Migena Pengili

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background (including previous study) 

I studied violin before attending a professional high school for foreign languages. After graduating and specialising as a clinical pharmacist, I went on to study International Relations and Security Studies with emphasis on military transformation - my passion. 

What motivated you to undertake a PhD and why did you choose the University of Leeds? 

I consider myself to be a determined person. After I obtained two masters from the University of Sussex and the Centre International de Formation Europeene (CIFE), I wanted to round out the process with a doctoral challenge. I presented the project proposal in four UK universities and the University of Leeds was one out of three which was interested in accepting my project. What then persuaded me to choose Leeds, besides the reputation of the Politics and International Studies School was initially the interview with my current supervisor, Dr Neil Winn.  
In my opinion, the interview is the first step stone towards a life long and fruitful relationship between any doctoral candidate and the supervisors. It is important to have someone that shares the enthusiasm for your research. I was lucky at Leeds to have met two outstanding professionals and people to share my enthusiasm. They are my supervisors, Dr Neil Winn and Dr James Worrall.  

Please tell us about your research topic and what makes you passionate about this area of study. 

My passion for researching organisational innovation in defence was formed gradually over time. Initially, I started as a civil servant in national security and defence institutions. To do this, one needs to understand the military culture and mindset and integrate with it. Being a part of that environment is both rewarding and challenging. You work and train alongside the military personnel and quickly learn two things: that you must have a vision and be prepared to adapt quickly if presented with new information; and that a successful performance in defence comes from the experts of the future. 
I focused more on defence studies through my masters, fellowships and with my PhD. My doctoral project is titled: “The challenge of public-private partnerships for the organisational innovation of defence policy: the 5-D epistemic influence of the Italian and Israeli industries”. The focus is the non-technological innovation of defence, specifically the organisational innovation, which pertains to the institutions, governance tools and policy performance. My investigation seeks to closely explore this type of innovation by looking at how public institutions and their industry partners (here Italian and Israeli) mobilise, organise and control knowledge. From procurement tools for military edge (modernisation) to enablers of organisational novelties for strategic edge (transformation). Partnerships between industry and public bodies are increasingly dominating the governance of the defence ecosystem and orientating the conduct of the policy by disseminating specialised knowledge. Causing internal institutional changes, this partnership aims at reaching defence transformation by promoting resilience, competitiveness, and sustainability.  

How would you describe the research environment and community in the school and in the university generally? Are you involved in research centres and/or do you work with other academics and postgraduate researchers whether inside the school or across the university?  

The vibrant academic community in the school provides a wide range of opportunities for fascinating and challenging projects, nurturing creativity and encouraging cross-disciplinary, collaborative research. I am a member of the Centre for Global Security Challenges. Headed by Dr Laura Considine and Dr Jack Holland, the centre’s focus is not only to produce research on the core themes, but also to cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries while ensuring specialisms can emerge and flourish, driven by a culture of curiosity and innovation.  Further to that, I have been involved in two interdisciplinary research projects with the centre. Both projects are aimed at building and strengthening interdisciplinary links between the School of Politics and International Studies, the School of Law, and the School of History.  
Since January 2022, I have also been Assistant Editor for the “Civil Wars” journal working alongside two members of staff, Dr James Worrall and Dr Alex Waterman. Apart from the privilege to be working with James and Alex, to be engaged in the journal is a great way to gain in-depth knowledge for the field, it helps to expand the network and it equips you, as a PhD student, with the right tools to enhance research and learning. 

Do you take part in any activities outside of your study? (eg. clubs and societies at the union or perhaps activities in the School). 

Since 2020 I have been a part of two research communities outside the school: the Defence Research Network https://defenceresnet.org/) and the Military Innovation Research Network. Both networks consist of postgraduate students and early career researchers within and outside UK universities. Their mission is to connect defence research with practice and policy through interdisciplinary collaboration and networking. We have already embarked and are embarking in some initiatives together.  

What are your plans once you have completed your PhD? 

I would definitively like to remain in the field as a researcher or analyst. 

What do you think of Leeds as a city? 

I enjoy living in Leeds. It is a vibrant intellectual community, with an award-winning national theatre and dance companies. I like the unique architecture, where Victorian arcades and modern buildings stand side by side. 

What would you say to someone considering a research degree in the School? 

Go for it! Leeds has an excellent team of professional academics. They are supportive, but also exigent during the doctoral path, which is necessary as the research project should leave a mark and be an apt class thesis.  

Are there any other highlights of your PhD experience so far that you would like to tell us about (eg. any awards, conferences, publishing achievements or social events)? 

There are some small but significant achievements for me:  

  • I published a chapter in 2021. 
  • I won a scholarship granted to the Israeli part of my research by the Rafa and Paula Atlas and Joel Sikrble Atlas Endowment, USA. 

  • I got a non-resident fellowship with the Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Centre in Tel Aviv University. 

  • In the last three months, I have attended and presented at two conferences. One related to the field of Israeli Studies and the other was the Doctoral Defence Symposium at Cranfield. For this last event, I had the pleasure to co-author a technical paper with Dr. Tamiris Santos.