PhD student Gemmo Fernandez received an honourable mention from the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College in the Human Rights Essay Awards 2020.
Why did you choose ANU?
ANU offers a strong research profile and an opportunity to work under the supervision of leading scholars. These were my considerations in selecting which schools to apply for my higher degree research. The relationship of ANU with the government tasked with crafting policies concerning international law and Canberra’s quiet atmosphere presents a unique environment for writing a doctoral dissertation in international law.
What did you do prior to your Higher Degree Research (HDR)?
Before commencing my research, I obtained my Masters of Law (LLM) degree which I would say prepared me for the rigours of the programme. Prior to taking my LLM, I practised as a lawyer in the Philippines specialising in the fields of cybercrime prevention and data privacy protection.
Why did you decide to pursue a PhD?
International Law has always piqued my interest from the time I took the subject during my Juris Doctor (JD) studies. This interest was further developed during the time I was working towards my LLM degree. I decided to pursue doctoral studies in the hopes of making a significant contribution to the field through my research.
Can you tell us more about your research project?
My research delves into the implementation of collective norms in international law. It endeavours to assess the theories and concepts that have led to the development of the rules on state responsibility concerning jus cogens norms and erga omnes obligations. It also examines the state practice pertaining to the entitlement of states not directly affected in response to an internationally wrongful act. Finally, it evaluates whether the current formulations of the concepts of rights, injury, and obligations are adequate insofar as addressing the issues concerning the implementation of collective norms.
Who are your supervisors? How and why did you pick them?
Associate Professor Sarah Heathcote chairs my supervisory committee with Professor Anthony Connolly and Dr Esmé Shirlow as associate supervisors. I followed the process provided by the college in finding a primary supervisor and looked through the specialisations of the academic staff. After this, I approached Associate Professor Heathcote with my preliminary proposal and she agreed to be the primary supervisor. After commencing the programme, we approached Dr Shirlow and Professor Connolly to ask as to their availability and interest in acting as associate supervisors.
How different is studying for HDR in comparison to your previous degree?
Studying for HDR has been markedly different from my experience in my LLM degree. When I was studying for the latter, what I had to do was follow the structure set by the course convenors, study based on the outlines provided, and undertake the necessary assessments. Studying for HDR, on the other hand, requires me to manage my time, plan out the structure of my work, and set my own milestones based on the recommendations of my supervisors.
What are your next steps, planned or aspired, after getting your PhD?
It has been my dream to research on and teach international law. It is my aspiration to work in the academe after obtaining my PhD.
What advice would you give students who are planning on pursuing HDR in the future?
My advice would be to hone the necessary skills such as researching and writing before commencing a higher degree by research. Add to this, to develop the discipline that would enable one to stick with the goals and milestones set.
Find out more about Higher Degree Research at ANU College of Law.