Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Meet our graduates: Bárbara Fernández Melleda

Having completed her PhD in Chilean Women's Poetry in 2019, Bárbara is now an Assistant Professor in Latin American Studies at the University of Hong Kong.

Photo of Barbara Fernandez
Bárbara on her graduation day

Bárbara Fernández Melleda is used to living and working internationally, having moved to Edinburgh from her native Chile in 2014 and then, five years later, to Hong Kong. 

She is also very at ease in an academic setting, working as a freelance Teaching Fellow in English Literature at various Chilean universities while completing her Masters degree, and engaging in a range of academic activities during her time in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).  

Describing the chances of moving so quickly from student to Assistant Professor as “very slim”, Bárbara cites the opportunities she took at Edinburgh as important stepping stones on her career path.

“Clearly, doing a PhD in Hispanic Studies was key. During my time at LLC I had plenty of opportunities for growth as an academic, researcher, but also as a person. I took advantage of business and networking courses and I also undertook several workshops led by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD). The skills I developed gave me the expertise and the confidence I needed in order to apply for jobs that I thought I could do.”

The benefits of interdisciplinary supervision

Entitled ‘Neoliberalism and its Discontents’, Bárbara’s PhD thesis explored three decades of Chilean Women's Poetry (1980-2010).

Explaining her decision to do her research in Edinburgh, she says: “I applied to study at LLC because of its outstanding staff, but I also like the autonomy that students get here. I always felt I was in control of my own research, and at the same time very well guided and found in both my supervisors (Dr Fiona Mackintosh and Dr Peter Davies) excellent advice and also challenging responses to what I was doing.”

“They always pushed me to go beyond but that was a good thing and I did realise I could do more, like working as a tutor, then as a Teaching Fellow in Spanish, and also to set up my own research group - the Connecting Memories Research Initiative - together with a PhD student in Comparative Literature, Paul Leworthy.

“I really liked having two supervisors and that one of them was not exactly from my area of expertise, so I always got constructive feedback from a different perspective. I leave Edinburgh feeling highly satisfied and counting two new friends in them.”

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During her time at Edinburgh, Bárbara set up the Connecting Memories Research Initiative with fellow PhD student Paul Leworthy

A brilliant international PhD community

Bárbara first came to Edinburgh on holiday in 2011 and has been “in love with the city” ever since.

She says: “Sharing study space with other PhD candidates from a variety of areas from LLC was wonderful. It is a brilliant and vibrant community, and highly international.”

“We had great times together, including sharing what we were doing in our research through the student-led Work in Progress seminars. Some of the people I studied with will be my friends for life.”

Asked what keeps her going, she says: “I would say I am addicted to learning new things. Also having an interesting challenge to pursue, like my new research project on future narratives.”


If something feels right, do it. If it doesn’t, give it another thought. Academic life is very competitive, so be prepared to see both closing and opening doors. Do not give up. The University offers plenty of training in lots of areas. It’s worth giving them a shot and being out of your comfort zone, just to see how it works. You also meet great people from completely different disciplines in these courses and workshops and that also broadens your perspective in many ways. But the most important thing: enjoy what you are doing...

Bárbara's advice to other students interested in an academic career

Celebrating 100 years of Spanish at Edinburgh

2019 marks the centenary of the Spanish degree and the establishment of the department of Spanish at the University of Edinburgh. Today, we have grown into a large community of teachers, researchers and students in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (SPLAS). We offer a range of undergraduate degrees, MSc by Research degrees, and PhDs, as well as teaching on interdisciplinary masters programmes. Please do join us for events and activities over the course of the year, including the sixth annual Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival in October 2019 which Bárbara worked on before leaving for Hong Kong.

Find out more about Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies

Related links

Find out more about Bárbara's current research on the University of Hong Kong website

Find out more about the Institute for Academic Development

Browse what's on in our overview of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival 2019

Find out more about Connecting Memories om the Research Initiative's website