Four new fellowships for MUI researchers

Four new fellowships for MUI researchers have been announced.

Helen Zheng, Constance Smith and Tom Gillespie have all been awarded fellowships to conduct urban-related research here in Manchester, while Alexia Yates will take up a 12-month residency in the US in September 2019.

Helen Zheng

Helen Zheng has been awarded a Leverhulme early career fellowship to work with the Manchester Urban Institute on a project titled 'Can spatial decentralisation achieve sustainable urbanisation?'

The fellowship is for three years, starting in November 2019. 


With rapid urbanisation in China, the separation of home-work locations in megacities has become evident and triggered numerous challenges.

By adopting innovative research methods from multi-disciplines, this proposal will examine changing spatial interactions of residence and employment and the underlying factors especially the institutional ones relating to land, housing, and labour market.

The research will use the Tongzhou Sub-centre of the Beijing Metropolitan Region as a revealing case to assess whether spatial decentralisation led by the government can promote the integration of jobs and housing, and achieve sustainable urbanisation, which will create academic and policy impacts in China and beyond. 

Helen is currently a research associate at the Manchester Urban Institute working with Professor Cecilia Wong on the project ‘UK 2070 Commission – An Inquiry into Regional Inequalities towards a Framework for Action’, in which the team are mapping different indicators to understand spatial inequalities to shed light on relevant strategies and policies’.

Before that, Helen was one of the Post-doc researchers working on the ESRC-NSFC Newton Fund project ‘Eco-urbanisation in China’, in which the underlying dynamics of urbanisation and spatial variations of commuting patterns, green infrastructure, neighbourhood environment, and community well-being were examined.

Among these issues, Helen's interest is in commuting and has been engaged in investigating how different socio-demographic variables and neighbourhood characteristics influence commuting patterns by bringing together research methods from multiple disciplines including spatial analysis in GIS, social statistics and qualitative approaches.

Constance Smith

Connie, of MUI and the Global Development Institute, has secured a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders fellowship.

Her project, titled 'Tower block failures: high-rise living and global urbanism' examines how urban success and failure are imagined and materialized in relation to the tower block.

Engaging communities, built environment professionals, artists and buildings themselves, and combining social anthropology with methods from urban design and material culture studies, the project critically explores how urban worlds are transformed by tower block failure and what the afterlives of failure might mean for our cities.

It will examine the politics of the material as well as the human, investigating how material stuff such as cladding and concrete are also implicated in the unmaking and remaking of urban landscapes.

For more details on Connie's award, please visit the UKRI webpage.

Tom Gillespie

Tom Gillespie, also of MUI and the Global Development Institute, has secured a Hallsworth fellowship to build on his British Academy-funded pilot research on transnational real estate investment in Accra (2017-2018).

Fieldwork will be conducted in Lagos and Nairobi to inform comparative analysis of the urban political economy of transnational real estate investment in Africa.

This research will explore the socio-spatial impacts of transnational investment flows and develop an original theorisation of Africa’s real estate frontier.

Alexia Yates

Alexia, whose expertise covers urban history, is one of just 37 academics who have been named Fellows of the US-based National Humanities Center (NHC).

As an NHC Fellow, Alexia will have the opportunity to share her research in seminars, lectures, and conferences at the Center when she takes up her 12-month residency in North Carolina in September 2019.

Her current research explores how the stock market came to be understood as a key daily element of French economic life in the nineteenth century and how this understanding changed throughout the twentieth century.

Commenting on the award, she said: “The Fellowship is an invaluable opportunity to share ideas and network with academics from around the world at the prestigious National Humanities Center - and of course to continue to develop my current research.

"I’m very much looking forward to taking up my residency next year.”

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