Who and why…

This page addresses two different ‘who’ questions, and one ‘why’:

1) Who am I?

2) Who was Isambard?

3) Why this appearance?

Let’s start with why ‘Isambard’s Emporium of Wonders and Educational Curiosities’ and a steampunk-ish theme for a site offering editing and tutoring? Isn’t that a bit, well, non-serious?

That’s exactly my point. I strongly believe that you can be serious and light-hearted at the same time. Ask my former students. I have a reputation for having a sense of humour, but also having a passion for teaching, and knowing what I’m talking about.

But why ‘Isambard’ specifically?

At one point when I was teaching at Brunel University, I walked across campus one day and saw a statue of Brunel. I posted on Facebook that I wondered why no one named their children ‘Isambard’ anymore. A friend said ‘Christopher Kaplonski is a cool name, but Isambard Kaplonski takes it up another notch.’ So the name has lurked in the recesses of my mind, awaiting a chance to be used. And popped up here as a name. And ‘Emporium’ etc seems appropriate with the the 19th century aspect of Isambard.


If you aren’t familiar with  Isambard Kingdom Brunel, he was a famous 19th century engineer, designing steamships, building railroads and bridges, and more.

Who am I? I’m a social anthropologist, who was one of the first American anthropologists to do fieldwork in post-socialist Mongolia in the 1993s.  I spent about 20 years working in and on Mongolia, before shifting focus.

Among other things these days, I am Director of Research at a small project called Anthroenology, and the wine part of Insects and Wine.

More importantly here, what are my claims to have experience in tutoring and editing?

I taught at the University level for a quarter of a century, in the US, Mongolia and the United Kingdom, where, among other things, I spent almost a decade working at the University of Cambridge.

Within this context, I’ve taught academic writing, and I’ve helped dozens of students, both undergraduate and post-graduate, design, research, and write dissertations and other substantial pieces of research. In terms of student work, like theses, I’ve marked and examined even more of them than I’ve supervised, again at all levels. 

I – like most academics – have not only applied for and been awarded research grants, but I’ve been on panels that evaluated them.

I know what works and what doesn’t from both sides of the table, undergraduate dissertations, PhD theses, and grant applications.