School of Social and Political Science

MSc Medical Anthropology


Iona Walker

MSc Medical Anthropology

Graduated 2018

Studying at the School of Social and Political Science

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

The MSc programme at Edinburgh attracted me because of EdCMA and SoMA (the Edinburgh centre for Medical Anthropology and Students of Medical Anthropology). The Centre draws together one of the largest groupings of medical anthropologists in Europe and SoMA is a vibrant student led organisation which brings the community together through various book clubs and events.

I knew I wanted to study somewhere where there would be an active community of students and academics with lots to get involved in, as being so self directed can be lonely at times. Coming from Manchester, I knew I didn’t want to live in London and so Edinburgh with it’s historic streets, café culture and green spaces was very appealing. Studying here also meant the chance to explore beautiful Scotland.

Looking back, I can’t imagine making any other choice.

What has been your favourite course?

The Contagion course taught by Professor Ian Harper ignited my curiosity and brought me into the realm of infectious diseases, art and microbial life. This course encouraged creativity, self-determined learning and vibrant discussion.

It was this course that sparked the basis of the PhD project I am currently working on and I have even returned to the course as a guest lecturer.

Aims for after University?

I am now a Wellcome Trust funded PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. My time dedicated to an in-depth study of medical anthropology, making connections within the University and developing my own research interests through SoMA organised workshops and symposiums was instrumental.

During the end of the MSc I set up a research network with Professor Ian Harper called Beyond Resistance. Since then I have set up various events and workshops which have been a fantastic opportunity to contribute to the research landscape, but also develop skills which I now use daily.

I think it is also testament to the opportunities available at Edinburgh work with staff on projects and develop skills outside of the usual realms of master’s level study.

What are your highlights from your time at the School of Social and Political Science?

I have loved every minute of the programme, but my favourite times were always the ones where my cohort and I were able to come together to share ideas, share a meal or share the struggles of late night writing sessions.

Knowing what you do now, what would you say to your past self before starting the course?

Say yes to things, even and especially if they scare you. Sign up for workshops or conferences, ask questions, follow your curiosity and savour the moment. If you can, go on roadtrips with your classmates even if it rains and learn to dance during Scottish winters.

University life and the City of Edinburgh

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

Learn to dance! There are so many societies dedicated to different dances from across the world from Bachata to Bhangra. Dancing is great for releasing endorphins, meeting new people and moving your body after a day of sedentary screen time.

What are your favourite things to do in Edinburgh at the weekend? 

Edinburgh is a beautiful city and walking through the Meadows watching the seasons change is pretty magical. After a bleak winter, watching green buds and cherry blossoms in spring and then celebrating summer sun is magical. Edinburgh is a great city to enjoy the small things, good coffee from Artisan Roast, ice cream from Mary’s Milkbar and the view from the walks around the city.

Student category