2021 Cohort

Sergio Calderón Harker, Psychological Studies, Birkbeck

Pathway: Psychological Studies

Research area & Contact details

About me: I have a BA in Liberal Arts and Sciences (with a focus in political sociology and philosophy) from the University College Maastricht, and an MA in Political Philosophy from the Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona. I have previously worked as an assistant editor for Democracia Abierta, and most recently as a Teaching Assistant at the Department of Philosophy at Maastricht University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

My research: My research project critically investigates the continued legacies of coloniality – particularly colonial discourses, imaginaries, and spatialities – in contemporary Europe. I focus on Migrant Detention Centres (MDCs) in the UK and Spain, and examine how they reproduce, sustain, and legitimise colonial discourses and spatial aesthetics which cast the ‘migrant’ as Europe’s contemporary Other. To do this, I propose a close engagement with contemporary critical theory and post/decolonial thought, while employing critical ethnographic, discourse analysis, and archival research methods. Through this I analyse MDCs’ significance in the sustenance of the European border regime, as well as its intersection with questions of racialisation, detention, in/visibility and erasure, spatial governmentality, and systemic violence in today’s Europe.

Impact of my research: My project is both academically as well as socially significant. On the one hand, I pursue a transdisciplinary approach by closely engaging with contemporary debates in critical theory and post/decolonial thought, thereby advancing theorisations on racialised affect, injurability and necropolitics, political violence, and spatial-carceral governmentality, to name a few. Through pursuing a critical theory-inspired methodological approach, I aim to establish a reflexive dialogue with social and political actors such as migrants, activists, and former detainees, engaging with emancipatory knowledge and discourses of social justice. As a critical ethnographer pursuing a decolonial.

Supervisors: Dr Ben Gidley and Dr Margarita Palacios

Contact details: scalde02@student.bbk.ac.uk

Astrid Bowen, Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck

Pathway: Primary: Cognition, language and learning – Psychology Secondary: Health and welfare – Health and well-being

Research area & Contact details

About me: I was born in South Wales, completed my BSc in Psychology with Counselling with the Open University as a mature student, and then my MSc in Developmental Disorders at the University of Nottingham.  My career outside of academia has been in teaching, counselling and applied interventions with special educational needs (SEN).

My research: My primary research interest is in supporting the mental health of children and young people in educational contexts, but I have a secondary interest in supporting learning in autism and SEN.  My past research projects include a discursive analysis of cultural messages concerning mental health, and an examination of the relationships between self-reported perceptions of school climate, subjective well-being and engagement at school in secondary school students. My PhD project is co-funded by the ESRC and Evolve, a social impact company.  It involves evaluating the effects of health mentoring and cognitive training programmes on well-being, academic achievement and cognitive outcomes in KS2 children.

Impact of my research: This co-funded project has potential for societal impact through establishing the mechanisms of effect and educational/health-related outcomes of an intervention to improve well-being and cognitive skills in primary school children. The project will address how the intervention could be scaled up to reach a wider population of children and could potentially impact how educational interventions for wellbeing in schools are approached on a national scale.

Supervisors: Prof. Michael Thomas and Prof. Andrew Tolmie

Contact details: abowen03@student.bbk.ac.uk

Francesca Ruzzetta, Institute of Archaeology, UCL

Pathway: Archaeology and Heritage Studies

Research area & Contact details

About me: I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Classical Archaeology and Classical Civilisation at UCL in 2019. I then moved to Oxford to pursue a Master’s Degree in Classical Archaeology at Lincoln College. Throughout my studies, I have been interested in exploring how archaeology is increasingly used and co-opted into contemporary political and social debates and how different individuals, groups and stakeholders may develop differing, complementary or contested narratives about the past.

My research: My doctoral project analyses the impact of heritage policies on the well-being and mental health of minority communities in times of crisis. Focusing on the case of Greece, I will examine how the politicisation of the classical past has precluded the adoption of inclusive heritage practices, marginalising minorities and excluding them from modern definitions of Greek identity. My research will concentrate on three periods of national crisis to show how public agents prioritised a narrow definition of “Greek” heritage, paying little attention to inclusive practices. Through ethnographic fieldwork, I will examine how inclusive practices can improve minorities’ well-being in every country.

Impact of my research: I aim to design an inclusive framework of cultural heritage management practices which are urgently needed because research shows that these can improve well-being and mental health. Cultural heritage’s ‘therapeutic’ power is crucial in times of crisis such as now, where the Covid-19 pandemic has deteriorated symptoms of people on mental health care. This framework of inclusive practices, which can be qualified as non-medicalized approaches to the enhancement of mental health, can be reconfigured and implemented by policy makers in Greece and beyond.

Supervisors: Gabriel Moshenska and Corinna Riva

Contact details: francesca.ruzzetta.16@ucl.ac.uk

Social Media: @FrancescaRuzze1

Ipsita Chatterjee, Anthropology, UCL

Pathway: Anthropology

Research area & Contact details

About me: My parents were born just before the Bangladesh Liberation War broke out in Bangladesh in the 1970s. My grandparents were born just before the 1947 partition. I was born and bred in a joint family of North Calcutta where stories of migration, partition, Bengali patriotic literature and music made rounds every single evening when the family came together for dinner. My research proposal/idea has been inspired by the hundreds of stories of desher bari (native house), a staple in most Bangal (migrant Bengali) families. I have been working on the Bengal partition and identity for the last 5 years. I have done ethnographic fieldwork for over 2 years in Calcutta and its surroundings, have forged networks with researchers, academicians, historians, and organizations who are working on Bengal partition and the Bengali diaspora, including the Bangladeshi diaspora all over the world. My research allows me a deeper understanding of inter-religious coexistence in the post-colonial context and helps me decode the cultural impact of memory, nostalgia, and belonging.

My research: The history of post-colonial secular India has been fraught with communal undertones of migration and displacement especially in the context of the formation of Bangladesh. At the core of it lies Hindu-Muslim segregational politics. Through my research, I try to see how the Hindu migrants who came from Bangladesh to India during 1947 and 1971 formed their outlook towards the people of the Islamic faith through their personal experience and political discourse. I focus on how encounters with people and practices of other religion are given form and meaning through personal experience. This research tries to debunk a dichotomous understanding of religion as public/private and inquires whether a third dimension, the ‘inter-personal’, can be incorporated into our comprehension of a religion we are not affiliated with. I am specifically interested in how people negotiate their ‘Bengali’ identity, communal trauma, social experience, and political discourse, and whether any of these is compromised, ennobled, or romanticized to forge a relationship with a different religion.

Impact of my research: Most of the literature on partition, especially in terms of Hindu-Muslim relations, in the context of Bengal is epistemologically macro-social and etic in nature. The lack of understanding of interreligious co-existence and inter-personal experience in post partition Bengal is a glaring research gap. Broadly speaking, my research helps to understand the reasons behind inter-religious conflict as well as solidarity in the post-colonial context.

Supervisor: Dr Caroline Oliver

Lottie Howard-Merrill, Institute of Education, UCL

Pathway: Gender and Sexuality, Education

Research area & Contact details

About me: I have eight years’ professional experience across research, implementation, and advocacy in the field of preventing gender-based violence and child sexual exploitation. I am most interested in understanding how relationships between people  and everyday actions influence gender, violence, and patriarchal practices that regulate young people’s sexual behaviours. Most of my work so far has been in countries in East and West Africa. Most recently, I worked as a Research Fellow for the Learning Initiative on Norms, Exploitation and Abuse (LINEA) at LSHTM. I have a MSc in Reproductive and Sexual Health Research (LSHTM, 2016), and a BSc in Geography (UCL, 2012).

My research: Forced marriage occurs where one person has not consented or consents under duress. Despite a global effort to end early and forced marriage through programmatic, legislative and policy changes, forced marriage continues to be a pressing problem in the UK. The UK government has put schools at the centre of attempts to detect and prevent forced marriages, but there is little research evidence so far on the success of these school-based initiatives.

My PhD research aims to provide evidence on best practice for initiatives in UK schools to prevent forced marriage, as part of a new collaboration between the UCL Institute of Education and non-academic partner Freedom Charity. My research will centre around two key questions:

  1. How do young people engage with sources of support to prevent or respond to forced marriage, in schools, and other spaces, including NGOs, families, peer groups, health and police/judicial services?
  2. How are school communities enacting government policies to prevent and address forced marriage, and how could this be strengthened?

I will use co-production principles to guide my research questions, methods, and analysis in collaboration with Freedom Charity, and research participants. The central element of data collection will be case studies in 2-3 schools in locations with a high level of concern relating to forced marriage.

Impact of my research: This PhD will produce high quality, action-oriented research focussing on strengthening young people’s resilience and building on their existing sources of support. This will contribute to best practice for creating a protective environment for young people at school and in their families and communities.

Findings will inform guidance about how UK schools can implement PSHE curriculum content on forced marriage and inform evidence-based teaching resources grounded in young people’s experiences.

Supervisors: Prof Jenny Parkes, Dr Charlotte Nussey, Dr Geraldine Hutchinson

Contact details: zcfaf64@ucl.ac.uk

Noushin Saadullah Khani, Division of Psychiatry, UCL

Pathway: Quantitative Social Science

Research area & Contact details

About me: I am a PhD student in the Division of Psychiatry at UCL. Prior to joining UCL, I completed an Integrated Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Surrey, where I developed an interest in genomics. My Master’s research project involved using large genetic datasets (“Big Data”) from the UK Biobank to investigate the causal relationship between adiponectin and diabetes (type II diabetes and gestational diabetes) in a Mendelian randomisation analysis.

My research: More than 20 medications have been shown to be effective in treating psychosis. However, these medications can cause side effects, causing patients to stop taking them. Genetic differences can influence the way patients respond to their medicine, but these genetic differences are not usually considered by doctors when they prescribe medications. It is possible that genetic testing could improve the way we adjust the dose of these medications to help reduce side effects. Pharmacogenetic testing is not used in UK mental health due to insufficient evidence of its benefits and of its cost-effectiveness, thus, my research involves running the first UK clinical trial offering a pharmacogenomic personalised intervention for psychosis and an investigation of the cost-effectiveness of pharmacogenomics in mental health.

Impact of my research: This study will will contribute to the understanding of the benefits/costs of genomics to guide treatment in psychosis and provide much needed evidence for a new NHS pharmacogenomics service currently under development by Genomics England, in which supervisor Prof Elvira Bramon is collaborating.

Supervisor: Prof Elvira Bramon and Dr Barbara Barrett

Contact details: noushin.khani.21@ucl.ac.uk

Paul Fisher, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, SSEES, UCL

Pathway: Interdisciplinary Area Studies

Research area & contact details

About me: A practising lawyer based in London, I originally read law at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford at both undergraduate and post-graduate level. Travels for work and leisure gave me the pleasure of being acquainted with the post-Soviet space and I subsequently undertook an MA in Russian Studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) at University College London (UCL). Happily, I have been able to retain my association with UCL SSEES, undertaking part-time research in constitutional politics in the post-Soviet region.

My research: My research focusses upon why leaders in non-democratic regimes use constitutional amendment as a tool to address threats to the longevity of their leadership. As a practising lawyer with experience of the post-soviet space, I seek to blend an expertise in jurisprudence, political science and area studies in order to answer this question by reference to three key case studies: Russia, Belarus and Armenia. 

Impact of my research: From a granular study of what is happening on the ground at each of three stages to constitutional amendment (cause, process and outcome) the aim will be to develop a “red flag” system for monitoring autocratic amendment, which signals that autocrats are using constitutional amendment to augment rather than to constrain political power. The research will help to systematise the response of international and domestic institutions to proposed reform in non-democratic regimes with the policy objective of aiding the constraint of autocracy through constitutional politics and (at the very least) resisting the augmentation of autocratic political power.

Supervisors: Dr Ben Noble and Professor Andrew Wilson

Contact details: tjmsppf@ucl.ac.uk

Social Media: @PaulEFishr

Website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ssees/paul-fisher

Sophie Ayling, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), UCL

Pathway: Urban Studies, Transport and Architectural Space: UCL

Research area & contact details

About me: I am a part-time PhD student at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), UCL. I am also a consultant for the World Bank with experience coordinating and conducting data analysis and impact evaluation to inform policy and operations. My main sectors of operation are water, sanitation, health and urban planning issues in developing countries. I have an MSc in Development Administration and Planning from University College London (UCL) UK and a BA in Modern History and Politics from Oxford University.

My research: My research is entitled ‘Using Agent Based Modelling (ABM) and Mobility Data to Predict and Respond to the Outbreak and Spread of Infectious Diseases: A Case Study of SARS-CoV-2 in Zimbabwe’. The 3 aims of this study are:  1. Review existing approaches to disease modelling, and the potential that ABM holds; 2. Build an ABM informed by population data, risk factors and mobility data to predict the spatial and temporal spread and trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 and the risk of COVID-19; and 3. Based on a combination of spatial modelling and behavioural research, propose policy recommendations for tackling future outbreaks. The research will begin by reviewing the ways in which ABM has been used thus far for disease modelling, including but not limited to SARS-CoV-2. It will also assess the relative merits of ABM versus more traditional Equation Based Models and survey the literature on the known characteristics of COVID-19. Data points inform the models in either (1) risk of transmission or (2) risk of severe disease.  Case data is seeded within the relevant districts and then the simulation model is set to run. This enables us to understand when and where each part of the country is at greatest risk of transmission. 

Though the model will be able to tell us how people are behaving in response to the outbreak, the researcher knows that assumptions around daily contacts are built on scarce data. Therefore, the researcher is also seeking to conduct fieldwork to better understand how social contact networks differ between occupation and age groups, building on previous research.

Impact of my research: The research will provide immediate outputs to the Zimbabwe Infectious Disease Modeling consortium due to an on-going engagement. Once developed, the methodology has scope for application to other infectious disease outbreaks. The work will seek to address the extent to which mobility data can explain the spread of infectious disease; highlight the relative utility of ABM approaches; and identify the merits of applying more localized policy responses to disease outbreaks. 

Supervisors: Prof. Hannah Fry, Assistant Professor Sarah Wise, Dr. Guy Harling

Contact details: Ucfu056@ucl.ac.uk

Social Media: https://twitter.com/sophie_ayling

Website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/casa/news/2021/jun/sophie-ayling-awarded-economic-and-social-research-council-esrc-studentship

Caitlin Spooner, Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department, UCL Division of Psychiatry

Pathway: Health and Welfare (Mental Health and Mental Health Care)

Research area & contact details

About me: I started my career as a registered nurse here in London, where I have worked across various clinical areas, including intensive care, A&E and clinical research. I have since gone on to complete a master’s degree in Evidence-Based Health Care at the University of Oxford, which has shown me how healthcare professionals can be involved in research to influence healthcare practice and policy. I am now embarking on a PhD at UCL where I hope to put both my academic and clinical knowledge to the test and be able to continue advocating research to improve currently practices and policies.

My research: “Developing Core Outcomes for Prognostic Research in Palliative Care” Prognostication is the process of making predictions about future health outcomes, usually length of survival, particularly in palliative care. Accurate prognostication can help clinicians to determine which treatment should be used, for which patient, and when. It is important that new or more accurate ways of delivering prognoses are reliably evaluated before implementation, as they have the potential to cause harm, or benefit. However, no study to date has evaluated how better prognostication might be assessed. In particular, there is no consensus among professionals, academics, patients or carers as to which outcomes are most important in prognostic studies. Before the impact of new prognostic algorithms can be evaluated, it is necessary to understand which outcomes patients, carers, caregivers and clinicians would consider to be most relevant and important. Therefore, my research is looking to create a core outcome set (COS) for measuring the impact of improved prognostication in palliative care using a variety of research methods. My PhD will be split into four phases: (1) a review of quantitative and qualitative literature; (2) qualitative interviews with stakeholders, including patients, carers, healthcare professionals and researchers to illicit core and clinically relevant outcomes; (3) a Delphi consensus process involving such stakeholders to achieve consensus as to which outcomes are most important. Finally, a feasibility study will be incorporated to investigate the feasibility of the COS at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead.

Impact of my research: My research will result in a Core Outcome Set for future prognostic impact studies in palliative care. The investigation of feasibility will additionally make a valuable contribution to the existing body of knowledge on the effects of prognostic disclosure to palliative care patients. Alongside this, this research will produce an in-depth understanding of which outcomes key stakeholders’ consider to be most important in prognostic studies. A publicly available COS has the potential to facilitate improvements in the design of subsequent clinical trials and the evaluation of clinical care.

Supervisor: Prof. Paddy Stone

Contact details: caitlin.spooner.21@ucl.ac.uk

Tim Grover, Experimental Psychology, UCL

Pathway: Health and Welfare

Research area & contact details

About me: My background is in Speech and Language Therapy. I have worked for the last 12 years at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square. My area of expertise is the treatment of acquired communication difficulties due to Parkinson’s disease and associated disorders. I am also involved in the treatment of Parkinson’s patients who have received Deep Brain Stimulation treatment (an implanted pacemaker in the brain) and I have published research in this field regarding the treatment of speech difficulties through adjustment of stimulation. I am particularly interested in the important of non-verbal communication and the ramifications should this diminish which has led me to research this area.

My research: Reduced facial expression (hypomimia) is experienced by almost everyone with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at some point. Hypomimia or ‘masked face’ results in difficulties conveying feelings such as happiness and sadness. Facial gestures that are integral to speech can be diminished. Consequently, people with PD can be misinterpreted as disinterested, upset or angry. This is complicated by reduced speech intelligibility and drooling, both of which result from decreased mouth movement, itself a manifestation of hypomimia. 

Hypomimia is known to deteriorate quality of life, affecting social and psychological aspects. Hypomimia can cause misunderstanding, miscommunication and embarrassment. People may communicate less at home and avoid socialising. The quality and enjoyment of communication can diminish and place additional stress on relationships, adding to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

At present hypomimia is assessed by a severity rating in the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. This single subjective score encapsulates blinking, facial expression and mouth opening during speech and at rest. It fails to include the objective assessment of context-driven emotional expressions or individual facial muscle actions or ‘Action Units’ (AUs) of which they are made up. Furthermore, it is unable to measure the dynamic trajectory of facial expressions over time. Most strikingly, it cannot be used to guide treatment or reliably describe outcome.

The PhD project aims to use a computer based measure of expressivity that can accomplish what the above score cannot. This has the potential to direct treatment and inform outcome. It will advance scientific knowledge of the co-ordination and dynamic aspects of the facial expressions in PD and their response to established treatments.

This is an experimental study, applying automated methods to compare the facial expression and movement of healthy individuals to people with PD. Secondly, this method will be used to examine whether currently available PD treatments (medication & stimulation) improve performance of posed and spontaneous facial expressions.The role of reduced facial movement in speech intelligibility and drooling will be investigated by appraising mouth opening during speech and at rest. We shall examine the relationship between our objective measure of expressivity and whether individuals with a certain degree of hypomimia are more prone to depression, loneliness, and reduced feelings of connectedness. This could provide a means to identify patients at risk of experiencing these negative feelings.

Impact of my research: The research will have an impact clinically, socially and at an academic level. Clinically the establishment of an objective and detailed tool for the measurement of reduced facial expression will enable clinicians to target this symptom using existing medical treatments and inform the develop of new approaches. Practical benefits will be realised by individuals and their loved ones where the ability to engage in communication, familial relationships and social connectedness will improve and counter feeling of isolation and loneliness. This research offers the opportunity to appraise a sizable cohort of normal individuals and a comparative group in which expression is selectively diminished.  From an academic perspective, the impact will advance the scientific knowledge of physiological mechanisms of emotion expression and address fundamental unanswered questions about affective information in expressions such as those pertaining to the temporal dynamics of the constituent parts of an expression and their role social communication. Unquestionably, a gap exists in clinical practice regarding management of reduced facial expression and even more so addressing the social implications of this. This research has the potential to address this shortfall.

Supervisor: Dr Eva Krumhuber

Contact details: Tim.grover@nhs.net

Enrico Pfeifer, UCL Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health

Pathway: Life Course and Social Epidemiology

Research area & contact details

About me: I am an Intensive Care Nurse and developed a passion for Lifecourse and Social Epidemiology during my nursing career. As my clinical expertise grew, I made some intriguing observations and started to ask myself why certain populations suffer from a seemingly higher burden of disease and worse outcomes. I sought answers to these questions by completing the MSc Population Health at UCL –  An academic course that certainly challenged my point of view and helped me to see health and its determinants from a different perceptive. Empowered by this knowledge and equipped with advanced quantitative skills, I envision to complete this PhD and become a researcher who is committed to advance the field of Social Epidemiology and promote an equitable health agenda.

My research: In the UK, epidemiological trends suggest that increases in life expectancy failed to translate into disability free years of life. As a result, a growing number of people require assistance or care that is often provided informally by family, friends, or neighbours. Some investigations have suggested an association between caregiving and a higher disease burden. However, evidence is dominated by cross-sectional studies that fail to explore caregiving in the earlier adult life or neglect the rewarding aspects of caregiving. Also, the health behaviour of informal caregivers is still relatively unexplored although health behaviour might represent an intermediate factor that determines a caregiver’s health in later life.

To address these knowledge gaps, my PhD projects aims to investigate the association between informal caregiving, wellbeing and health behaviours of caregivers over the lifecourse. To achieve this, a secondary data analysis will be performed by harnessing two of the UK’s most important data sets namely the UK Household Longitudinal Study and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Both data sets contain information on caregiving intensity, relationship between caregiver and recipient and other characteristics. Data will be analysed using advanced quantitative techniques, such as growth curve models, piece-wise growth curve models, propensity score matching and Difference-in-Difference models.

Impact of my research: The project has a great potential to close knowledge gaps and to translate these into useful policy recommendation. Identifying the factors that promote wellbeing and positive health behaviours of caregivers will allow us to create policies that improve the working conditions of carers and empower them to lead a happier and healthier life. This might reduce stigma, improve caregiver’s ability to remain active in their role and, perhaps, encourage more people to act as a caregiver. Similarly, revealing the underlying circumstances under which caregiving influences wellbeing and health behaviours negatively is crucial to develop targeted policy interventions that aim to eliminate barriers for caregivers. The resulting knock-on effects on care-recipients and our society as whole cannot be ignored.

Supervisor: Professor Anne McMunn, Dr. Rebecca Lacey, Professor Hynek Pikhart

Contact details: Enrico.Pfeifer.18@ucl.ac.uk

Social Media: @EnricoPfeifer1

Rosie Mathers, Anthropology, UCL

Research area & contact details

About me: I have an MSc in Medical Anthropology from University College London (UCL) and over 7 years’ experience working in the health and social care sector. My professional work has centred on supporting those with disproportionate life outcomes and /or long-term health conditions. I have worked at UCL as an SHS Dean’s Strategic Reinvestment funded Assistant Researcher with ALSPAC exploring participants’ experiences of taking part intergenerational longitudinal birth cohorts. I am currently Assistant Co-ordinator to the Biosocial Birth Cohorts Research Network (BBCR), the first international research network of its kind to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and dialogue for academics across the life sciences who work with birth cohorts.

My research: My current research explores the biosocial pathways between contemporary neoliberal work culture and female stress related chronic disease. Current research into chronic health as a result of work-place stress remains focused around conditions which have a higher prevalence (typically 2:1) in males, such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Stress related pathologies which have clinically significant prevelance in women (at an average of 4:1) such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); and certain Autoimmune (AI) disorders, however, remain under researched in their relationship with working life. My PhD will use biosocial mixed methods to interrogate the biological and social factors significant to these conditions. I will use quantitative epidemiological examination of birth cohort data to investigate the inflammation pathways between working life and chronic disease prevalence, alongside qualitative ethnographic analysis of women’s experiences of the workplace, in order to explore what it is about contemporary work place culture which is making women sick. My project therefore champions an interdisciplinary approach working across two UBEL DTP pathways.

Impact of my research: This project seeks to impact employment practices and gender equality policy in the UK by getting key bodies to recognise the links between workplace culture and female chronic health. Chronic illness currently presents one of the largest threats to public health in the UK, with approximately 26 million people (43% of the population) suffering from long term conditions. A higher prevalence is recorded in females. New and urgent research is required to explore the causes of this discrepancy in women and to support working lives which are safe and equitable for female workers.

Arianna Bobba, Institute of Epidemiology and Social Health, UCL

Pathway: Health and Welfare: Lifecourse and Social Epidemiology

Research area & contact details

About me: I am a mother of two beautiful girls Ariel almost 4 years old and Maral 3 months old. I have been working in London, since November 2016, as a Global Programme Advisor for The Leprosy Mission International. This experience established my expertise in leprosy projects and willingness to understand and learn more through professional research work. During this period, I have been providing programme advice to several countries in Africa and Asia. Previously, I have been working in Mozambique, as a Project Coordinator for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Disaster Risk Reduction. Before that, I worked as a Programme Manager at the United Nations Inter-regional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).  

In the past four years I have been thinking about starting a PhD programme, however due to family responsibilities and a full time job, I was hesitant in taking this decision. Nevertheless, I decided to challenge myself and no matter Covid 19 circumstances, step by step I have been applying to few universities and received three offers. From these, I choose UCL, as it was the first university in England to admit students of any race, class or religion. It was also the first university to welcome women on equal terms with men in 1878. Through, my PhD journey, I hope not only to achieve valuable research results, but also to testify to other women that, with the right support in place, it is possible to combine family, work and professional development.

My research:

The Perception of Leprosy Stigma: Societal Factors, Resistance and Resilience

in People Affected by Leprosy in Northern Mozambique Leprosy is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) also known as Hansen’s disease (HD). It is a mildly infectious disease caused by a bacillus called Mycobacterium leprae. Elimination of leprosy as public health problem was achieved globally in 2000. However, in 2019, according to WHO official figures, 202 256 (WHO, 2021) new leprosy cases have been registered globally. This research will explore systemic factors and structural processes underlying stigma. The focus will be on people affected by leprosy and those who acquired a disability due to the disease. Furthermore, I will investigate on the ability of people affected to resist stigma, defining actual resistance as “the willingness to resist derogation and discrimination by other people”(Thoits, 2011). I will explore stigma resistance of people affected by leprosy considering everyday practices, strategies and abilities to overcome stigma at personal, peer and community levels. Additionally, I will investigate how stigma resistance can impact individual and family resilience, as a process by which individuals and families withstand adversities (Walsh, 2003) or manage significant sources of stress or trauma (Windle, 2011), such as stigma. The explorations mentioned above are motivated by the following considerations. On the one hand, studies on leprosy-related stigma and discrimination largely focused on the stigmatised person, the stigmatising context and the broader systems. On the other hand, there is a paucity of studies on leprosy stigma resistance, which could evaluate the agency of people affected to fight the stigma. While agency and resistance are prominent themes in research on other oppressed groups, the stigma literature has tended to portray disabled people through a “tragic lives” paradigm (Oliver, 1990; Scambler, 2009). A qualitative investigation of stigma resistance from the perspective of people with lived experience pointed to stigma resistance being an active process of using one’s skills and experiences to fight stigma at the personal, peer, and public levels (Frederick, 2017). Hence, stigma resistance could also be interconnected to resilience and increase of self-esteem.

Impact of my research: Overall, the research will be relevant for the achievement of the Global Target of Zero Leprosy Stigma and Discrimination, by providing better understanding of the sources and implications of leprosy-related stigma. Finding related to underlying drivers of stigma will be useful for developing context-specific stigma reduction interventions. In addition, the results will provide understanding on how stigma resistance and resilience can be or not a valuable approach also for other people suffering from stigma and discrimination due to disability not necessarily leprosy related. For example people affected by similar Neglected Tropical Diseases. NTDs are ancient diseases of poverty that impose a devastating human, social and economic burden on more than 1 billion people worldwide, predominantly in tropical and subtropical areas among the most vulnerable, marginalized populations. On 28th of January 2021, the WHO has just set a new NTDs roadmap for 2021-2030, which includes as one of its objectives the reduction of stigmatisation, discrimination, and psychosocial support; including community interventions: prevention of disability, case management and rehabilitation of skin NTDs[1]. As well as the research could provide understanding on the impact of stigma resistance practices and resilience on strengthening health-promoting behaviours[2]towards zero leprosy transmission and other disability goals. Therefore, this research could offer an interesting perspective toward the definition of mechanisms and interventions for the promotion of the empowerment of those at risk of vulnerability, including persons with disabilities, a clear commitment indicated in both the UN CRDP and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Supervisor: Maria Kett

Contact details: arianna.bobba.20@ucl.ac.uk

Social Media: linkedin.com/in/arianna-bobba-7a419965

Website: Personal bloghttps://www.facebook.com/ariannabobba

Peroline Ainsworth, Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck

Pathway: Sociology

Research area & contact details

My research: This research will produce fine-grained, empirical data about the pedagogical and organizing practices of an Escuela Cooperativa from a barrio humilde of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. Specifically it will explore how the school community is, through its cooperative projects and horizontal practices, challenging and reimagining the hierarchies and inequalities within the school, the community, and wider society; and how doing this prepares pupils to participate meaningfully in wider cooperative and horizontal projects and movements.

I believe this school is part of an ‘alternative, counter-hegemonic globalization’ that is challenging neoliberal capitalism from below. These struggles are undervalued by social scientists and demand new analytical concepts grounded in the practices and knowledges of those enacting the struggle (de Sousa Santos 2005). By paying close attention to how this school community is responding to crisis through cooperative, horizontal pedagogies, and linking this to the wider cooperative and horizontalidad movements in Argentina, I hope to contribute knowledge useful to both scholars and practitioner/activists trying to better understand and organise education, care and labour in more egalitarian, socially-just ways. 

Drawing from the learning of Borderland Mestizaje feminist (BMF) methodologies, which emphasise the need to ‘theorize from the bottom and in places and spaces not deemed theoretical’ (Saavedra & Nymark, 2014:5), I want to understand the detail of the day-to-day practices of the school community by working with them for several months teaching maths, and facilitating a community radio project with young people which explores:

  • how educators, pupils and others in the school community envision and enact their cooperative pedagogy and;
  • what they feel are the benefits of this approach and what challenges they encounter.

The final phase of the project will connect Argentine activists and educators with teachers, pupils, and activists interested in horizontal organizing and alternative education in England to start a conversation about reimagining the purpose and practice of ‘school’ in England post-COVID.

De Sousa Santos, B. (2005). General introduction: Reinventing social emancipation: Toward new manifestos. In B. De Sousa Santos (Ed.), Democratizing democracy: Beyond the liberal democratic canon (pp. xvii–xxxiii). London: Verso.

Savaadra C. and Nymark. E. (2014) Borderland-Mestizaje Feminism: The New Tribalism. In: Denzin, N. et al (eds)  Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies.

Impact of my research: This research will produce knowledge about how educators in Argentina are using horizontal pedagogies to prepare children to engage with cooperativism and overcome the microlevel challenges manifested by internalised and

institutionalised inequalities, which often derail radical projects. Findings will interest:

  • educators, community organisers, academics and others seeking to disrupt the reproduction of inequalities in their practice;
  • groups exploring frameworks of education capable of countering the harmful impacts of the competition and individualism embedded in current approaches  e.g. the Cooperative Schools Network (https://csnetwork.coop/); 
  • progressive thinktanks and social policy institutions attempting to develop alternative policy frameworks that build on the potential of cooperative and mutual forms of organising that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic – in particular to help these translate successfully into practice.

Findings will be shared through pamphlets, podcasts and knowledge-exchange events involving policymakers and practitioners from educational, grassroots and third sector organisations in my networks. The project will also forge new connections between educators, practitioner-activists, policy-thinkers and academics in England and Argentina, which will hopefully lead to longer-term collaboration and ongoing learning about pedagogies supportive of horizontal organising.

I aim also to contribute to two sets of academic literature: social movement literature concerned with making visible the complex ways in which ‘everyday’ struggles and practice are continuously resisting and rearticulating neoliberal hegemony ‘from below’ (Larner 2000) and literature focused on how inequalities are reproduced at school. I hope to build on the thinking at the intersection of these literatures that aims to reconfigure the teacher-pupil relationship, redraw the purpose of education and explore emancipatory, decolonizing and intersectional pedagogies that centre interdependence, interconnectedness, solidarity and love (Freire 1970, Ranciere 1991, Hooks 1994, Butler 2020).

Butler A., Teasley C., Sánchez-Blanco C. (2020) A Decolonial, Intersectional Approach to Disrupting Whiteness, Neoliberalism, and Patriarchy in Western Early Childhood Education and Care. Springer, Cham.

Freire, P. (1994). Pedagogy of the oppressed (Rev. ed.). New York: Continuum. (Original work published 1970)

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Larner, W. (2000). ‘Neo-liberalism: Policy, Ideology, Governmentality’. Studies in Political Economy 63(1): 5-25. Rancière, J. (1991). The ignorant schoolmaster: Five lessons in intellectual emancipation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Supervisor: Kerry Harman & Silvia Posocco

Nikica Lubura Reljic, Social Sciences, UEL

Pathway: Primary: International Development/Secondary: Sociology

Research area & contact details

About me: Born, raised, and living in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

Master of Social Science in the Field of Religious Studies / University of Sarajevo, University of Arizona.

Working with the World Vision Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Office as Faith and Development Coordinator.

Married, mother of 13 years old girl.

My research:

The research aims to explore how the intersectionality of faith, religion, and family values affects child well-being in different religions and regions by examining the CF model implementation in both multi-religious and mono-religious (Christian and Muslim) societies. Besides the comparative analysis of the commonalities and variances in Christian, Muslim, and multifaith contexts, it will also provide an opportunity to explore implementation in a less and more stable context (as CF implies longer-term interventions).

The secondary research question that will maintain focus on all three components: personal growth, family values and diversity, and community dynamics is: How are self-reflection and personal growth connected to the community dynamics in various contexts across the personal – family – society spectrum and social settings (urban and rural)?

The research findings should help develop interventions adapted to different contexts. i.e., those that contain common parenting-related elements while being easily adaptable to specific religious and cultural contexts.

In order to answer these questions, the research should primarily focus on

1) Exploring the minimum common parenting elements for every context and those determined and shaped by the environment. ?

2) The way multi-religious societies in comparison to mono-religious societies affect intervention in children nurture for holistic community development (Including intra-faith features and different traditions (within Christianity and Islam). 

The proposed research will broadly involve building a theoretical framework, conducting a thorough literature review of relevant scholarly and sector-based learning, conceptualizing the problem statement, and developing a detailed methodology for addressing the research questions and intensive fieldwork.

Through research design development, CF intervention will be approached as a holistic and complex intervention engaging in systematic reflection on the researcher’s identity and how it might shape the study. An action research component will be added, whereby the collected data informs practice during the fieldwork to learn from the overall process of contextualisation.

The research process should allow for adjustment in design and methodology in the light of emerging understandings. After developing a detailed methodology for addressing the research question and the necessary methods and applying for ethical clearance for data collection, in agreement with supervisors, the sampling frame, location, and the scope of fieldwork will be selected in collaboration with WV host offices. The study will be conducted with an empirical, qualitative research design, including elements of the hands-on experience of an author in contextualisation and implementation of CF intervention and small-scale ethnography in addition to the case study approach.

Impact of my research:

The project should primarily contribute to the field of development studies and understanding of the psychosocial and spiritual dimension of human development, i.e., understanding of the concept of “nurture” with a spiritual element, early childhood development, and family’s role in it.

The key contribution in these fields should be to a growing understanding of how psychosocial principles regarding families relate in different cultures and contexts.

Through the exploration of these interconnections through the lens of faith and positive parenting within a growing diversity of “typical” family structures, this project will also contribute to the global body of knowledge about the ways to achieve SDG3 and the role that different civil society actors can play in engaging with complex issues facing development professionals today.

Besides, this will further contribute to the redesigning model interventions that contain common parenting-related elements while being easily adaptable to individual religious, cultural, etc., contexts.

Supervisor: Dr. Kathryn Kraft

Contact details:

Email: u2190874@uel.ac.uk

Skype: nikica.lubura.reljicViber/WhatsApp: +38763776672

Christopher Bishop, Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources, UCL

Pathway: Social and Policy Studies of Energy and the Environment

Research area & contact details

About me: I am a part-time PhD student aiming to develop expertise on Sustainable UK Land use. I have a background in Financial Economics as well as an Environmental Economics masters. I work part-time for Defra where I focus on climate and environmental economics and have developed a deep interest in research and public policy.

My research: The aim of my research is to look into sustainable land use policy within the UK. Agricultural and Land use emissions will continue to be substantial over coming decades and a number of proposed strategies to reduce emissions involve land use change which present a number of challenges. My research aims to i) investigate and evaluate how the need to achieve emissions reductions and other social and environmental objectives are reflected in UK government land use and energy policy making and ii) developed improved approaches that account for the challenges such as 1) the need to balance social and environmental services, 2) the government’s ability to influence land use change, 3) policy is administered by different departments and 4) no current integrated approach to for analysing land use and energy policy within government). I will use both qualitative (interviews with policy professionals) and quantitative (modelling) evidence in outlining new approaches to overcoming the challenges highlighted. I will examine and seek to improve land use representation in an energy model (primarily UK TIMES) as well as the potential to account for wider environmental and ecosystem values.

Impact of my research: This work will provide insights about whether UK land use and energy policy making finds an appropriate balance between social, environmental and emission reduction objectives. It will provide support for applying existing integrated frameworks, where applicable, and will highlight lessons learnt from approaches already in use. It could also contribute a novel integrated quantitative and qualitative approach that policy makers could use to better understand the implications of the UK policy regime. Finally, it could provide a step forward in integrating land use, social and environmental objectives into emissions reduction energy modelling and highlight wider considerations that government policy regimes should address.

Supervisor: Professor Paul Dodds

Contact details:

Email:Christopher.bishop.19@ucl.ac.uk

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-bishopv1/

Website: https://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/browse/profile?upi=CJBIS78

Zhen Ling Ong, Global Health and Development, Faculty of Public Health and Policy, UCL

Pathway: International Development (primary)/Health and Wellbeing (secondary)

Research area & contact details

About me: I am an incoming doctoral student and an MSc Public Health graduate at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I have an interdisciplinary research interest in migration health and social policies in low-and middle-income countries, particularly in Southeast Asia. Previously, my training at UCL BSc Population Health has equipped me with a growing understanding of social research methods, epidemiology, advanced quantitative data analysis and visualisation skills using R statistical software.

Following my MSc thesis, “A Scoping Review on the Health and Education of Migrant, Stateless and Refugee Children in Malaysia”, I dived deeper into a qualitative research project on the same topic funded by the WHO Asia Pacific Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. I attribute my research interest to my lived experience in a South-South mixed-migration context seen through a public health lens, as well as volunteering activities at a UNHCR-affiliated school for refugees and asylum-seeking children.

My most recent employment at a London-based Global Health Consultancy has allowed me to utilise transferrable research skills to write up a Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy report for local authorities, refine a cluster RCT protocol to improve infant feeding among South Asian migrant communities through a community-based participatory intervention, and conduct a mixed-method process evaluation on the Child Death Review process to align with legislative changes. This experience has exposed me to the breadth of research methodologies and topics within the public health discipline.

My research: TITLE: Exploring the Impact of Violence on the Health and Wellbeing of Adolescent Rohingya Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Malaysia: a Mixed-Methods Study.

BACKGROUND: Globally, over half of all children reported experiencing violence the past year(Hillis et al., 2016). An evidence gap map on interventions reducing violence against children under 18 years old in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) highlights critical gaps by population subgroups and geography(Pundir et al., 2020). Out of 152 identified studies, only two involved marginalised or ethnic minority groups. Moreover, only two impact evaluations focused on Malaysia, where a sizeable population of Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers experience up to three decades of protracted transit(Letchamananan, 2013). As Malaysia is non-signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, newly-arrived and second-generation Rohingya adolescents in Malaysia are at risk of continued violence and poor health and wellbeing due to past exposure to violence, threat of arrest, lack of education access, early marriage, unequal gender norms and weak institutional capacity to respond to violence against them(Letchamananan, 2013; Veenema et al., 2015; Welton-Mitchell et al., 2020). However, to date, there has been little to no research quantifying the extent of violence against adolescents (VAA) nor examining their health impacts in this group. Furthermore, related gender-based violence interventions that tend to concentrate on Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s refugee camps are not directly transferrable to Malaysia’s urban refugee context.

BACKGROUND: Globally, over half of all children reported experiencing violence the past year(Hillis et al., 2016). An evidence gap map on interventions reducing violence against children under 18 years old in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) highlights critical gaps by population subgroups and geography(Pundir et al., 2020). Out of 152 identified studies, only two involved marginalised or ethnic minority groups. Moreover, only two impact evaluations focused on Malaysia, where a sizeable population of Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers experience up to three decades of protracted transit(Letchamananan, 2013). As Malaysia is non-signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, newly-arrived and second-generation Rohingya adolescents in Malaysia are at risk of continued violence and poor health and wellbeing due to past exposure to violence, threat of arrest, lack of education access, early marriage, unequal gender norms and weak institutional capacity to respond to violence against them(Letchamananan, 2013; Veenema et al., 2015; Welton-Mitchell et al., 2020). However, to date, there has been little to no research quantifying the extent of violence against adolescents (VAA) nor examining their health impacts in this group. Furthermore, related gender-based violence interventions that tend to concentrate on Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s refugee camps are not directly transferrable to Malaysia’s urban refugee context.

METHODS: This project will use mixed methods incorporating complex intervention development science(Skivington et al., 2021) and gendered perspectives. Firstly, a realist review of violence prevention and response interventions among refugees in LMICs will synthesise how intervention components interact with multilevel, modifiable risk and protective factors to drive mechanisms of change. Secondly, a primary cross-sectional survey will examine the patterns of VAA, explore health and wellbeing indicators, and socio-ecological risk and protective factors. Thirdly, qualitative participatory methods and semi-structured interviews will explore perceptions and experiences of adolescents, local determinants of abuse, health consequences, protection needs and potential responses from local service providers. Findings will be triangulated and integrated to inform intervention development.

SKILLS REQUIRED:

  • Mixed-methods for interdisciplinary research
  • Realist systematic review of complex interventions
  • Survey design, questionnaire development, administration and data management
  • Qualitative data collection and analysis
  • Stakeholder collaboration, co-production and participatory research
  • Research ethics involving vulnerable populations

KEYWORDS: violence against adolescents, adolescent health and wellbeing, gender, refugee and asylum-seeker, protracted transit, mixed-methods, realist synthesis, cross-sectional survey, co-production, global health, LMIC

Caroline Chesang, Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Pathway: Quantitative Social Science

Research area & contact details

About me: I graduated from the University of Nairobi in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Statistics and upon graduating, I worked as a trained Health and Nutrition Consultant where I predominantly focussed on steering communities away from lifestyle diseases. Afterwards, I served as a Business Analyst for a global money remittance company where I was in charge of seven African countries and later proceeded to do a master’s in Medical Statistics at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I am passionate about cancer research (particularly survival analysis of prostate cancer), research on lifestyle diseases (LSD), imputation of missing data and keen on further developing my skills in the field of epidemiology. After my PhD, I intend to actively participate in medical research of cancer and LSD’s as I extend support to our local African universities in designing relevant programs so as to nurture more medical statisticians. I aspire to be part of a team that would create a dynamic environment for medical-related research activities in Africa and I believe this dream will be achieved.

My research: My project is focusing on estimating treatment effects when there are competing risks using observational data. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are known to be the gold standard for establishing evidence for the effects of medical treatments and other interventions. However, the value of evidence on treatment effects from “real-world data” (RWD), such as electronic health records, is increasingly being recognized. RWD, such as clinical event registries or national death registers, may be useful for outcome ascertainment in phase III trials. Electronic health records databases present opportunities to study treatment effects in large and diverse patient populations, and to investigate whether treatment effects differ between patient subgroups. However, to do this requires careful analysis to control for potential sources of bias, including confounding of the treatment-outcome association (confounding by indication), and careful

assessment of the sensitivity of conclusions to assumptions made.
Death due to a specific cause is a commonly used outcome in RCTs, for example in studies of cancer treatments. In this setting it is important to consider death due to other causes, referred to as ‘competing risks’. Important examples are studies of treatments for prostate cancer where many patients will die not from their cancer but due to other causes, and studies of the impact of statin use on cardiovascular mortality in dementia patients, who also have high risk of death from other causes. Quantifying treatment effects when there are competing risks is challenging and needs to account for possible effects of the treatments being investigated on other causes of death. Commonly used treatment effect measures when there are competing risks are cause-specific hazard ratios and subdistribution hazard ratios, but recent statistical literature has shown that these do not have a causal interpretation and has recommended alternative treatment effect measures (‘estimands’). This more recent work has focused on competing risks in RCTs and extensions are required to use the recommended estimands in the analysis of observational data.
This PhD project will thus evaluate and develop methods for the appropriate handling of competing risks to estimate causal effects of treatments using observational data (RWD). The methods will be illustrated initially in an example for prostate cancer using linked, national data from cancer registries, hospital records and death records.

Impact of my research: The output of this research will contribute important evidence for the place of RWD in the regulatory framework and inform drug development, particularly informing design of phase III trials which are critical for healthcare decision-making.

Supervisor: Prof. Ruth Keogh, Prof. Linda Sharples and Dr. Thomas Cowling

Contact details: Caroline.Chesang1@student.lshtm.ac.uk

Becky Knowles, Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Pathway: Health and Wellbeing

Research area & contact details

About me: I’m part of UBEL’s Health and Wellbeing pathway, based at LSHTM and completing my PhD part-time alongside working at the Wellcome Trust. My background is in understanding health from a range of perspectives from time spent at WHO, in the NHS and in academia. I previously studied biology, anthropology and human geography as part of Natural Sciences at Durham University, followed by an MSc in Global Health Sciences and Epidemiology at Oxford University.

My research: The UK government has announced an ambition to effectively contain, control and mitigate antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by 2040. To achieve this, we need to identify strategies that enable the optimal use of antibiotics, particularly since there is concern that Covid-19 is exacerbating AMR and changes in antibiotic prescribing during or after the pandemic could be hard to reverse.

My project aims to understand what strategies work to improve the rational use of antibiotics in the UK. I will draw on the complementary strengths of epidemiological and anthropological methods, using prescribing data from electronic health records to assess quantitative changes in antibiotic use, as well as qualitative methods to understand how understand how key strategies are is intended to be (and is actually) utilised in the UK. In particular, I am focusing on the AWaRe index which was created by WHO as a way of categorising antibiotics into groups to guide, monitor and evaluate their use.

Impact of my research: AMR is a growing threat to population health. Without research on what works in clinical settings to improve antibiotic use, antibiotics may become ineffective for treating or preventing illness. This threat is becoming more urgent now since there is concern of an emerging ‘double pandemic’ following COVID-19, resulting from high antibiotic use during 2020 which increases bacterial resistance rates. 

My research will contribute to the global battle against AMR. It will help inform policy makers, clinicians and pharmacy teams of what works to improve antibiotic use. There isn’t much time left for us to turn the tide on AMR, but my research will help hasten efforts to address this silent pandemic.

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Mays, Professor Clare Chandler and Dr Stephen O’Neil

Contact details: rebecca.knowles@lshtm.ac.uk

Social Media: Twitter: @_RebeccaKnowles

Jonas Le Thierry d’Ennequin, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL

Pathway: Cities, Environment and Liveability (CEL)

Research area & contact details

About me: Before my PhD I acquired an MSc Urban Development Planning at UCL in 2020, as well as an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences: Global Challenges at Leiden University College and Universidad de Chile in 2017.

I have primarily worked at the intersection of urban development and communications in the private sector (as a Communications Consultant at a multinational media & digital marketing agency), the public sector (as a Project Manager at a participatory consultancy for local governments) and third sector (as a Communications Officer for a global NGO). These experiences fuelled my interest – both theoretical and practical – in the role of language within urban networks. This interest is closely tied to my personal background as a Franco-German raised in multilingual, international environments.

My research: Working title: Discursive Infrastructure: Enabling Epistemological Movements in Post-Colonial African Cities

While infrastructure is now increasingly at the centre of research on cities in Development Studies, there has been surprisingly little focus on the connections between infrastructure and discourse. During my MSc Urban Development Planning at UCL I examined how urban infrastructural policy discourse perpetuates spatial inequality in sub-Saharan African cities. I thus developed the concept of “discursive infrastructure” to describe the relationship between discourse and the material conditions of cities (Le Thierry d’Ennequin, 2020). In my subsequent PhD project I will theorise this novel concept as a post-colonial approach to African urbanism. My aim is to propose a reformulation of the policy discourse of basic infrastructure systems that continue to materialise the spatial inequalities of African cities today.

Impact of my research: The purpose of the anticipated study is to contribute to the de-colonisation of African urban theory in Development Studies. By offering a new theoretical approach to study African cities through discursive infrastructure this projects seeks to create new contributions to how we understand and research infrastructure in African cities. This novel techno-political theory will serve to establish a new platform for strategic change. By conceptualising how urban inequalities, both spatial and social, are discursively constructed through an infrastructure of their own, discursive infrastructure will offer a specific focus on how these can be re-imagined and hopefully democratically transformed. This project specifically addresses the contemporary interests that continue to mould African urban infrastructures that significantly contribute to growing spatial inequalities in many African cities. Exploring the specific sector of infrastructural development, this project will serve to demonstrate how both material infrastructures and social life are “known”, “governed” and “imagined” and will provide a platform that enables the movement of these narrations towards new, post-colonial epistemologies. This new theorisation seeks to unlock the reparative potential of infrastructural development. My research will provide a theoretical foundation that can pave the way for truly post-colonial imaginations that address social injustices and therefore serve as a gateway to tackle spatial inequality in practice. As a platform for the transformation of how we think and research about infrastructure systems in African cities, the theory of discursive infrastructure will yield innovative conclusions with a hopeful eye towards a more socially and spatially just future.

Supervisors: Prof. Colin Marx & Prof. Adriana Allen

Contact details: jonas.ennequin.19@ucl.ac.uk