LSE Festival research competition winners share their stories

I’m very honoured and excited that LSE gives students the opportunity to partake in the festival and showcase what we’ve done
Nihan & Minouche 747 x 560
LSE Director Minouche Shafik and winner of the Popular prize 2018 Nihan Albayrak

The winners of this year’s research competition share the fascinating stories behind their successful  entries. This annual celebration of innovative and ground-breaking research by LSE students and staff has become a key feature in the university’s calendar.

For 2018, there were seven competition categories: photograph, poster, research abstract, LSE Life prize, PhD Academy prize, Beveridge prize and popular prize.

Beveridge prize  

Winner of the Beveridge prize was MSc student Victoria Adewole, from the Department of Health Policy. Her poster, ‘Operating Efficiently: Fixing the Market for Surgical Equipment in Low and Middle Income Countries’ outlines the market failures for surgical equipment in low and middle income countries (LMICs) and discusses how existing frameworks can be used to tackle the problem.

Victoria, who is training to become a surgeon, was motivated to research this topic after she looked into volunteering abroad and found her surgical skills would be redundant as most of the equipment she’s trained with wouldn’t be available.  “I felt very frustrated that I wouldn’t be useful and thought why are these problems still persisting? That inspired me to study Global Health at LSE,” she said.

Victoria was delighted to win the prize and felt the medium of a poster really challenged her. She commented: “[Entering the competition] helped me communicate what can be quite a complex message to a broad audience, be succinct and share important information in a way that's accessible. I chose a poster because it was a challenge for me to lay things out on a page in an engaging way and it’s a skill I might not have otherwise developed.”

LSE Director and Beveridge prize judge Minouche Shafik said: “As we make progress on communicable diseases, affordable surgery will become the next frontier for millions in poor countries. Beveridge would have liked the potential scale of impact and attention to affordability."  

Photography prize

The photography prize was awarded to Farhia Abukar from the LSE Faith Centre for her picture ‘Coloured Girls’ which captures a group of girls and boys playing football together on a beach in Mogadishu Somalia. She took the photograph while visiting the country with family and wanted to show a different side to the narrative of Somalia as a war-torn state.

Shortly before the photo there had been an explosion and Farhia was inspired by the defiance of the young people in the photograph and their determination to get on with their lives. “The photo was taken on a Friday, which is a family day, and people made a point to come out and not be confined. The explosions and security issues didn’t deter them from playing football,” she said.

The judges said the photograph was a wonderful expression of joy and reminds us that happiness can be found even in the most troubled circumstances.

Poster prize

Geography and Environment PhD student Ganga Shreedhar, won the poster prize for her entry ‘Seeing Red, But Acting Green?’ which explores the impact of biodiversity conservation videos on charitable donations and affect.   

Ganga has always been interested in wildlife and how people connect to it emotionally and wanted to look at how we can encourage people to be more prosocial and generous to the environment. “I was inspired by the need to do something to change the rapid rate of biodiversity loss. I always have a really good time when I’m out in nature - it’s always good to go out for a walk - so there is something about that experience which makes me protective about it,” she said.

She believes entering the competition has honed her research communication skills.  “It’s really good to get feedback on your work and it’s important as a researcher to know your work is touching people,” she adds.

Research abstract and LSE Life prize

Aurelia Streit from the Department of International Development was awarded the research-abstract and LSE Life prizes for her entry “It Was Not Syria But the War That Gave Us Women Rights!" How Forced Displacement Can Be a Catalyst for Women's Empowerment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon.  

The judges felt the piece, which looks at the paradoxical relationship of forced displacement and empowerment of Syrian refugee women, offers hope for female refugees and shows how something positive can emerge out of a difficult environment.

Aurelia was delighted to win both prizes. “It’s very exciting. I didn’t expect to win anything and I get two prizes. I’m very honoured and excited that LSE gives students the opportunity to partake in the festival and showcase what we’ve done.”

PhD Academy prize

The PhD Academy prize was awarded to Diego Alburez-Gutierrez from the Department of Social Policy for his photograph ‘How to Survive a Genocide: Lessons From the Guatemalan Civil War’.  The picture captures a Maya-Achi woman on her way to claim war reparations while others wait outside for their names to be called.

Diego grew up in Guatemala and was seven years-old when the 1996 Peace Accords were signed but he never discussed the war at home. “Even today, the country has not come to terms with its past. I feel the need to tell this story because no genocide should be invisible,” he said.

“I was struck by the quiet dignity of the survivors of the Guatemalan genocide. In the photograph I wanted to capture the determination of the women who had chosen to stand up to their perpetrators after witnessing the darkest side of humanity,” he adds.

The judges were intrigued by the photograph and felt it told a story that has considerable depth and international significance.

Popular prize

Winner of the popular prize, voted for online by those who attended the festival, was Nihan Albayrak, an LSE PhD candidate in the department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, for her research abstract ‘Who Helps in Global Disasters? It's Not Being Neighbours, it's Feeling Neighbourly’.

Her piece, which highlights the importance of designing charity appeals that signal the cultural bonds between helper and beneficiary rather than just physical closeness, was inspired by her own experiences. While living in Turkey, which has taken in millions of Syrian refugees, Nihan did all she could to help. However, after moving to the UK she noticed how physical distance from a situation impacts people’s motivation to help and wanted to explore this further. 

For videos of the winners discussing their entries, please click here.