urf cover

Undergraduate Research Fellowships

in the Department of Geography and Environment

Supported by the LSE Eden Fund and the LSE Regular Giving programme

A great opportunity to strengthen bonds with the department’s professors both on a professional and personal level.

Axel Gross, Undergraduate Research Fellow

What is the Undergraduate Research Fellowship scheme?

The Department of Geography and Environment Undergraduate Research Fellowships (URF) scheme seeks to engage students with the research of our academic staff.

Undergraduate Research Fellows gain invaluable insight into the work of an academic in conducting and disseminating research.

What does an Undergraduate Research Fellow do?

During (up to) 70 hours of paid work, students contribute to a research project, enabling academic staff to improve their research and its impact.

We are excited to present a diverse range of fellowship opportunities, which include a variety of tasks such as conducting literature reviews, planning events and interviews, and analysing datasets.

How do I get involved?

All undergraduates receive an email in Autumn Term outlining the URF opportunities available that year. If you would like to apply for a project, you need to fill in a short application form, demonstrating why you are interested and well-suited for your chosen project. Students are typically notified in early Winter Term regarding the outcome of their application. 

What are the 2022/23 opportunities?

Take a look at our 2022-23 URF opportunities (pdf).

Meet our 2022/23 Undergraduate Research Fellows

Book Manuscript Preparation

Sylvia Naneva Cropped

Dr Austin Zeiderman is in the final stages of preparing a book manuscript for publication and would like some support with some of the final tasks: proofreading, fact-checking, citation checking, copyright permissions, etc.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Sylvia Naneva (pictured) 

Academic supervisor
Dr Austin Zeiderman 

Investigating domestic gardeners' environmental activities and their relationship with wellbeing

Lily Whittle Cropped (1)

Part of ongoing self-funded research into the perceived relationship between contact with "nature" and wellbeing by looking specifically at gardens. Previous outputs include conference talks, public engagement and a forthcoming article. I'm looking to develop this project by doing some online surveys into the measures domestic gardeners take to be more environmentally friendly (feeding birds, conserving water, peat-free compost, etc) and the extent to which taking these actions plays a role in coping with eco-anxiety. The surveys will be followed up by semi-structured and place-based interviews with willing participants.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Lily Whittle (pictured) 

Academic supervisor
Dr Camilla Royle

Examining the Positive Spillovers of Large-Scale Renewable Generation

The power sector accounts for the largest share of GHG emissions. Decarbonization of this sector is key for addressing climate change mitigation. This research project seeks to empirically estimate the positive spillover effects of rapid adoption of large-scale solar generation. This, in terms of fewer emissions of local air pollutants (such as PM2.5, SO2, and NOx), improved air quality in key urban centers, and even potential lives saved as a consequence of cleaner air.

This research project seeks to empirically estimate these effects in a case of rapid solar investment in one of the regions with the most solar generation potential in the globe. Moreover, in this region, this adoption has been further accelerated by: (1) rapid decline in the price of solar panels; (2) new policy mandates that require a large share of renewable energy; and, (3) expansion of the power grid through the interconnection of previously independent grids.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Amelie Roach 

Academic supervisor 
Dr J. Cristobal Ruiz-Tagle

Managerial Input and Firm Digitalisation. Evidence from a Policy Experiment

Lieuwe Troelstra Cropped

This project will study the effects of an Italian subsidy program designed to support small and medium enterprises in hiring a professional manager able to guide them in the uptake of digital technologies. The UG Research Fellow will help me to lay the foundations for the administration of a survey on a sample of (200-300) Italian firms. The Fellow will have to create a novel firm-level database by combining unique information from different sources. If the collaboration will be successful, the Fellow could be hired (as a part of my Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship) for the administration of the survey in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Lieuwe Troelstra (pictured) 

Academic supervisor
Dr Davide Rigo

The economic value of land mine clearance


Aniska Bitomsky Cropped

The URF will assist with scoping and preparatory work for a research collaboration being planned with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). Currently, land mines affect the lives of people in many countries around the world, with some of these classified as “heavily-impacted”. The starting point for the research is that mine clearance – de-mining – is important not only on humanitarian grounds but it is also good for economic development. As such this research is hoping to provide evidence on the economic value of the benefits of de-mining in two ways: (a) a “top-down” approach that focuses on accounting for the boost that de-mining provides to the national economy and (b) a “bottom-up” approach which looks to establish robust causal economic evidence, within local economies, on the relationship between de-mining and development outcomes.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Aniska Bitomsky (pictured) 

Academic supervisors
Prof Giles Atkinson and Dr Elisabetta Pietrostefani


Knowledge Exchange and Impact of Research on Urbanisation, Planning and Development

Noor Cashmiri Cropped

The project is looking for an undergraduate research fellow (URF) who can help promote academic activities and research outputs produced by the members of the department's Urbanisation, Planning and Development research cluster. The work would involve, but is not limited to, maintaining the cluster website and social media (e.g., Twitter) and creatively devising initiatives to maximise the outreach of the UPD research cluster's research expertise. The URF would work closely with the project leader (Prof Hyun Bang Shin, Head of the UPR research cluster) while having opportunities to interact closely with the cluster members as part of their duties.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Noor Cashmiri (pictured)

Academic supervisor
Prof Hyun Bang Shin

Urbanisation of Asian Capital and the Rise of Enclave Urbanism in Vietnam

Emily Nguyen Cropped

Inter-referencing within the global South has become an important development strategy for cities in the region: Singapore, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Seoul emerge as a source of inspiration for other cities in the global South, despite questions about the replicability of their development models.

Against this backdrop, this project scrutinises the practices of South Korean and Singaporean real estate developers who have made a marked presence in Vietnam by building commercial housing estates and new towns targeting Vietnam’s middle or upper classes, affluent migrants and overseas buyers. By doing so, the project examines the extent to which such foreign developers’ participation in Vietnam’s urban and housing development process reflects their own visions of urbanism accumulated through their participation in urban and housing development in their countries of origin, and what such participation resulting in the rise of enclave urbanism means for the social justice in Vietnam.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Emily Nguyen

Academic supervisor
Prof Hyun Bang Shin

Displaced by Law: Migration Policy and Housing Loss in the United Kingdom

This research analyses the legal geographies of housing displacement and migration law in the UK over the last decade. During that period, the number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by 169 percent, while the number of families living in temporary accommodation has increased by more than 300 percent. Many people have been displaced from their homes as a result of new immigration laws that require legal residency for employment, housing, and benefit entitlements—these changes are referred to generally as the hostile environment strategy towards irregular migration. In particular the “right to rent,” according to which landlords are required to check immigration status, has placed thousands at greater risk of homelessness and unable to apply for benefits simply because of their status as undocumented migrants. In the UK, Immigration Officers were also empowered to arrest, detain, deport and ban EEA nationals from sleeping rough without a warrant. No other country in Europe has implemented a similar policy.

To better understand the legal landscape of the past decade, this research examines policy texts, legislative histories, landmark cases, and court transcripts, seeking to answer the following questions: In the climate leading up to and following Brexit, how have immigration laws and policies impacted the experience of housing displacement and homelessness in the UK? What does the intermingling of migration and homelessness policy reveal about the changing nature of citizenship, nationalism, race, and property in the UK?

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Evgeniia Zen 

Academic supervisors
Dr Jessie Speer


UG curriculum diversity review

Tasneem Rahman Cropped

Under my supervision (and ideally one other staff member), student(s) will undertake a curriculum review of the department's UG curriculum, focusing on diversity and inclusion. The first half of the project will be to determine how to tackle this: students may decide to survey fellow students to get a sense of concerns about the curriculum in order to direct priorities. The second half of the project will be reviewing the curriculum itself, which may entail looking at the distribution of readings, topics focused on, topics ignored, etc. The research design will be done along with the student(s).

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Tasneem Rahman (pictured)

Academic supervisor
Dr Julia Corwin


Informal institutions, tenure security and demand for title deeds in urban Africa

neeshaa cheong

Urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa is progressing rapidly with little land formalisation. Even where governments coordinate formalisation schemes, the uptake of land titles can be very low. In theory, there are private and public benefits to land title deeds, but these might be minimal or not perceived by landholders. To understand how landholders value and choose between alternative forms of property rights (informal versus formal tenure) we propose examining their multiple and evolving functions of tenure security.

We study demand for title deeds in two communities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, using a unique setting that is ideal for studying these questions. We elicit individual willingness-to-pay for title deeds using the Becker-DeGroot-Marschak method and then conduct a survey questionnaire and in-depth interviews. Dissecting informal tenure into multiple and evolving functions of tenure security is vital to examine their strengths and weaknesses, identifying where people demand institutional change, and what type of policy responses can address these local demands.

This study advances research on land formalisation, tenure security and land conflict in rapidly urbanizing cities, which are central to urban studies.  The project is in its last phase; therefore, the URF will assist the PIs to complete an academic paper and a social media output (blog outline)

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Neeshaa Cheong (pictured) 

Academic supervisor
Dr Martina Manara 

Fenced in: Challenges of integrating urban parks into active, sustainable travel

This research explores the impact that railings and similar structures built to enclose parks and green spaces have on urban sustainability objectives delineated in Active Travel strategies adopted by UK local governments. Active travel (AT) – also called healthy or green travel – is a shift to more physically active and environmentally sustainable modes, particularly walking and cycling (PHE, 2016). This is meant to address climate and public health crises by reducing carbon-emitting journeys and providing an urban environment that facilitates physical movement and exposure to nature (Alattar et al., 2021).

Incorporating parks into travel routes is fundamental to AT objectives. This involves moving from conceptualising parks as stand-alone destinations to interconnected, essential components of wider journeys. Yet, park design and management, grounded in traditional approaches, prioritise enclosing these spaces. Entangled with British cultural heritage, railings and walls featured prominently in the Victorian-era establishment of the public park concept (Brück, 2013). Landscape designers used railings to control how people experienced a park, and to regulate access. The presence of railings has been central to protests in public parks (Awcock, 2019). Removal of park iron railings to help with the 1940s war effort further embedded these structures into British culture (LGT, 2015).

Today, many park railings are protected as heritage assets with “listed” status. This potentially limits how effectively parks can be integrated into present-day journeys, thus conflicting with contemporary urban sustainability and health policies (Whitten, 2020). This research examines the impact railings and similar structures have on integrating parks into AT routes in three UK cities: Glasgow, Manchester and London. Each city has been progressive in adopting AT strategies and each has a legacy of traditional parks they expect to incorporate into enhanced walking-and-cycling infrastructure. 

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Rico Chandarana 

Academic supervisor
Dr Meredith Whitten 


Singapore's tech sector: mapping firm trajectories

Kester Low Cropped (1)

Singapore has developed one of the world's leading tech sectors. I would like an RA to research and present the growth of various high-tech firms. This would include a variety of secondary research, including some use of financial databases, policy documents, and financial media.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Kester Low (pictured)

Academic supervisor
Prof Neil Lee


Social Media and the Crisis of Urban Inequality: Transnational analyses of Humanitarian Responses across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

Mirha Butt

This project examines how social media is used to navigate the terrain between humanitarianism and inequality in the Global South. We argue that inequality should not only be studied in humanitarian crisis settings, but itself be seen as a humanitarian crisis, especially in cities. The urban poor, migrants and refugees can all be seen as surplus populations collectively marginalised by capitalistic production and regimes of value (Rajaram 2018), and are only separated through legal categories. The inequality of their social and legal conditions also spill into their spatial and infrastructural configurations limiting their access to jobs and housing. We study how social and communications media play a key role in alleviating and exacerbating inequalities. We study this through a transnational project across India, Lebanon and Uganda.

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Mirha Butt (pictured) 

Academic supervisor
Dr Romola Sanyal 


Camden Household Air Monitoring Project (CHAMP)

Charlotte Turnbull Cropped

Through a partnership between the London School of Economics (LSE), Camden Council, and the University of Southern California, this study will observe the scale of indoor air pollution in homes throughout Camden and examine possible behavioural and technological strategies to reduce exposure and improve the health and wellbeing of Camden residents. 

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Charlotte Turnbull (pictured)

Academic supervisor
Dr Sefi Roth


Government narratives of the seasonality of haze in Southeast Asia

The fellow will review thousands of media articles from Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia that mention the term 'haze' or 'haze season'. The focus of the work will be for the fellow to identify quotes in the media from various groups of people, including the public, NGOs, charities, and government representatives at all levels. These quotes will be used to assess whether establishing narratives of seasonality might lead to changes in environmental policy and/or collective behaviour, and the nature of those changes (i.e. does seasonality lead to acceptance of the problem and less policy action, or the opposite?).

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Sophie Trott 

Academic supervisors
Dr Thomas Smith


Transition Pathway Initiative

The fellow will work with the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) research team. The GRI is the academic partner to the TPI. TPI is an investor-led initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change. To this end TPI evaluates and tracks the quality of companies’ management of their greenhouse gas emissions and of risks and opportunities related to the low-carbon transition as well as how companies’ future carbon performance would align with the Paris Agreement goals. TPI is assessing a universe of over 400 global companies across 16 sectors.

Undergraduate Research Fellow
Thais Nuvoli

Net Zero Banking Project


Julia Wisniewska

The banking sector has a critical role to play in the low-carbon transition, incentivising emissions reductions in the real economy through climate-aware financing. The TPI Centre in partnership with the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), developed an investor-led pilot framework of indicators to assess the preparedness of banks for the low-carbon transition. Our framework sets an action-focused roadmap for banks to align their financing activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement. From January-March 2023, we will be assessing 27 global banks on their decarbonization performance against our net zero banking framework.

Undergraduate Rarch Fellow 
Julia Wisinewska


Hear from past Undergraduate Research Fellows

Q&A with Axel Gross

Can you tell us about the project you worked on?

The project is entitled “the technological relationship between microtechnological firms and the extraction of resources in Central Africa”. The main objective is to establish global production networks of all the steps in the production of new technologies. From the extraction of resources (such as cobalt, tantalum etc…) in African mines, to the finished products across the world (whether it be batteries used in electric cars, apple products, Huawei phones etc). This is particularly interesting as it is a key starting point for future policies focused on African inclusive growth, as well as highlight the paradox of the “green revolution”.

How did you find your experience of working with your project supervisor, Prof Simona Iammarino?

This is a great opportunity to strengthen bonds with the department’s professors both on a professional and personal level.  I had a great time working with Professor Simona Iammarino, and even got the chance to present our co-authored paper (with Andreas Diemer) at the annual Regional Studies Association in Santiago de Compostela. This possibility, as well as the connection with Simona really enriched my first year as an undergraduate at the LSE.

What would you say to a geography student who is thinking about applying for a research fellowship?

I strongly advocate applying for a research fellowship, as you get the opportunity to work on a subject you’re interested in with academics from the department. They are amongst the best in the world in their respective fields, and you have the chance to learn from them. They are all very kind and supportive and make this experience a real pleasure. I was quite stressed about the skills required when applying, but you learn in a non-stressful and reassuring environment. In addition, you are paid for this position as a research fellow, which is always a good prospect as a university student.