Mona Jebril


Research Fellow


Cambridge Judge Business School


Conflict-affected Area, Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Sociology of Higher Education (HE), Political Economy of Health, Soft Power & Symbolic Violence

I am a ‘multi-potentialite’ academic and researcher who enjoys the challenge of being constantly a beginner.

I see the world as a creative puzzle, whose parts are interrelated and ever-shifting. This makes me passionate about exploring life with an interdisciplinary perspective. Working in-between academic zones gained me a capacity for ’synergy’, ‘rapid learning’ and ‘adaptability’.

I am currently investigating the impact of conflict on higher education and health in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I have triangulated my working experiences between teaching, training, lecturing, coordination, leadership, management and research. I also enjoy a wide range of skills and interdisciplinary interests, which I bring creatively to any work that I do. Most importantly, I take seriously my continuing personal and professional development, and have the will and passion to learn and contribute and create an impact with all that I have learnt.

My research interests are focused on investigating soft power, or what Pierre Bourdieu names as, ‘symbolic violence’, in its complex interaction with conflict and how both impact individuals, societies, and their various institutions in fragile contexts. So far, I have looked, in-depth, at this topic in relation to two sectors in Palestine: higher education, and health. I hope to unveil the nature of the ‘butterfly’ effect which soft power has in influencing the different levels of decision-making at times and contexts of uncertainty.

Both of my MSc (Oxford), and PhD (Cambridge) were sociological studies which focused on higher education in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip. I also worked with the Cambridge Faculty of Education on a project that explored Syrian higher education pre and post 2011 through interviews with Syrians in Turkey. Currently, I am working at the University of Cambridge as a Research Fellow on the Research for Health in Conflict (R4HC-MENA) project. I am involved in the Political Economy of Health workstream which works to investigate the impact of conflict in health in Lebanon, Jordan, OPT, and Turkey. My research focuses particularly on the Gaza Strip (watch a short animation film). For more details, see my personal website.

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This website

This website showcases the profiles of early career cis and trans women researchers from the University of Cambridge, UK, and affiliated institutions. It originated as part of StepWide, a leadership programme that aims to support the next generation of female researchers.

We hope that by making the expertise and stories of early career women researchers more visible (and searchable!), will highlight how much they contribute to the research that is done in the University and affiliated institutions.

Who is it for

This website is designed for a wide audience, be it other researchers looking for particular expertise for a collaboration; the media looking for experts; those that are simply curious about what type of research is done in Cambridge, or those trying to get a clearer idea of what a ‘typical’ woman researcher in this years old institution does (there is no ‘typical’!).

The StepWide programme

StepWide was designed by 3 postdocs at Cambridge (see below for more on Marta, Laura and Cemre). It aims to support female postdoctoral researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, from any discipline, who feel that taking a step into leadership is not for them. The programme is designed to suit both early and more senior postdocs, providing them with the skills to challenge the current ideas of what a leader is, learn how to raise their public profiles, as well as a close and supportive network of peer-to-peer female postdocs.

StepWide ran for the first time in 2019/2021, and we are currently running a new series of workshops in 2022/2023. We will post updates here when applications open for its next run.


Laura, Marta and Cemre (left to right on the photo) met at The Postdocs of Cambridge (PdOC) Society, at the University of Cambridge, UK. When the Researcher Development (RD) Pitch Competition was announced in late 2018, they felt this provided the ideal opportunity to work together to develop a leadership programme for women postdocs. They saw a gap in the current leadership RD provision, with a lack of opportunities that challenge current leadership views. Their proposal was successful and obtained funding for a one year pilot, giving rise to the StepWide programme.

Laura Fachal is a Senior Staff Scientist at Wellcome Sanger Institute. She earned her BS in Veterinary, MSc in Biotechnology and PhD from University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. She completed her postdoc at the Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology, University of Cambridge. She is also a Research Associate at Lucy Cavendish College.

Marta Costa is a Senior Research Associate at the Department of Zoology. She did her undergrad in Biology in Lisbon, Portugal, followed by an MSc in Neuroscience at UCL in London. She then moved to Cambridge for her PhD, followed by a postdoc. She is also a Research Associate at Lucy Cavendish College.

Cemre Ustunkaya was a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. She earned her BSc in Biological Science, followed by an MSc in Archaeometry at Middle East Technical University, Turkey. She later moved to Australia for her PhD in Archaeology at The University of Queensland. She is also a postdoc affiliate at Newnham College.


Thanks and funding

StepWide was funded by the Researcher Development Pitch Competition which included support from the Researcher Development Programme, The Postdocs of Cambridge (PdOC) Society, the Postdoc Academy, the Postdoc Chairs’ Network and the Careers Service at the University of Cambridge. We are very thankful for their support. We would also like to thank Alba Gómez for her expert support with the first version of the website, and to Arian Jamasb for redesigning and implementing the newest version of this website. Finally, we thank Natacha Wilson and Rebecca Nestor for the advice and support they provided for the development of the workshops.

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