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Future Cities: PhD Prize Fellows


Future Cities 

The Future Cities Programme includes the award of 8 PhD Future Cities Prize Fellowships to support the development of research relating to future cities by some of the brightest PhD students at the University of Cambridge.


  The Future Cities Fellowships are
awarded through a generous gift from
Capital and Counties Properties Plc.



  Future Cities PhD Prize Fellowships for 2018

The funding and support provided through the fellowship is intended to allow these talented PhD students to develop their research and produce papers summarising their ideas about how future cities may be designed, developed, operated and lived within to meet social, economic and environmental aims.  The research students will also have the opportunity to present their research and do poster presentations with discussion at the third Future Cities Conference on July 12th 2018 at Jesus College in Cambridge. 

Below you can see the PhD Fellows and the range of research for this year drawing on a range of disciplines and topics related to the future of cities:


Alexander Taylor

PhD student, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.Alex Taylor 250px Research Paper: Spectrum Security in Future Cities.

Alexander Taylor is an anthropologist working at the intersection of science and technology studies, digital preservation, security studies and media archaeology. His doctoral research explores how infrastructures and technologies of data storage intersect with planetary scales of security and dystopian digital futures in the data centre industry. This coordinated ethnographic study draws on multi-sited fieldwork conducted with high-security data centres, disaster recovery firms, data storage developers and government risk advisors, amongst others. 

Alexander’s Future Cities research explores how smart city planners, urban designers and architects might configure future built environments to more effectively manage electromagnetic data emanations. The wireless, contactless, mobile and sensing devices that are now central to our experience of smart urbanism, all send and receive data through the electromagnetic spectrum. Yet growing security, privacy and health concerns surrounding these electromagnetic signals are prompting creative and at times disruptive reconfigurations of public and domestic electromagnetic space. Making the spatial management of electromagnetic emanations a structural component of future cities would enable for the development of more ethical relationships between space and data, as well as more ‘WiFi-efficient’ environments. With intensifying public and policy debates surrounding electromagnetic signals, how might we begin to strategically incorporate ‘spectrum security’ into the fabric of future cities?

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Chris Blundell

Chris Blundell 250px

PhD student (part time), Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge. 
Research Paper: Growing cities of the future - The potential for, and benefits of, engineered housing solutions to new garden communities.

Chris has had a 40 year career in the development and management of affordable housing predominantly in the UK but including six years in the academic sector in Hong Kong, and has recently commenced as a part time PhD Student in the Department of Land Economy.

Chris’ research interests are in the development, financing and governance of large scale new communities as a way to address chronic housing shortages through the development of higher quality, more sustainable and more affordable places to live.  In 2014 he was a finalist in the Wolfson Economics Prize addressing the challenge of delivering new Garden Cities which are visionary, economically viable and popular, and has been active in promoting new approaches to development and governance for high quality and sustainable urban settlements.  Chris has also had a keen interest in innovative methods of construction since taking part in a DTI Industrial Technology Mission to Canada in 2000 to research Canadian methods of offsite and engineered housing production.

Chris has Masters degrees in public administration (housing policy), property development and investment, and building conservation and an MBA studied in Hong Kong.  He is a Fellow of both the RICS and the Chartered Institute of Housing, and a Member of the Town and Country Planning Association.  His past research has focused on housing policy in the UK and Hong Kong, and he is an external examiner for housing degrees in the UK and Hong Kong, and a Trustee of the RICS Research Trust. 

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James Pollard

Jamie Pollard 250px

PhD student, Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. Research Paper: Coastal flood risk in the world’s most vulnerable cities: a big data approach.

James is a coastal geographer with specific interests in coastal risk assessment and management. His PhD research investigates the interactive relationship between coastal flooding and erosion risk, particularly during extreme storm surge events. This work focuses on the barrier coastline of North Norfolk, on England’s east coast.

James’ Future Cities research deals with coastal flood risk on a global scale. Accurate, quantitative information on the long-term development of coastal conurbations is an essential first step to ensure city-scale mitigation and adaptation to coastal flood risk. To deliver this information, he aims to deploy a ‘big data’ approach to quantify the multi-decadal evolution of five cities (Guangzhou, New Orleans, Guayaquil, Ho Chi Minh City and Abidjan), identified as the world’s most vulnerable to coastal flood losses. Utilising sequential satellite imagery, global storm surge datasets and coastal elevation maps, this study will offer insights to: urbanisation chronologies for the five cities; city-scale responses to past catastrophic flooding events; and critical thresholds of urban expansion into low-lying areas.

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Jennifer Chisholm

PhD student, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge.Jennifer Chisholm 250px Research Paper: The Ecological Favela: Sustainable Development and the Right to Housing in Rio de Janeiro.

Jennifer is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Sociology and originally from Cleveland, Ohio, USA. She earned her B.A. from American University in 2012 where she majored in International Studies with concentrations in Latin America and Comparative Race Relations. In 2013, she embarked on her MPhil degree in Latin American Studies at the University of Cambridge. Her MPhil dissertation fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro set the foundation for her PhD project which is an ethnographic study of how people mobilize against the evictions of informal settlements in Rio de Janeiro. During fieldwork, she was a visiting researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and wrote essays for the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), LSE Latin America blog, and the Latin American Bureau based on her fieldwork. At Cambridge, she served as BME officer for King’s College and was an editor of the academic magazine King’sReview, also at King’s.

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Kaara Martinez

Kaara Martinez 250px

PhD student, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge. Research Paper: Housing and Inclusion in the City: Possibilities in International Law.

Kaara Martinez is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law, working under the supervision of Professor Eyal Benvenisti and Dr. Surabhi Ranganathan. Her research interests lie primarily in the areas of public international law and international human rights law, particularly economic and social rights in the context of economic globalization. Kaara’s doctoral research focuses on cities and the right to adequate housing in international law, with an emphasis on addressing the challenges posed by rapid and increasing urbanization across the globe. Kaara’s academic qualifications include a Juris Doctor and Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies from the Georgetown University Law Center, as well as a Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law with distinction from the University of Oxford.

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Kevin Kay

PhD student, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.Kevin Kay 250px Research Paper: Radical density, privacy and interdependence in post-domestic housing: a prospective from the earliest ‘urban’ settlements. 

Kevin Kay is a PhD candidate in Archaeology, with a focus on houses at the transition to settled life. His research explores the role of houses as political objects and active participants in the earliest dense human settlements, especially in Central Turkey. These settlements, which afforded little by way of privacy and integrated ‘public’ functionality (political, religious and economic activities) into the fabric of domestic spaces, form the basis for Kevin’s CREFC Future Cities project. For this project, Kevin is assessing the design principles of such domestic spaces, especially the ways design flexibility and standardization allowed people to negotiate the role of larger communities in their houses and daily lives. Better understanding the way houses met the needs of such a radically alternative model of domestic life will generate critical questions about how future urban housing can fit into a world in which privacy is increasingly a thing of the (recent) past.

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Sam Jordan Cole

PhD student, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge.Sam Jordan Cole 250px Research Paper: Personal Perceptions and Ocular Insights of Crime and Disorder.

Sam’s current research interests centre around the domain of socio-spatial criminology, with a specific focus on what engenders communities to enforce common rules and norms within their residential environments. His current ESRC and Pembroke College funded PhD research focusses on better situating empirical findings from testing Collective Efficacy Theory into pragmatic policy outcomes for crime prevention. This involves dissecting how community social process dynamics - which explicate the link between levels of community cohesion and the resultant willingness of communities to engage in crime prevention – function when transposed into differing urban contexts. This research will therefore serve to better embed current academic findings by considering their interaction with existent built form features and the routine activity dynamics of live urban environments.     

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Tianren Yang

PhD student, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge.Tianren Yang 250px Research Paper: Long-Term Prospects of Land Value Capture in Planned New Urban Centres: Measurement, Modelling and Predictions.

Tianren Yang is a doctoral candidate and Cambridge Trust Scholar at the Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies, University of Cambridge. His research focuses on applied urban models to provide a scientific understanding of urban dynamics and its relationship with policy input.

Tianren’s Future Cities project capitalises on novel online data and builds a new theoretical model for understanding land value capture (LVC) options in planning new city centres. This would materially improve local governments’ abilities to explore LVC options not only as a financing instrument within current property hotspots but also as part of a wider policy toolkit to promote social equity, environmental sustainability and business productivity in a city region at present characterised by an overcrowded core and low-growth suburban centres.

His previous training in urban planning (MUP, Tongji), urban design (MS, Georgia Tech), and landscape architecture (BE, Tongji) has granted him with an understanding of city on multiple scales. His professional experience includes world urbanisation research, regional strategic planning, and low-carbon urban design at the China Intelligent Urbanisation Co-Creation Centre, Sino-U.S. Eco Urban Lab, and Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute. Additionally, he has consulted for the Asian Development Bank, China Development Bank and Boston Consulting Group on urban-rural integration and new town development.

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Here is what some of the past winners had to say:

"The Future Cities Fellowship provided the opportunity to explore an aspect of my PhD that I could not have otherwise - the program organisers and advisors encouraged me to emphasise the industrial applications of my research. I am currently collaborating with academics and professionals involved in flood risk management, introduced to me through the Future Cities Conference. The program is a fantastic opportunity and thoroughly recommended!"

James Pollard, 2018 PhD Future Cities Fellow


"The conference was an ideal opportunity to present emerging themes in my research to a receptive audience comprising academics and senior professionals, and to discuss key ideas in the poster presentation. Along with the key presentations from plenary speakers and the panels it was a very enjoyable and stimulating day."

Chris Blundell, 2018 PhD Future Cities Fellow


“I was very pleased to have been given the opportunity to contribute to the Future Cities initiative. It allowed me to explore some areas of research relevant to my future career, that I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. The work I did also complimented other parts of my PhD and through it, I engaged with other people from across the University who all are interested in cities but from very different perspectives."

Simon Price, 2016 PhD Future Cities Fellow

CapcoThe Future Cities Prize Fellowships are awarded through a generous gift from Capital and Counties Properties Plc. [Capco] to support PhD students in development of their research interests on topics relating to the future of cities.