Asha has only just started her journey as a postgraduate researcher. She is currently in the first year of her EngD in Digital Media, which is being run through the Faculty of Media & Communication by the Centre for Digital Entertainment, and is fully-funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). She has recently completed a BSc (Hons) in Music & Audio Technology at BU and her experiences on this course led her to a doctorate.
“During my degree, I did a placement year working at a special educational needs school. My role was helping to create bespoke hardware and software to make curricular-based content that could be accessed by users with a range of special educational needs,” she explains, adding that she hopes to work with the same school during her doctorate.
Her research project involves finding ways to help people with complex and varied needs to create music. Asha’s research spans physical and digital tools, from traditional instruments to music-making software. She hopes to better understand how people with sensory, physical or mental impairments can utilise the varied array of tools on offer to make their own music, and how to make these tools or programmes as effective as possible.
“I’m also looking into how we can measure the effectiveness of the systems created within the chosen user group,” Asha continues. “Effectiveness covers whether the user is able to use the devices, what they gain from using these systems and how this can be rolled out to others, allowing people with differing needs to create music using similar technological resources while still retaining that tailored approach.”
However, Asha doesn’t just want people to make music, she wants them to interact with it as well - and she’s keen for her research to take an inclusive approach. “My research will focus on a school setting, using an action-research approach to enable users and those supporting them to be co-researchers, as well as participants in the study,” she explains.
“I feel that taking this approach will address some of the issues that arise from using technology in a school setting and will allow the users to take ownership of their contribution,” Asha adds.
It’s clear that her placement year during her undergraduate studies has helped Asha develop valuable connections and that her experiences during this period have informed her chosen topic of research. “During this year [my placement] I saw the positive impact of offering someone a chance to communicate in a way they found accessible. I went onto explore this in my final year project by creating a multi-modal device with a software component called the SenseEgg, and I’ll carry on the exploration of this topic through my doctoral research,” she states.
It’s all about helping people to lose themselves in what they are doing and to have that powerful moment of recognition when they realise what they’ve achieved,” Asha adds.
Having come straight from an undergraduate course onto her doctorate, Asha has found the support of her supervisor and the Graduate School a great help. “My supervisor has been very good at guiding me and grounding me in my thinking,” she says.
“There has been great flexibility for me to use various services to support my study. The Graduate School offers excellent workshops on a variety of subjects that have been very helpful in determining what approach I take for my research and in showing me what other options are out there,” she reveals.
Asha also tells us that the Postgraduate Research Conference provided a valuable opportunity to not only meet other postgraduate researchers, but to also take inspiration from the work that her fellow students have carried out. “The event really adds to the community feel among the postgraduate researchers,” she says.
She is excited about getting stuck into her research project and seeing her themes and ideas develop as her doctorate progresses. Asha has a simple yet delightful goal for the future: “I plan to make weird and wonderful instruments that help people to achieve their musical potential,” she says with a smile.