Alumni News

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Elena Field

Elena Field from University of St Andrews was highly commended in 2015 in the Earth & Environmental Sciences category for her paper titled “A comparison of object-based vs pixel-based classification methods for geological mapping”

After the Undergraduate Awards  Elena completed a Masters in Geoinformation Technology and Cartography at the University of Glasgow to better understand the complex mathematics and technical aspects that underpin the science of map-making. She graduated in 2016 with Distinction, producing a thesis examining how remote sensing can be a key tool for monitoring thermokarst lake dynamics and permafrost degradation in arctic regions over time.

Elena’s undergraduate research was published in the journal Remote Sensing, expanding on the potential for object-base image analysis as a useful method for geological surveys in remote areas.

She is currently living in Cambridge, UK, where she works for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Mapping and GIS Team as a GIS Officer. This involves creating maps for the operations and logistics involved with sending people to one of the harshest environments on Earth, as well as providing geospatial support to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This role has allowed her to really understand the practical applications of cartography, provided an opportunity further develop her web-mapping skills and has taken her to some exciting places!

Elena has just returned from a 7-week deployment to Antarctica. Based at Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula, she was there to provide geospatial support to BAS Antarctic operations.

“As a cartographer it was a chance of a lifetime to go to one of the least-understood places on Earth. On one research trip we even landed a Twin Otter in an area where no-one has set foot before!”

While there she worked closely with communications officers, pilots, scientists, field guides and many others who contribute to making the Antarctic scientific season a success. This was an absolutely fantastic experience – she camped in Pyramid tents, carried out sea ice observations as from a Twin Otter Aircraft and learned how to take accurate Meteorological observations for aircraft.

“This was a fantastic experience and I hope to go back one day!”


Where Are They Now Wednesday: Lawrence Liu

Lawrence Liu from Princeton University was Highly Commended in 2015 for his paper “The Dual State and the Rule of Law: Defining the Dual State and that Definition’s Impact on our Conception of the Rule of Law”.

Lawrence is currently living in Berkeley, California USA. Starting next fall, he will be in New Haven, Connecticut for 3 years before heading back to Berkeley. He is a 2nd year PhD student in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at UC Berkeley, and he also has a spot in Yale Law School’s Class of 2021. Fall 2018, he will put the PhD on pause to go to YLS and pursue his JD. After finishing at YLS, the plan is to go back to Berkeley equipped with a dissertation idea, complete the prospectus, and then write the dissertation to finish his PhD. Lawrence’s disciplinary interests are in political science and law, and his research interests are in China law and politics.

“Broadly speaking, I’m interested in the way China’s legal development, whether we think about that in terms of lawyers, court reform, specific laws or policies, etc. affects the strength and stability of the ruling regime. Lately, there’s been a big push among socio-legal scholars to better understand how law functions in authoritarian regimes, and I’m excited to see how China is both a case of this burgeoning research agenda.”

Living in California for graduate school has also given him the best lifestyle he could have asked for. It’s so easy for graduate students to get lost in their own heads, so being in a more relaxed, scenically beautiful place like Berkeley, CA helps him keep it all in perspective. Besides how much he enjoys the views on his 30-minute walk to school, he has really just fallen in love with the Bay Area lifestyle from hiking to eating healthier foods and is going to miss it while in New Haven.

“A funny example of this is what I did during Black Friday 2017. While I had always assumed Americans either raced to stores or slept in on Black Friday, I was happy to learn that Californians use it to go hiking! So, I woke up at 6am on Black Friday, hopped in a friend’s car, and we drove 3.5 hours each way to enjoy a beautiful day hike in Big Sur, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, definitely Google pictures!”

Lawrence’s ideal landing spot is to end up as a law school professor. At the same time, he would be happy to practice law if the teaching track doesn’t pan out at which point, he would be really interested in doing legal work in government, with an eye towards lawyering with the State Department.

During the last two summers, Lawrence’s has had the chance to teach at a 2-week leadership camp at Peking University for middle schoolers and high schoolers from all over China. While it’s a little removed from his specific research interests, it really reminds him that the things he studies always have people behind them. And as social scientists, we have to interact with people as much as we can if we ever want to pretend to understand them. Totally unrelated to academics, he also spent a few weeks the summer after graduating in 2016 traveling to Thailand, Taiwan, and South Korea — with the highlight being bathing a senior citizen elephant with his best friend from college.

“Submitting my work to The Undergraduate Awards was an important step in my decision to pursue an academic career, and I’m so grateful a program like this exists! As someone who was going back and forth for a long time between research and practice, I needed an opportunity like The Undergraduate Awards to push me to share my writing more broadly. At least for me, submitting my writing to The Undergraduate Awards definitely helped point me towards the academic path I’m on now, and I’m really happy despite not having looked back since!”

Read Lawrence’s Highly Commended paper on The Undergraduate Awards Library.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Ronan O’Brien

Ronan  O’Brien from Princeton University was the 2015 Winner in the Languages & Linguistics category for his paper titled “Opportunity Be Knockin’: Race and Invariant Be in Hip-Hop Language”

Following his experience at The Undergraduate Awards, Ronan graduated from Princeton University in 2016 with a B.A. in Linguistics. Inspired by his work in peer counsellor positions, and a desire to work more closely with people, he chose to change fields and pursue clinical psychology.

To solidify his knowledge in preparation for graduate school, last year he completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in psychology at University of California, Irvine. In addition to coursework, he worked in the psychology/neuroscience lab of Dr. Elizabeth Martin, which studies schizophrenia and related symptoms. Ronan also worked as a counsellor-intern with Outreach Concern, which placed him at Huntington Seacliff Elementary School to provide one-on-one behavioural counselling to a caseload of students.

The following summer, Ronan completed another internship in Mérida, México, in the state of Yucatán. He worked with Fundación BAI, which provides services to people living with HIV and local communities.

“I gained further experience by shadowing psychologists and doctors, coordinating a group psychotherapy program, and even conducting personal counselling sessions on my own. I also had the opportunity to engage with the community through the health outreach fairs the foundation participated in.”

Ronan recently began his Master’s in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University Santa Barbara. Incorporating some of his linguistic background, his concentration is in Latino Mental Health, which is very relevant in Southern California. The program fulfils the course requirements for future licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist. In his free time, he enjoys exploring the area and hiking at nearby nature spots.

Take a look at Ronan’s Winning Paper on The Undergraduate Awards Library.

Where Are They Now Special: Matej Silecky

Photo credit: Dancing on Ice, ITV

We interrupt our regular #WhereAreTheyNowWednesday programming to bring you some very exciting news about our 2014 alumnus, Matej Silecky! Matej, a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, was Highly Commended in the Gender Studies & Anthropology category for his paper “Satoyama in the City: How this Concept and Green Roofs can be used to Promote Sustainability in Urban Areas”.

Matej, a professional figure skating instructor, is joining a cast of pros who will be helping some famous faces as they hit the rink in the new series of ITV’s Dancing on Ice. Matej will be partnering with Coronation Street‘s Brooke Vincent in the show, which sees twelve famous faces take to the ice to dance and dazzle their way to glory with the help of their instructors. Viewers can watch Matej and Brooke in action from this Sunday, 7th January, at 6pm, on ITV (UK) or TV3 (Ireland).  

Matej Silecky debuts on ITV/TV3’s Dancing on Ice this Sunday at 6PM GMT!

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Laura Moore

In 2015 Laura Moore from University College Dublin was Highly Commended in the Nursing and Midwifery category for her paper which explored the psychological implications of overweight and obesity on adolescents.

Laura is currently in Malawi also known as the warm heart of Africa volunteering by the beautiful lake as a nurse for an Irish NGO. Shortly after The Undergraduate Awards she graduated from University College Dublin with a first class honours in Children’s and General Nursing and took up a position as a staff nurse in the national paediatric hospital in Ireland, OLCHC. Although she loved her time in OLCHC she felt compelled to address healthcare not only from a clinical nursing perspective but also from the socio-economic, political and cultural determinants of health especially in developing regions of the world.

As a result, Laura recently completed a Masters in Global Health in Trinity College Dublin where she did a thesis on the management of acute malnutrition in infants, particularly focusing on the barriers to the identification of acute malnutrition in infants aged less than six months old. At the moment, she is working on the publication of this in an academic journal while gaining practical experience to compliment the study here in Malawi. Although nursing in such a resource deficient environment is challenging she is gaining invaluable experience both in terms of nursing and development.

“The Undergraduate Awards was very influential in my decision to pursue my passion for global health, I found interacting with such motivated young people incredibly inspiring. Hearing about healthcare systems and their experiences within healthcare from their respective countries added fuel to the fire and confirmed my interest in global health. I still keep up to date with many of the UA candidates through social media and they continue to inspire me from each corner of the world.”

Travelling is a major component of Laura’s life in under 2 years she has travelled the UK, Belgium, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Spain, The Netherlands, Morocco and now Malawi. She doesn’t intend to stop travelling anytime soon with Australia and New Zealand next on her to do list.

Read Laura’s Highly Commended Paper on The Undergraduate Awards Library. 

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Samuel Wee

Samuel Caleb Wee from Nanyang Technological University was a Highly Commended Entrant in the 2015 The Undergraduate Awards programme. His paper was titled “A Forest within a Forest: Rhizomic Visions of Text, Sex & Love in Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being” in the Literature 1710-Present category.

Samuel is currently living in Singapore though he spends a lot of time in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He finished his Bachelor’s last summer, and graduated from Nanyang Technological University with two awards: The Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal for topping his cohort, and the Koh Tai Ann Gold Medal for being involved in the literary community.

Samuel is also profoundly grateful to have received a research scholarship for a Masters in English at NTU this year. It allows him to continue his academic journey at his university, where the research support and commitment towards breaking new ground has always been nothing short of brilliant.

At the moment, his research looks at how narrative theory can intersect with poetics to produce a hermeneutics of alterity. Narrative studies excite Samuel, because it lets him delve into his own discipline of literature while exploring other disciplines like neurology, philosophy, anthropology, and linguistics.

If he were to explain his work in layman terms, Samuel says that he is mildly obsessed by the capacity of storytelling to challenge our worldview, and by the power of language play to force us into a reckoning with the unknown. This obsession spills over to his creative writing as well: He is currently finishing a book of experimental poems started during a writing residency last winter, at the Yeonhui Writers’ Village in Seoul. He is hoping to have that published by next year.

“The most rewarding experience I’ve had in the past few years entailed stepping into the background and helping other writers to shine. This is how you walk on the moon is an anthology of experimental fiction I co-edited with two of my course mates, Wong Wen Pu and Patricia Karunungan. It was published last year by Ethos Books, a fantastic independent literary publisher here in Singapore, and launched at the Singapore Writers’ Festival.”

Besides publishing a diverse selection of stories from various countries, He is also proud to say that his anthology featured several new writers, for whom this was their first time seeing their work in print. One of his favourite stories in the anthology is by a writer named Arin Alycia Fong—it’s a heartbreaking piece called “The sheets we drape over the things we don’t say”, about a girl who struggles to untangle familial trauma from cultural superstitions.

Incidentally, both Patricia and Arin are Samuels juniors from NTU, and attended 2017 UA Global Summit which was held in Dublin in November. Patricia was Highly Commended for her paper, and Arin is the Regional Winner for Asia this year.

 “Shoutout to my UA2015 friends (Daniel, Emily, Millie, et al.): it was wonderful discovering Dublin with all of you, and if you guys are ever in Singapore, it’d be my honour to play tour guide!”

Here is the link to the anthology that Patricia, Arin, and Samuel were involved in.



Where They Are Now Wednesday: Ragav Manimaran

Ragav Manimaran from University College London was the 2016 Global Winner in the Medical Sciences Category for his paper entitled “Developing an ultrasound phantom using 3D printing for practicing minimally invasive intracardiac procedures.”

Since the 2016 Undergraduate Awards Global Summit, Ragav has been actively involved in medical technology across Europe and his undergraduate research was recently published in the journal of ‘Physics in Medicine and Biology’.

Having worked with the World Health Organization in Geneva as a Medical Technology and Innovation Intern, Ragav helped identify the most valuable health-tech for WHO member states to use in low-resource settings. Following on, he has broadened his international experience by consulting for Roche Diagnostics in Germany and Switzerland.

Alongside his medical studies at University College London, Ragav is actively involved in London’s start-up ecosystem. He led the UCL Entrepreneurs Society (UCLe), one of Europe’s largest and active enterprise societies, to be recognised as the ‘Best University Enterprise Society’ in the UK. Having realised there was a gap in cross-university collaboration, Ragav co-founded Kickstart London, the first student-run pre-accelerator active across London. Since launching in 2015, Kickstart London has accelerated 16 student businesses.

Ragav is amongst the first medical students in the UK to be selected to join the NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Fellowship. As a result, he is excited to be working on a digital health project to improve the self-monitoring of chronic diseases.

Read Ragav’s paper on The Undergraduate Awards Library.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Li Sou

Li Sou a Durham University graduate, won the 2015 Gold medal in the Classical Studies & Archaeology category for her paper titled “New Light on Colour: a study of polychromy on Neo-Assyrian reliefs”

Li Sou paper on digitally reconstructing the colours of ancient Assyrian sculptures was published in the journal Antiquity’s project gallery

Since then she has completed her Masters at Durham University, specialising in Later Prehistoric Archaeology, particularly monuments of the British Iron Age (c.800 BC – 43 AD), and worked with the Geospatial Imaging team at Historic England. There, she trained to survey and analyse historic buildings and ancient monuments across the country in 3D using photogrammetry and laser scanning; from sections of Hadrian’s Wall, castles, abbeys and lime kilns to Iron Age villages down in Cornwall. She got to travel all over England, which was brilliant!

Li started her PhD this year, which is an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the University of Bradford, where she is currently based, and Historic Environment Scotland, with Shetland Amenity Trust. She is using 3D digital documentation to study three famous Iron Age brochs; Jarlshof, Mousa and Old Scatness (prehistoric dry stone towers) in the Shetland Isles of Scotland, so her on-going fascination with visualising the past continues. Li is particularly looking forward to experimenting with virtual reality as a way to engage people with these amazing ancient monuments, which can be very difficult to physically get to! Mousa broch can only be reached by a seasonal ferry, as it is on a deserted island with no roads, and to ascend to the top you have to climb a dark, steep, uneven spiral staircase – not the most accessible place, but an architectural marvel built over 2000 years ago! Li surveyed the site this summer with her supervisors and colleagues from Historic Environment Scotland and it was quite an adventurous trek to get there with all their survey kit!

“I think digital technologies are an excellent way of getting a glimpse of what life in the past, and particularly, non-destructive 3D imaging is an invaluable resource for visualising our heritage; to record, present and preserve it for the future. My research will help to develop conservation and management plans for the three brochs, which are on the UK’s tentative list for World Heritage Site status.”

Li keeps a blog, where she is tracking her travels and developments on her PhD, which can be found at


Where Are They Now Wednesday: Intan Wardhani

Intan Wardhani: A University of Queensland Australia graduate who was a 2015 Highly Commended Entrant in the Psychology Category for her paper titled “Find me in the crowd: The effects of inversion and emotion on the search efficiency of happy and angry expressions”

Intan Wardhani was completing her dual degree in psychology at the University of Queensland, Australia, and the University of Indonesia, Indonesia, when she submitted the paper to the Undergraduate Awards. During that time, she also had an opportunity to go on an exchange at the University of Manchester, UK, for one semester. Despite staying for a brief period, she found the experience enriching for both her professional and personal developments. Before commencing her master’s degree, she worked in laboratories; learning new research and analysis techniques, and building up her writing skills. Albeit it took longer time, to her those were very invaluable lessons in preparing herself for the higher degree. This year, Intan is finalising her master’s degree at the University of Oslo, Norway. Her thesis project investigates the effects of nicotine on human’s visual attention. In this project, she analyses her participants’ eye movements and pupil size.

In the meantime, she is also interning at the Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences laboratory at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Here she has learnt a great deal of novel things that augment her knowledge and refine her understanding of the cognitive neuroscience research. Intan’s favourite part of this internship is programming, building new experiments, and handling some new tools.

“Before my internship, I also had a wonderful opportunity to become one of the judges at the UA 2017 for psychology panel! It was a memorable experience that I would like doing again. I got to know dedicated and brilliant people from different universities around the world. The judging process was also fun and challenging. I was impressed by a lot of papers and I almost could not believe that they were written by undergraduate students.”

As for the future, Intan wants to continue to PhD level to work even more intensively in the field of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and genetics. She has always enjoyed working in academia and research because she finds the environment intellectually stimulating and the people ambitious while keeping things realistic and achievable. Moreover, she thinks that working in scientific research is a form of contribution to improving humanity.

“My life is not all about work and research, though. To keep my body fit, I play squash and since I moved to Norway, I have fallen in love with hiking and, obviously, skiing. I also like singing and playing guitar, writing short stories, and reading in my spare time. Now I am even learning how to play a violin. There is always something to explore!”

Have a look at Intan Wardhani Highly Commended paper on The Undergraduate Awards Library.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Marianne White

Marianne White a University of Dundee graduate who was an Overall Winner in 2015 in the Category of Nursing and Midwifery with her paper titled “Does the provision of evidence based information or decision aids versus usual care for healthy pregnant women with previous caesarean deliveries increase the number of vaginal births in subsequent pregnancies?”.

Marianne lives in a rural community in Perthshire and works in a large teaching hospital in Dundee, Scotland. She continues to work as a midwife, but since returning from the Undergraduate Awards in 2015 she has felt really inspired and with this confidence boost she has been applying for a variety of opportunities and being successful in them all which has led to a very busy few years!

Shortly after returning from Dublin, Marianne applied to work as a research assistant with the Maternal and Infant Research team at the University of Dundee. This project investigated what good midwifery care looks like and how we can improve clinical outcomes for mothers and newborns. It has been a really interesting project following on from a paper published in the Lancet by Renfrew et al in 2014 entitled “Midwifery and quality care: findings from a new evidence-informed framework for maternal and newborn care”. They are now in the process of writing up their papers and hope to have them published next year. A few months later she was successful in securing the post of Infant Feeding Advisor for NHS Tayside.

Marianne is hugely passionate about women centred care and ensuring that they provide kind and compassionate care to all women within our service. Her remit now includes; the implementation and maintenance of UNICEF Baby Friendly standards across all NHS Tayside Maternity and Neonatal Services and ensuring that practice in relation to infant feeding is evidence based.

“In addition to this I assist in the coordination, development and provision of education and specialist support to staff and parents on all aspects of infant feeding. Our aim as an infant feeding team is to promote a culture which supports all parents to develop loving relationships with their newborn and supports breastfeeding whilst respecting a woman’s right to choose how to feed her baby.”

Marianne has recently started an 18-month project which is sponsored by the Academic Health Science Partnership in Tayside and is entitled ” Supporting the ‘Golden hour’ for mother-infant skin to skin contact at elective caesarean sections. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend immediate skin-to-skin contact for women and newborns following birth (WHO 2015, UNICEF 2016). Skin to skin contact is the term used when the naked newborn is placed on the mother’s bare chest after birth.

“I wanted to support this vulnerable group and through a 4-phase action research cycle I aim to work with both health professionals and parents to look into the barriers preventing immediate skin contact at caesarean births and what facilitators could promote this invaluable behaviour.”

In addition to this Marianne has two young children with whom she really enjoys spending time with usually on their bikes, swimming or going to festivals.

“Life is busy but it’s a happy one. “

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Niamh McShane

Niamh McShane was an Irish Regional winner in the Languages & Linguistics category in 2015 with her essay entitled “Moral Law in the works of Anselm Kiefer | What moral questions does Anselm Kiefer raise in his work and how does he explore the function and reasoning of human morality in relation to the holocaust?”

Niamh is a first class honours Germanic Studies graduate of Trinity College Dublin whose dissertation research explored the role of gender in German vampire narratives. She is currently living in Berlin, and has just started a masters in European literature at Humboldt University. During her time in Berlin she was the winner of an EU scholarship for young entrepreneurs and since taking part in the Undergraduate Awards, she has been keeping herself busy writing content for software startups, organising Women in Tech talks, and discovering the city through taking part in every run she can – from half-marathons around suburban lakes to most recently completing 42 kilometres through the heart of the city in the Berlin Marathon. Her interests include life-drawing, analogue photography, feminist literature, blogging and most recently, volunteering with Pass the Crayon, an organisation providing art classes in refugee centers in the city. Check out Niamh’s blog where she describes her experience volunteering with Pass the Crayon.

Niamh’s experience of her academic work being recognised by The Undergraduate Awards confirmed her interest in academia and cultural research and allowed her to indulge in many wonderful and wacky conversations with a diverse and international crowd of people with research interests in a range of inspiring fields.

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