PhD was a comparative study of publicly funded botanic gardens in Scotland and Tuscany in the eighteenth century. I focused on how the gardens became permanent and public institutions of scientific research, with professional staff and defined public missions. It also showed that this was a process occurring all throughout Europe in the smaller botanic gardens

What made you apply for the SGSAH AHRC DTP?

I am passionate about research and teaching and I wanted the opportunity to spend 3 or 4 years focusing on a big research project. 

Which aspects of your PhD did you enjoy the most?

The archives, the planning, the community, and the public engagement.

How has your PhD helped you to decide on a career path?

I wanted to try a career in academia, so the PhD was the obvious path. I am now giving this career a go, however, working on public engagement project during my PhD has also allowed me to widen my horizons and consider alternative careers in research communication.

Being in a PhD program gave me the freedom to explore not only my research interests but also the different types of careers that can be linked to academic research. I have taken the time to work on my pubic engagement portfolio, my teaching experience, worked in the university’s administration, and developed skills in pastoral support for students. This has been essential in broadening my idea of what studying history could lead me to. 

And now?

I am a Research Fellow for the School of History in St Andrews, working on a contract for the Royal Horticultural Society. I just signed a contract to be a temporary lecturer in the same department next year. 

One piece of advice you would give an incoming PhD researcher?

Doing a PhD can look like a solitary task and a time spent entirely focused on this one project, but it does not have to be. Take time to build a community (of friends but also collaborators and contacts) and to try things outside of the strictly defined research for your project. 

Where can people find you?

Twitter: @HopeaBecariana

Website: scienceinuniversities.wordpress.com

This article was published on 11 April, 2022