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The stories behind the LSE Research Festival winners


Winners of this year’s LSE Research Festival have been telling the fascinating stories behind their successful competition entries. This annual celebration of LSE’s innovative and ground-breaking research in the social sciences has become a key feature in the LSE Calendar.

For 2016 there were five categories: photograph, poster, headlined abstract, Booth prize and popular prize, which attracted a total of 80 entries.

Winner of the popular prize, voted for by many of the hundreds of people who attended the festival, was Celestin Okoroji, an LSE PhD candidate in the department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, for his poster The Nadir of British Life: social representations of the unemployed.

Celestin’s poster was inspired by his MSc dissertation on the social representations of unemployment. He said: “Winning this prize is a bit of a surprise as there were so many good entries. I guess it’s a topic that is very relevant, particularly with the release of the film I, Daniel Blake.”

Having grown up in Tottenham, a deprived part of North London where there was a lot of unemployment, he wanted to explore attitudes towards those without a job.

He added: “People see the unemployed in a negative light and associate it with criminality, laziness and poverty. I found that these attitudes do not differ between those who currently or previously claimed job seekers allowance and those who had never
claimed unemployment benefits."

Celestin, who received free school meals as a child and was the first in his family to go to university, won an LSE 120th anniversary scholarship for his Masters degree and hopes to pursue an academic career. He explained: “The research festival was like a practice run for me before I try to get my ideas out there.”

Winner of the Booth prize was a group of undergraduates who worked together on an interdisciplinary LSE GROUPS project: Tatiana Pazem, Sofia Lesur Kastelein, Sally Park, Robert Clark and Xinyang Li. Their headlined abstract Hipsters and Spikes: mapping gentrification and defensive architecture in Tower Hamlets was chosen from all categories and coincides with the Booth exhibition in the LSE library, and the Charles Booth Centenary Lectures sponsored by the International Inequalities Institute.

The judges felt that this work touched closely on both themes and methods featured in Charles Booth's pioneering work, combining state of the art mapping techniques with qualitative research to enhance our understanding of how inequality is produced in urban contexts.

Robert said: “We are all from different disciplines so it was a great opportunity for cross-collaboration. We wanted to make a link between defensive architecture – spikes and other devices - and gentrification because these are two big issues that are growing in importance. We produced maps inspired by Booth’s maps to illustrate our research.”

Winner of the headlined-abstract prize (for announcing research to the public) was Caroline Tan, an MSc student in the department of International Relations, for her headlined-abstract Political Player or Passive Administrator? The Federal Reserve Board's Rise to Dominance.

She said: “I’d done this research as an undergraduate and thought it would be interesting to share it with the public. I relied on Congressional testimony to trace the Federal Reserve’s lobbying efforts to consolidate power. It’s an interesting story of how an apolitical agency gets involved in day to day politics”.

Caroline was delighted to win her category. “It was really exciting – I haven’t done anything like this before. It all started when I went to a workshop organised by Professor Mary Morgan on how to make research more engaging. It was good to learn how to make it more digestible.”

The photography category was won by David Brenner, a PhD candidate in the Department of International Relations, for his work When War Becomes Reality which portrays three young rebel soldiers in North Myanmar. He took the photograph while researching insurgency and the dynamics of conflict in the country. The judges said that the strong framing, symmetry and balance of this photograph drew the viewer's attention into an engaging and arresting image that strongly conveyed the narrative of the research.

David commented: “I’m a hobby photographer but I think the visuality of a photograph gives a human face to the analysis we are doing. It can convey so many things so is a good medium to communicate and give greater understanding to your research. It brings an intimacy that we can’t bring by just writing papers.”

The poster prize was won by Young-ook Jang, a PhD candidate in the Department of Economic History, for A Road to Home: the role of ethnicity in post-Soviet migration. His poster was designed both for an academic conference, and as a wider communication project.  The judges said it had great composition and use of illustration, impactful design, and that it was clear and easy to follow the story of the research.

He said: “A poster was a good method to show my work visually to the general public. It’s good to reach a wider audience.” 

Watch video interviews with some of the winners:






18 November 2016