Lizzie Hughes, School of Law and Criminology, Birkbeck

Pathway: Law, Socio-legal Studies, and Criminology

Research area & contact details

About me: I hold an MSc in Gender Studies from the London School of Economics and an MSc in Criminology from Birkbeck. I am now studying for a PhD in Criminology at Birkbeck. My research is interdisciplinary, working across criminology, queer and trans theory, and gender studies.

Alongside my academic studies, I work in mental health managing a specialist therapeutic day-centre for LGBTIQ+ people, including people claiming asylum on the grounds of gender identity or sexuality.

I am also involved in research directed towards the prison estate and in networks working to alleviate the loneliness of people in prison.

My research: My research looks at the interface of surveillance, transness, and community regulation through the idea of self-identification in the UK public bathroom space. I reconceptualise surveillance as an embodied activity that (en)genders and governs human subjects through the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch), as part of a wider fibrotic assemblage of state narratives and social discourse. In so doing, I reconsider the ways in which individuals self-regulate and govern others within “community” spaces through particular racialised and gendered tropes.

Impact of research: From the perspective of surveillance studies, my research offers an important theoretical reconceptualisation that is part of the first steps taken within the discipline to integrate understandings of surveillance with scholarship on gender and trans “difference”. Additionally, my research contributes to a growing body of sensory criminology and transgender studies in the UK by creating an embodied exploration of surveillance that goes beyond its perceived function as panoptic, machinic, and purely organisational. More broadly, the concept of self-ID is significantly under-researched despite having gained significant attention in social and political settings. My research will pay attention to the lived impact of its potential implementation upon all subjects and consider how we might come to understand gender and identity differently because of it. 

Supervisor: Dr Sarah Lamble and Dr Nathan Moore (joint)

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Pablo Barba, Institute of Archaeology, UCL

Pathway: Archaeology and Heritage Studies

Research area & contact details

About me: I was born and raised in Madrid (Spain), where I completed my undergrad degree on Archaeology at Universidad Complutense. In 2018 I moved to London to undertake a MA degree on “Archaeology and Heritage of Egypt and the Middle East” at UCL. I like art, languages, nature, and, of course, music (I play the viola since I was 8 years old).

My research: I analyse graves of children from the Predynastic period (ca. 4000-3000 BC) in Egypt. Through this funerary record, I will explore questions of personhood, emotions, memory and childhood to study the relevance of children in the negotiation of social relationships during prehistoric Egypt. Through data from over a century of excavations in the Nile Valley and archaeological collections throughout the world, my research will address the following questions:

  • Which types of material culture were actively introduced in children’s tombs? How do the qualitative aspects of those grave goods relate to the construction of certain emotions, memories and identities regarding childhood?
  • How might the acquisition of social and biological capacities during the early stages of human development (“subadulthood”) affect the funerary treatment of children? Can we see changes in the material culture of subadults’ graves as the individual grew, matured, and developed social abilities?
  • Can we assume an emotional detachment from children in premodern societies with high infant mortality? Is “delayed personhood” a functional system to avoid the psychological burden of the likely death of offspring in pre-Jennerian societies? How can the Predynastic record help to move away from these simplistic universalist interpretations? 
  • How did subadult’s funerary assemblages and socio-political transformations evolve concurrently throughout the 4th mill. BC? When do major shifts in the engagement with the death of children emerge?

Impact of my research: This doctoral project intends to demonstrate the importance of a socio-culturally inspired study of childhood, and to defend the place of children as valid subjects within social research. Through this focus on infancy and childhood, my research will contribute to current themes in World Archaeology as well as social sciences, such as personhood, materiality, memory or emotions.

The predynastic archaeological record will allow me to explore relevant questions for social researchers: What can the sociocultural variability in child rearing practices tell us about the so-called “natural” and “innate” ways of raising a child? What can we learn from the ubiquitous dead of children in past societies regarding the universality of grief experiences? When and how is personhood and social recognition acquired and/or constructed? How does material culture negotiate our being-in-the-world from our youngest days? Are children and infants to be considered simply as “passive natural” beings against the “active cultural” adults? Childhood provides then an excellent scene to discuss the problematic definition and use of some concepts which feature prominently in modern research, such as agency, personhood and humanity, or the Cartesian nature-culture dichotomy.

Finally, I intend to collaborate in the renovation of research topics in studies of Predynastic Egypt, and to foster interdisciplinary research between Egyptology and other social sciences such as anthropology, sociology or psychology.  

Supervisors: Dr Alice Stevenson and Prof David Wengrow

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Soumyajit Basu, Law and Socio-legal Studies, Birkbeck

Research area & contact details

bout me: I’m Shomo, and my interests are broadly in the areas of gender theory, intellectual property law, and Science and Technology Studies. I hold degrees in Medical Sciences (BSc), Bioethics (MA) and Law (LLM), and I’m fascinated by the discursive production of law and science. My other great passion is playwriting and theatre, which is a wonderfully accessible art form, and I’m a member of my local community theatre, Putney Arts Theatre, assisting in all aspects of theatre production.

My research: My PhD research is developing a critical historiography of US patent and copyright law through the lens of feminist theory. Centred on gender, property and nature, I examine nineteenth century technologies of reproduction in relation to gendered conceptions of authorship and invention, and their formative role in shaping contemporary US intellectual property law. The focus of the study is towards exploring the subject of biotechnology starting in the late modern period and mass industrialisation, enriching understandings of the intellectual property ownership of modern biotechnology.

Impact of my research: In the digital information age, intellectual property plays a central role in the production and distribution of knowledge and capital. The research will thus address issues of access to information and technology. Through analysing the emergence of the influential US Intellectual property system, the research will engage intellectual property norms and practices in industry and academia, and their effects on science and the arts. A gender theory approach further informs the focus on biotechnology and the relation between human activity and the appropriation and exploitation of the environment.

Supervisors: Professor Fiona Macmillan and Henrique Carvalho

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Helen Nicholls, Division of Psychiatry, UCL

Pathway: Mental Health and Mental Health Care

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About me: I completed my BSc in Psychology at The University of Reading in 2014 and went on to complete an MSc in Mental Health Studies at King’s College London in 2017. Prior to beginning my PhD, I worked as an assistant psychologist in both a clinical and research capacity.

My research: My PhD focuses on the experiences of researchers who work in academic institutions. Using a mixed methods approach, I aim to better understand how researchers working in UK universities experience the workplace environment, and how this in turn impacts on their mental health and wellbeing. Through this research, we hope to devise general policy recommendations for UK universities and the wider higher education system on how to effectively support researchers in managing any mental health difficulties they may be experiencing and promote positive well-being.

Impact of my research: The mental health and well-being of researchers who work in academia has not been well explored, is not well understood, and is therefore not currently supported effectively. Concern for individual well-being is a key reason for drawing focus to this area. However, the presence of work-related stressors which may exacerbate or cause mental health difficulties combined with a lack of effective support from the wider higher education system as a whole is causing skilled researchers to leave academia, and those that remain,  feel unable to work at an optimal level. This may ultimately have a negative effect on society as a whole through a lack of progress and advancement in key areas.

Through this research, recommendations will be created for UK academic institutions and the wider higher education system on how to effectively support researchers in managing any mental health difficulties they may be experiencing and promote positive well-being. We hope that the implementation of these recommendations will ultimately help to retain talented researchers in the academic sector, leading to the production of high-quality research outputs which aim to further advance key issues facing humanity.

Supervisors: Dr Jo Billings & Dr Danielle Lamb

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Twitter: @HelenNic93

Laura Paulauskaite, Social Research Institute, UCL

Pathway: Social Policy

Research area & contact details

About me: I have BSc in Psychology from City University of London and MSc in Clinical Mental Health Sciences from UCL. Prior to my PhD studies, I worked for several years in the NHS and UCL on research projects with people with mental health problems and intellectual disability. I am passionate about improving quality of life for people with intellectual disability and those who support them and increasing co-production with this population in research.

My research: Relationships and Sex Education became compulsory in English schools in 2020. However, little is known about what students with an intellectual disability are expected to learn or achieve through Relationships and Sex Education. For my PhD project, I am developing a Core Outcome Set of Relationships and Sex Education with students with intellectual disability. This involves finding out what students with intellectual disability, parents, teachers, policy makers and researchers think important outcomes of this education should be and then agreeing on the most important outcomes.

Impact of my research: The findings of this project will be a significant first step in the successful implementation, delivery, evaluation and sustainability of Relationships and Sex Education for students with intellectual disability in schools. This list of Relationships and Sex Education outcomes can be used by schools to evaluate their approach, by researchers to evaluate Relationships and Sex education models and others to describe what difference this education makes in the skills and knowledge of students with intellectual disability.

Supervisors: Professor Carol Rivas and Doctor Vaso Totsika

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Nerges Azizi, Law, Birkbeck

Pathway: Law and Socio-Legal Studies

Research area & contact details

About me: I hold a Double-Bachelor in Social and Political Sciences between Sciences Po Paris and the Free University Berlin and a Master of Science in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In my bachelor thesis, I did an ethnography on poetical resistance of Afghan refugees in Berlin. Beyond my experience in higher education, I worked as a Carlo Schmid Fellow for the Ethics Office of UNHCR in Geneva and did a traineeship at the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. Currently, I work as a translator with refugees and as a freelance writer.

My research: My research critically interrogates the role of strategic human rights litigation in Europe’s border zone. Legal interventions will be placed in context to the variety of tactics and strategies used to challenge the violence and neglect that irregularised migrants are faced with at Europe’s borders. My goal is to address the contradictions and ambivalences that arise from the judicial fight for the recognition of rights, legalisation, and regularisation as a means of resistance.

Impact of my research: My research is of significance to critically analyse the role of strategic litigation as a means of enacting dissent. It aims not only at understanding how the law is used to contest the current border regime, but also for rethinking the fundamentals of law, participation and social critique. In contrast to previous research, I will reflect on my research questions in light of the ongoing history of colonial and imperial Europe and the interaction of race and the law, and law and social critique.

Supervisors: Dr Eddie Bruce-Jones and Dr Nadine El-Enany

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Twitter: @NergesAzizi

Laura Sheppard, Centre of Advanced Spatial Analysis, UCL

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About me: I am currently a PhD student at the Centre of Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL. Before joining UCL, I graduated with an undergraduate degree in June 2019 in Geography with Quantitative Research Methods from the University of Bristol. The following academic year I stayed at Bristol and did my MRes in Advanced Quantitative Methods in the Geography department and finished in September 2020. My main research interests are in gender studies and social and geographical inequalities and using machine learning and data science to examine them.

My research: HESA stated that in the 2018/19 academic year, only 26.7% of UK professors identified as female. However, in undergraduate and postgraduate taught study, female students make up a larger share of the student population than men do, with 57% of the total UK student population identifying as female. So, where do these female students go?

My research seeks to understand and examine the gender diversity of PhD students in the UK over intellectual space and time at departmental, institutional and disciplinary scales. My PhD combines gender studies and higher educational inequalities with data science and machine learning. Using the British Library’s E-thesis online service (EThOS), which contains over half a million completed UK PhD theses. I will infer the gender of PhD students using gender inferencing algorithms and then use multilevel modelling to assess where the variation in the data lies.

Impact of my research: Academia is a male-dominated domain which can make it difficult for female, non-binary and transgender researchers and leaders to thrive and progress. There is an under representation of women and gender minorities in senior positions such as full professors and heads of department and therefore, a more detailed exploration of the research pipeline at the PhD student level will be useful for expanding our understanding. PhD students are the critical link between students and academic staff in the research pipeline. Not enough is known about the gender gap at a doctoral level. This topic needs to be examined as it has not been done to date, especially not using the British Library’s EThOS data, and is important for a unique nationwide and historical look at gender and PhD students.

Diversity promotes innovation within research, which suggests that by having a diverse team of researchers from different backgrounds and with different ideas and knowledge, the research will become more innovative and forward-thinking. There is also space within this PhD for a critical evaluation of the use of gender inferencing algorithms and to mitigate the limitations they present by conducting an ensemble approach and creating a new validation dataset. Also, as this PhD research is in partnership with the British Library, it is not only producing useful information for the academic sector, it is also providing useful data, research and information for the British Library on their EThOS metadata.

Supervisors: Dr Jon Reades and Dr Richard Freeman

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Twitter: @laurahsheppard

Jack Jenkins Hill, Anthropology – HERG, SOAS

Pathway: Anthropology

Research area & contact details

About me: I am originally from South East London, and have worked on Myanmar over the past decade as a land and forests campaigner, working with civil society groups and activist networks. I carried out a MRes at UCL in 2017, and am now joining a PhD programme in order to progress this work further.

My research: My research looks at conflicts over conservation in Southern Myanmar, looking at how decades of revolution have become reconfigured through practices of conservation. I look not only at the ways in which state and international agencies deploy conservation, but at the ways in which communities, civil society and ethnic liberation organisations have used conservation as a strategy to meet revolutionary goals of self-determination and autonomy.

Impact of my research: My research will contribute to ongoing discussions on conservation and violent conflict, however looking at how alternative actors use conservation to achieve ecological, social and political objectives.

Talen Wright, Division of Psychiatry, UCL

Pathway: Mental Health and Mental Healthcare

Research area & contact details

About me: I am a PhD researcher and trans woman who researches and discusses current issues around LGB mental health, trans and gender diverse mental health, healthcare service access, and the impact of discrimination on trans and queer people’s lives. I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology from London South Bank University, and my master’s degree in clinical Mental Health Sciences from UCL. I have spent the past couple of years working at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as a research assistant. I am also currently working as a co-investigator on the Longitudinal Outcomes in Gender Identity for Children (LOGIC) study at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Gender Identity Development Service.

My research: My research centres on the experiences of trans and gender diverse people’s mental health, particularly suicidality, and how microaggressions and other social determinants increase and maintain risk on suicidal ideation, self-harm, and suicide attempt. I am also working on the LOGIC study, which is a longitudinal prospective study examining the mental and social wellbeing of trans and gender diverse young people as they navigate the waiting list and throughout their time at the service.

My ESRC funded PhD is studying the impact of microaggressions, gender minority stress, and loneliness on depression, anxiety, and suicidality (which includes suicidal ideation, self-harm and suicide attempt) using a cross-sectional survey and ecological momentary assessment study. The cross-sectional study is interested in how prevalent depression, anxiety, and suicidality are amongst trans and non-binary people in the United Kingdom and how factors such as microaggressions, gender minority stress, and loneliness may play a role in increasing susceptibility to mental health distress. The EMA study intends on investigating the issues raised in the cross-sectional study but in an ecologically valid and longitudinal manner. This study may highlight how the frequency and quantity of microaggressive acts may impact on mood and affect. My research is supported by Dr Alexandra Pitman and Dr Gemma Lewis from the Division of Psychiatry, and my thesis committee, Dr Talya Greene (University of Haifa), and Dr Ruth Pearce (University of Glasgow)

Impact of my research: The results of my research will hopefully help shape policy and inform therapeutic practice on the insidious nature of microaggressions in trans peoples lives and how we may ameliorate the damage they do to the wellbeing of trans and non-binary people.

The following are some publications that relate to the work I do in trans mental health:

Fernie, B. A., Wright, T., Caselli, G., Nikčević, A. V., & Spada, M. M. (2017). Metacognitions as Mediators of Gender Identity‐related Anxiety. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy, 24(1), 264-268. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1992

Wright, T., Candy, B., & King, M. (2018). Conversion therapies and access to transition-related healthcare in transgender people: a narrative systematic review. BMJ open8(12), e022425.

Witzel, T.C., Wright, T., McCabe, L., Gabriel, M.M., Wolton, A., Gafos, M., et al. (2021) Impact and acceptability of HIV self-testing for trans men and trans women: a mixed-methods randomised controlled trial and process evaluation in England and Wales. E-Clinical-Medicine.

Wright, T., Nicholls, E.J., Rodger, A.J., Burns, F.M., Weatherburn, P., Pebody, R., McCabe, L., Wolton, A., Gafos, M., Witzel, T.C. (2021) Accessing and utilising transition-related healthcare in England and Wales: trans men and trans women’s accounts of navigating gender identity services. BMC Health Services Research

Stynes, H., Lane, C., Pearson, B., Wright, T., Ranieri, V., Masic, U., & Kennedy, E. (2021). Gender identity development in children and young people: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. Clinical child psychology and psychiatry, 13591045211002620.

Supervisors: Dr Alexandra Pitman & Dr Gemma Lewis

Contact details:

Twitter: @WrightTalen & @TransMMH


Kate Luxion, Social Research Institute,UCL

Pathway: Social Policy Pathway

Research area & contact details

About me: I am a non-binary researcher focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) reproductive health and parenting. In addition to being a PhD candidate at University College London, I serve as Executive Director of the Journal of Reproductive Justice, a non-profit organization whose aim is providing inclusive resources and education for LGBTQ+ families and the providers who serve them.

My research: Patients using reproductive health services, like care during pregnancy (called antenatal care), are most often assumed to be heterosexual married women whose gender matched their sex assigned at birth (i.e., cisgender). Due to these assumptions, pregnancy care procedures are based on a sweeping assumption of who becomes pregnant and gives birth. This assumption is based on the pregnant person’s gender and/or sexual orientation. As a result of this assumption, parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex, asexual, non-binary, and/or transgender (LGBTQIA+) can experience stress in the form of stigma, prejudice, and discrimination (i.e. “minority stress”). In the United Kingdom, there are 525,000 LGBTQIA+ potential gestational patients who may face this type of stress while receiving pregnancy care. That means that there is a preventable higher risk for pregnancy and birth complications caused by increased stress during pregnancy and daily life. These complications include macrosomia, pre-term birth, and low-birth weight. Preventable stress, also called minority stress, links to this increase in health problems outside of pregnancy as well. Since minority stress influences patient/parents’ health, it is also called a risk or vulnerability. Resilience, or the ability to overcome stress and discrimination, can sometimes help improve health outcomes. However, little is known about which types of resilience can be helpful for LGBTQIA+ parents given their unique experiences of minority stress.

The planned observational study will investigate the ways in which experiences of minority stress and resilience in pregnancy care are associated with parent health and birth outcomes. A sample of pregnant patients (N=800) from maternity wards in and around London will take part through an online panel survey (completed twice) that will be linked to each patient/participant’s electronic health records to create a quantitative dataset. Participant recruitment will focus on LGBTQIA+ pregnant patients (n=200). A matched comparison sample of cisgender, heterosexual pregnant patients (n=600) will also be recruited to take part from the same maternity. From the full sample, patient/parents from University College London Hospital will be invited to complete an at-home journal activity which will provide qualitative data on their experiences of minority stress and resilience. This smaller group (n=30). Results from this study can be used to inform LGBTQIA+ guidelines, training, and help make reproductive healthcare more inclusive.

Impact of my research: Findings from the Legacies and Futures will be able to inform antenatal care guidelines and diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. Such evidence informed policies and guidelines should help improve the quality of care and support received through the reduction of minority stressors while accessing antenatal care.

Supervisor: David M. Frost, PhD

Contact details:

Social Media: Twitter: @kateluxion