PhD Students

The Institute for Northern Studies has always had a strong research ethos.  We are delighted to have had so many successful PhD students go through our doors, and are greatly encouraged by the ever increasing number of current students.

You can find out about the activities of our current students via their individual tabs below. 

Find more on our past students and read some of their work via this link. 

Please contact us if you might be interested in undertaking research with the Institute for Northern Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands.


Phone:  01856 569300


Anne Artymiuk

The Dark Road Down From the Hill. George Campbell Hay and the Legacy of War

Anne is researching the 20th century Scottish poet George Campbell Hay. Recognised by his contemporaries, including Hugh MacDiarmid and Sorley MacLean, as a leading poet of his generation, Hay was largely lost to sight after World War Two due to recurring bouts of severe mental disturbance which led to many years of hospitalisation.

Taking inspiration from Kay Redfield Jamieson, a leading expert on  the inter-relationship of mental illness and artistic creativity, Anne’s research focuses on the space where biography, poetry and psychology meet, and her work  seeks to illustrate the way in which each of these separate aspects of the poet illuminate the others.

Anne was recently responsible (2017) for the addition of George Campbell Hay to The Makar’s Court Memorial at the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh.

Anne is based in Orkney and is supervised by Professor Donna Heddle



Andrea Freund

Runic writing in the Viking diaspora: expression of a Norse identity?

  • An Applied Research Collaborative Studentship (ARCS) project
  • Partners: University of the Highlands and Islands, Institute for Northern Studies, Orkney Museums and Heritage (Orkney Islands Council), Centre for Scandinavian Studies, University of Aberdeen

This project proposes a comparative study of the corpus of runic inscriptions from the entire Scandinavian diaspora in the North Atlantic region, and looks at runic literacy as a means of expressing identity. 

Editions and evaluations of the runic corpus tend to focus on certain regions (eg Lisbeth Imer on the use of runes in Greenland) and seldom examine connections throughout the Scandinavian diaspora in-depth. By interpreting runic inscriptions as witness of an extended network of literacy across the North Atlantic, Andrea seeks to establish connections and larger patterns of common traits, and examine cultural and linguistic exchange with other cultures inhabiting the region.

The project has a natural place within the growing field of research on the Viking diaspora, also taking into account recent work on Gaelic influence on Viking culture, language and place-names as well as DNA studies and key archaeological features. This makes it possible to view the Viking settlement of the North Atlantic Isles from a new perspective which has not been fully explored so far and will shed light on the growing area of Viking diaspora research from a new angle.

The key research question for the proposed project is: do runic inscriptions in the diaspora, individually and as a corpus, show any unique characteristics, compared to inscriptions from mainland Scandinavia, which date from the corresponding periods, i.e. Viking Age and Medieval period? Can the runic inscriptions be viewed as expressions of a unique and new Norse diaspora identity?

Andrea is based in Orkney and she is supervised by Dr Alex Sanmark of the Institute for Northern Studies and Prof Stefan Brink and Gail Drinkall.



Lynn Campbell

The Role of the Kirk in Orkney, 17th – 19th centuries

How has the kirk shaped the lives of the people? The 17th – 19th centuries encompass a huge change in the fortunes of Scotland, Orkney and the kirk, including conflicts with the Covenanters, the Jacobite rebellion and the Highland clearances. Little is documented of Orkney’s involvement in these elements of Scottish history.

Has the kirk been a help or a hindrance in times of change and conflict, and has it materially differed from other areas in Scotland? Was it important, did it change the lives of the islanders, or did life continue much as it always had? Gender roles were often clearly defined, therefore how did the role and views of women differ? The kirk was an important part of the fabric of life and societal structure, but without any religious zeal from the main population, just how much influence did it really have?

The ministers of the parish were learned people of ‘substance,’ to whom deference was given. They were the ones writing for the Statistical Accounts or setting up clubs and societies to which the wider population may neither have had the time nor the interest to join. Much written about the church in Orkney has been created by those most immersed in it; the ministers of each parish, whose memoirs, reminiscences and sketches provide a valuable initial study. This project will look at original sources to try and tally the perceived with the actual, mainly through the parish Kirk Session records.

Supervised by Prof Donna Heddle and Dr Alex Sanmark




Julie Cassidy

Highland Park: From Sagas to Stills

This PhD is part-funded by UHI and the Edrington Group.

An exciting joint initiative between the University of the Highlands and Islands Institute for Northern Studies and one of the most iconic whisky distilleries in Scotland, Highland Park.

The ‘Sagas to Stills’ project is a unique opportunity to explore the 220 year history of Highland Park from the foundations of the distillery to the present day. In addition to looking at the Distillery archive, the research will look at Highland Park and the whisky industry as an important part of the social and economic history of Orkney. The end of the 3 year project will see the production of materials for a popular book, an exhibition, and training development for Highland Park’s tour guides.

Julie is based in Orkney.  She is supervised by Professor Donna Heddle and Dr. Alexandra Sanmark.


Lydia Crow

With the rise of social media networks in recent years, the internet has become the largest research site available, offering the researcher a lens through which to examine contemporary expressions of identity relating to the self, as well as to perceived communities and groups.

This research analyses the way in which Orcadian folklore is referenced in blogging and across various social media networks, and considers its relationship to identities associated with Orkney today.

Lydia is interested in online and offline ethnographic research approaches, qualitative methods used to analyse online data, and the development of folklore as a field of study in the twenty-first century, with a specific interest in digital folklore.

Lydia is currently based in Edinburgh and Inverness, and is supervised by Dr Andrew Jennings





Rebecca Ford

Words and Waves: a dialogical approach to discourse, community, and marine renewables in Orkney

In my research I am  exploring the  role of narrative in the formation and shaping of discourse communities, the idea of community as a creative, dialogical process, and the importance of place in meaning making. In 2014 I worked as a Research Assistant for the Alien Energy project at the IT University Copenhagen, and the report on my fieldwork at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney is available on the Alien Energy (below).

I am a member of the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) Doctoral Researcher Committee, and a Postgraduate Representative on the Executive Committee of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI). I am on the board of directors for the George Mackay Brown Fellowship.

Rebecca is based in Orkney and she is supervised by Professor Donna Heddle.



Cait McCullagh

Curating Heritage for Sustainable Communities in Highly Vulnerable Environments: The Case of Scotland's Northern Isles

The Northern Isles are nowadays seen as a peripheral region within Scotland and the UK, whereas historically they were at the crossroads of maritime cultural, political and economic systems, a heritage involving geo-cultural affinities reaching beyond present-day political boundaries. As small islands in a maritime ecosystem exposed to challenging climate conditions, they are physically vulnerable, while demographic and economic factors add to the vulnerability of their human ecology. Understanding the maritime heritages of the Northern Isles from an integrated perspective as a cultural resource for sustainability opens up opportunities for community development more generally, and specifically for the creation of sustainable tourism. By achieving such an integrated perspective, grounded in community co-curated work, the Northern Isles may serve as a model for other maritime and peripheral regions.

Cait is a full-time PhD Student, supported by a Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities Applied Research Collaborative Studentship.

The thesis is supervised as part of a collaboration between

  • Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University
  • Institute for Northern Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Shetland Museums and Archives
  • Learning for Sustainability Scotland

Cait is co-supervised by Prof Donna Heddle.



Twitter: @NorthernNousts


Fleur Ward

Information and Communication Technology’s Role in the Governance of Sub-National Island Jurisdictions (SNIJs) – Successes, Failures and Lessons for Scotland’s Island Councils

This PhD is funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plays a pivotal role in how Scottish Island Councils govern community and business development.  It is vital that Scottish Island Councils fully utilise, integrate and govern ICT in their communities as it drives growth, engagement, sustainability and island proofing.  Through a comparative approach this research will advance current island governance theory, and provide research based findings on the nature of ICT use in island communities worldwide.

This project will assess the impact of ICT on island communities and examine its use in various sectors including tourism, food and drink, and the creative industries.  From these findings, Scottish Island Councils will be provided with strategic information concerning how to use and develop their own ICT systems which could lead to increased efficiency, improved community engagement and economic empowerment within their jurisdictions.

Fleur is based in Orkney.  She is supervised by Dr Andrew Jennings



Annie Thuesen

The sustainability of cultural tourism and its effects on communities: The case of Orkney

The project looks at the sustainability of cultural heritage tourism in Orkney, with a particular focus on opening access to underutilised Norse and Viking sites with the intention of abating footfall erosion at more well-known heritage sites.

This project is funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

Annie is supervised by Dr Alexandra Sanmark, Centre for Nordic Studies in Orkney, University of the Highlands and Islands, Dr Colleen Batey, Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow and Dr Piotr Niewiadomski, Department of Geography & Environment, University of Aberdeen