School of Social and Political Science

MSc by Research in Social and Political Science


Tara Pollak

MSc by Research in Social and Political Science

  • Age: 25
  • Graduated: 2020
  • Best Performance in MSc by Research Programme


Studying at the School of Social and Political Science

What did your research focus on, and why did you choose that particular topic?

My research is on pregnancy loss, bereavement and kinship in the Lothians, Scotland.

In the social sciences and beyond, this is a topic that has been neglected. I felt that my training in social and medical anthropology, as well as the particular context of the Lothians, with the Baby Ashes scandal in 2014 and Edinburgh’s medical history, made for a great starting point to address this gap.

What do you think made your work stand out?

My research is grounded in the services, local history and networks that surround the experience of pregnancy loss in the Lothians.

I want my research, which is currently in the fieldwork phase, to be context specific whilst also broadening what pregnancy loss means and what matters to those affected by it.

In particular, I am striving to find continuities between the medical, emotional and social aspects of loss and highlight the people who support parents, such as midwives, counsellors and undertakers.

Any advice for someone starting the programme?

The MSc by Research is a practical degree, in my opinion. Although I spent most of it writing a literature review and taking methods classes, the year was essential to the development of a feasible and ethical project.

I used my course assignments to prepare for this and try out different methodological and intellectual approaches.

Are there any aspects of your studies you are most proud of?

Given the disruptions due to Covid-19, I feel proud and privileged to have concluded my degree with distinction and to continue my project with a mitigated research plan.

We’re not a family of particular means or distinction, so any recognition of my work is always also a recognition of my mum’s pearls of wisdom and a lot of support.

How did have you developed your research skills while at the School?

My supervisor team has been a great source of support and guidance throughout the year and helped me to manage my workload and expectations.

I can recommend attending department seminars and workshops, or simply reaching out to a colleague whose work you admire. Having the real-life examples of colleagues has helped me think in more concrete terms about my training, and make sense of my research methods.


Studying at the School of Social and Political Science

What made you choose to study at the University of Edinburgh?

I decided to stay after my undergraduate degree due to the excellence in research at the department and in particular, the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology.

The quality of research, opportunities and support I received for my application and funding were outstanding.

Aims for after University?

I am continuing my research with a PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. I’d love to stay in research and teaching and foster collaborative networks between research institutions and local health and support services.


University life

Are you involved in any student societies?

I was, during my undergraduate! I drummed with the West African Drumming Society (DrumSoc) for four years and found the best of friends.

If you recommend ONE thing to do in the first semester what would it be?

Join as many free society taster sessions and tours as possible, go to at least one ceilidh and have a thick slice of Lovecrumbs cake after a walk to Blackford Hill.


The City of Edinburgh

City of Edinburgh top tip or hidden gem?

I think Blackford Hill is often neglected even though you get the best view from the plateau on top and it includes Arthur’s Seat, which, in my opinion, makes it better.

I take a stroll down the other side of the hill towards the Hermitage. For an hour or two, it makes you forget that you’re in a busy city.

Have you had a part-time job while you’ve been in Edinburgh?

Over the past five years, I have been a waitress, receptionist and tutor.

Working whilst studying isn’t always easy, but it helped me organise my time and learn to prioritise.

I also met great people on my jobs, so there’s a lot of good reasons to work and make work fit your studies.