Twelve paid Undergraduate Research Fellowships were funded this year by our alumni and friends through the Regular Giving programme. These Fellowships with the Department of Geography and Environment gave students the chance to work closely with an academic, gain employability skills and an insight into the world of academic research. We met with second year student Eleonore Lorijn to find out more about her experience as an Undergraduate Research Fellow.
How did you find out about the Research Fellowships?
My department sent all their undergraduate students an email about the programme and how to get involved. I was really interested in research, but had never been exposed to it. So when I read the email I thought ‘I’ve got no chance but I’ll just try anyway.’ There was a brochure with all the projects, so you could see which ones excited you. To apply, all I had to do was send my CV and explain why I wanted to do it and why I would be a good fit.
The project you worked on looked at the impact of colonialism in African cities. What made you pick that one?
In my first year I chose to do economic history as my extra module. A big part of this course was studying African colonialism, particularly comparing anglophone and francophone colonialism. I found the topic really interesting and, when it came to the application process for the Fellowship scheme, I found myself referring to literature that I had studied the year before.
What kind work did your Fellowship involve?
My task was to support Professor Vernon Henderson's work by researching 337 African cities. He told me that some of these cities didn’t exist anymore, or that their names had changed and their boundaries had shifted. I had to find out their founding date, when their first land-use map and city plan were created and why there was a distinction between these two types of cartographic imaging.
The project really helped me improve a range of skills. I made use of my languages because, especially in the francophone African cities, I found myself looking through old books and media sites in French. I also needed to be really analytical because I was sifting through books and books and books in the library or through hundreds of pages online. Lastly, I was able to use and improve my Excel skills because that's where I accumulated all the information.
What did you enjoy most about the project?
I definitely enjoyed learning more about African history and understanding how these cities have developed in the present day. The project was spread across Africa – around 50 countries or just under – so I can now tell someone about the different cities and how they were founded, how they evolved and how they were impacted by colonialism. One of the best things about the project was being able to immerse myself in the subject as well as feeling like I was contributing to academic research.
How do you think the Research Fellowship has benefited you?
The work I have completed is probably not even 0.01% of all the research that Professor Vernon Henderson has had to do for this project. The experience has helped me appreciate the amount of effort that goes into writing a research paper, and has confirmed what I thought already - that I’m keen to do more research. I think it was also good training for my career after university - I regularly drew upon this experience to demonstrate my analytical and time management skills in job interviews this summer.
Finally, what would you say if this scheme comes up again?
I would definitely encourage anyone to do it - I think it was a really good experience and it looks impressive. If there’s another scheme next year, I would love to participate again.
I would like to thank the Regular Giving programme, as well as alumni and friends of LSE, whose generosity have made the Fellowship programme possible!