The journey through research and academia may not always be straightforward.

Whether you’re a PhD  student writing a thesis, a post-doc seeking to boost your publication record, or an early career researcher preparing your first grant proposal, it can sometimes feel like you’re in uncharted territory without a guide.

Hi, I’m Elaine.

Using the experience I’ve gained throughout the twists and turns of my own travels in academia, I launched Academic Smartcuts to help smooth the way and make things a little easier for anyone who has chosen to go down an academic path.

My origin story

When I was a child, my grandfather somehow managed to finagle a defunct robot of sorts for me as a Christmas present circa 1985. It was gigantic (or at least seemed that way to 4-year-old Elaine), had a camera in its eyes, and a television in its stomach to display a video feed. In my memory, it looks a bit like R2-D2 on steroids and went by the name of Mr. Robot. I have no idea what it was used for in its past life, nor do I know how my parents managed to get rid of it once they realised it was intended as a permanent gift rather than a brief visitor to the house.

Thirty years later, I took over the Robotics portfolio at EPSRC and travelled up and down the country to meet researchers whose work was far more cutting edge than my childhood friend. As someone with a PhD in archaeological interpretation, my initial conversations usually went something like this:

Me: “Please tell me about your research and pretend I don’t anything about robotics because it’s not far from the truth.”

Researcher: [laughter] “Of course!” [proceeds to give an extremely technical description about their research]

This experience planted the seeds of what would grow into Academic Smartcuts.

Over the years since then, I have come to believe that the ability to adapt one’s language to the given audience is a real superpower in academia: rare but capable of breaking down barriers and accelerating careers.

While serving as the Robotics portfolio manager and a panel convenor at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), I had a front row seat to the ins and outs of the funding process.

This experience has led to the development of several products and services. Guidebooks, training courses, and proposal audits are available to assist those who are navigating the funding system, all of which are designed to allow researchers to build a strong foundation for their future.

I have always had an eye for detail and have been known to proofread menus at restaurants. This is a skill I enhanced further by working as a proofreader and copy editor for three volumes of the Annual of the British School at Athens.

The original name of my  business—Blue Eagle Academic Services—came about because I provided an fresh pair of “eagle eyes” to ensure that academic documents were crystal clear and error-free. Although the name of my business has changed, proofreading and editing remain one of the key services I offer.

As a PhD student who straddled the departments of archaeology and computer science, I investigated how today’s technology could be used to better tell the story of the past.

This impressed upon me the importance of listening to the audience and constructing a clear narrative to meet their needs. I love working with clients to help them achieve this with their own work, whether it’s a journal or conference paper, grant proposal, or dissertation.

Rounding up stray commas, calming errant verb tenses, and sifting through style guides is only part of what I do!

Beyond Academic Smartcuts, I also run the MissElaineous Blog to share my life as an American in the UK, publishing with outlets ranging from The Professional Travel Planner to Discover Britain magazine. If you are interested in seeing the less academic side of my writing—or just exploring a different side of the UK—pop by and pour yourself a cuppa.

While the MissElaineous website showcases the beauty of the UK, my environmental advocacy deals with the rubbish side of the country, quite literally. I started Off the Ground in 2015 to highlight the problem of litter within my community, and this has grown to take a national perspective, with a blog that explores the necessity of behaviour change … with the occasional tongue-in-cheek post!

Related to this, Reduce Your Wasteline is just getting up and running, and it focuses on the little steps we can all take to cut back on plastic and other waste products. Questions or comments about any of these activities? Please get in touch.