Joint PhD builds strong networks

Monash Warwick Alliance Joint PhD student Sean Mulcahy is undertaking compelling research that examines the role performance plays in the court of law.

Sean started his journey at Monash studying a Bachelor of Performing Arts and moved quickly into a Bachelor of Performing Arts/Laws (Honours) double degree course after his first year. With interests in both the performing arts and law, he was keen to explore how these disciplines intersected. He completed his Honours year researching the legal regulation of theatre, particularly during the Renaissance period in England.

With a keen interest in exploring UK connections, the Monash Warwick Alliance Joint PhD was the perfect platform for Sean to be able to take his studies further. Sean successfully applied for a Monash Warwick Alliance Joint Phd and his research into the performance of law exploring all aspects of performance during court trials, including how dress impacts a trial, how space is created, and the role of the audience and the use of visual screens began.

“We’re yet to really investigate what role performance plays in court,” Sean says. “It’s an emerging field, and only a handful on scholars are currently looking at the connection between law and performance.”

Sean’s decision to embark a Joint PhD through the Monash Warwick Alliance was also cemented by the fact he’d be able to undertake his work in two countries.

“The opportunity to work in two universities, in two different continents, in two different faculties, is unlike any other program,” says Sean. “Beyond the career opportunities it offers in terms of building linkages in two countries, I think the perspectives it gives are crucial to my research, particularly to see differences in court proceedings between Australia and the UK.”

Sean’s experience with the Monash Warwick Alliance dates to 2013, when he took part in the Monash Warwick Alliance International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR).

“ICUR is so unique; there were no other opportunities at that time for undergraduate researchers to be able to present and potentially publish research. I really wanted to be a part of it and connect with other students who were undertaking research.

“During 2013, I presented a paper that was published in a journal, and the second time I presented in 2014 I won an Outstanding Speaker award for my paper . Receiving that acknowledgement was encouraging, but also very helpful in being able to put it on my CV and get my foot in the door in terms of publications.”

Sean adds that the ICUR experience helped him as he moved into his Joint PhD.

“Had I not had experience at ICUR, I would have been nervous and reticent to present my research. ICUR gave me great grounding in terms of presenting and how to turn my research into something that had broad appeal. I learnt how to manage questions and how to keep to a timeline when preparing my paper, and then when presenting it.”

Sean also spent time on exchange in the School of Law at the University of Warwick towards the end of his undergraduate course in 2013. It was there he met Gary Watt, who’s now his Joint PhD law supervisor.

“I was really excited by Gary’s research. It met a lot of my interests and I knew at that moment I wanted to do the Monash Warwick Alliance Joint PhD. I had a fantastic supervisor, Felix Nobis, at Monash, and a potential fantastic supervisor at Warwick. I knew that with both of them behind me I’d have the motivation to get it done.”

Studying abroad gave Sean many more opportunities. Not only did it afford him the chance to travel, but to also live independently, make lifelong friends and to learn in different environments.

“Considering where it’s led me to today,” say Sean, “I’m so grateful I took the opportunity to study abroad.”

Linking his experience to his Joint PhD, Sean adds: “I’d definitely say that doing the groundwork in terms of finding supervisors at both universities is absolutely crucial. Mobility exchange was paramount in making this happen for me.”

Sean is an active member of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, and recently won a Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity and Inclusion Award for his work for developing a bargaining guide for LGBTI issues in the workplace.

His future plans involve continuing the interdisciplinary nature of his work and hopefully being able to take this into policy development. In terms of his Joint PhD, Sean hopes his research has potential spin-offs in helping to educate legal practitioners, judges and others involved in the legal field.

Find out more about a Monash Warwick Alliance Joint PhD here