Lewis is a doctoral researcher currently studying 'The Security Intelligence Services of the Private Sector.'

My PhD examines the “other” intelligence community, and looks at how private corporations, such as tech firms, movie studios, and fast-food corporations, use intelligence to navigate geopolitical risks and security crises. It looks at the history of the field, the methods it uses to gather and assess intelligence, and the ethical boundaries of the field. It explores controversies in the field, such as corporate espionage, and efforts to surveil activist groups, and delineates between these areas and more acceptable uses of intelligence.

My route into PhD

I’ve been interested in doing a PhD since my undergraduate days (and my supervisor is in fact one of my undergrad professors!). Having spent a few years working in the private intelligence sector, this always seemed like an area that had been overlooked academically, and when the pandemic hit in 2020, I decided to use the time to start a part-time PhD.

I was working in the private sector intelligence field at a US technology company, where I have continued to work alongside my research. They have very graciously funded my research, which has proven to be a huge help!

My experience studying at Loughborough

I love the research! Diving into archival records or interviewing study participants has been an amazing experience. You learn so much! Having worked in my field of study for over a decade, I thought I knew quite a lot about it, but very early in the research journey I realised that I had barely scratched the surface, and that there was a lot left to learn!

Studying a PhD is much more self-directed, with your supervisors being there more in an advisory capacity rather than as direct teachers (although you can still learn plenty from them!). You’re also treated more like a peer member of staff within the department.

My advice for future doctoral researchers

It’s ok if you aren’t perfectly sure what your thesis will be about! The first year is really about finding gaps in scholarly knowledge around your rough topical area, and then finding a space where your work can fit in. My thesis is unrecognisable when compared to the proposal!

My career goals

Later this year I’m joining a major European pharmaceutical firm to lead their global security intelligence team, and I’m about to start teaching my second semester in Intelligence Studies at Sciences Po Paris, so I imagine I will remain halfway between industry and academia!


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