Equipping doctoral research students at King's College London to excel

Author: Tasmin Head (Page 1 of 2)

Top 10s – Getting the best from supervision


Nigel Eady Director of Research Talent

Nigel Eady, Director of Research Talent.

Far and away the most important relationship during your PhD is with your primary supervisor.


Many successful academics were launched into their careers by a fantastic supervisor. However, it’s not a given that everything runs smoothly.

We know how important good supervision is and are part of a UK-wide project to develop the very best continuing professional development for research supervisors.

Having worked with numerous PhD students and supervisors in various guises since I finished my own PhD in 2003/4, here are my top 10 tips for getting the best from your supervisory relationship.

1. Discuss expectations and agree ways of working early on

It’s not a given that a student and supervisor’s expectations of how to work effectively together will match. You might be fortunate, but don’t make assumptions. Ideally in your first few supervisory meetings you should discuss how you’re going to work together and what you can expect of each other.

Your faculty should have a template document to guide you and your supervisor in this conversation. You can also download our template to get you started.  If you didn’t have that conversation at the start, don’t worry, have it now!

2. Review ways of working regularly

It’s also important to revisit the expectations conversation every now and then. As you progress in your PhD, your needs will change and the support your supervisor provides will likely change too. So revisit that conversation.

3. Remember your supervisor isn’t perfect!

It sounds obvious, but some students definitely have an unrealistic view of their supervisor. Remember they are human and likely have many other draws on their time, whether other students or other responsibilities, at work and at home. Be careful of slipping into bad habits – submitting work at the last minute and expecting a speedy response, for example.

4. Ask for help when you need it

Most PhD students are highly successful, hard-working people, used to getting top grades. Seriously! That’s you! As such, a PhD can be a challenge. You’re (suddenly) expected to be self-directed and you may come up against all sorts of issues. Your ideas are critiqued and pulled apart. Seemingly fruitful avenues of enquiry turn out to be dead ends. Experiments don’t work, archives don’t yield the information and insights you hoped for, fieldwork takes twice as long to plan as you’d imagined! Something happens in your personal life. You’ll need help. It’s normal.

5. If there are problems then raise them, don’t let them fester

Just ask for help sooner rather than later! There’s no shame in it. You’ll probably address the problems more quickly if you nip them in the bud. We’ve all been there, I can assure you.

There are lots of routes you can go depending on the issue:

  • Is there a PGR officer in your dept? Someone in Professional Services who can help with practice things.
  • Maybe you need to speak to your academic PGR Coordinator.
  • There may be confidential advisors or personal tutors, depending on your faculty.
  • There is also the Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies, your faculty PGR lead.
  • And there is lots of support through Student Services – for mental health and wellbeing, counselling, money & housing advice and more
  • Our PGR Wellbeing Hub has all the links and information com/pgrwh

6. Make use of your second supervisor

I hope you know who your second supervisor is! There’s no one shape for what a second supervisor can offer. Just make use of them. Have regular meetings even if they’re not that frequent. They might be a sounding board for new ideas. They might have a specific skill/interest/expertise that will enrich your research/thesis. They might be very experienced and therefore be a fount of knowledge or provide access to networks. Like I say, there’s no one type.

7. Manage upwards

If you’re not getting what you need from your supervisor then you may need to be more assertive. We can help you with that… book for our workshop

Getting the Best from your Supervisor (PGR324)

This course will help you to understand your supervisor’s perspective and expectations and will highlight areas for autonomy and supervision throughout a doctoral journey. Learn how to be assertive and persuasive in the way that you communicate with your supervisors to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

8. Celebrate your supervisor if they’re doing a good job!

A lot of supervisors put a lot of time and energy into supervision. If that’s your supervisor then I can assure you that a kind word of thanks goes a long way.

If your supervisor really is excellent then you might like to nominate them for one of our Supervisory Excellence Awards.

Supervisor Excellence Award Winners standing on the stairs in Strand Building.

Supervisory Excellence Award Winners 2022/23

9. Remember it’s your PhD!

I’m probably speaking more to scientists and lab-based researchers here but fundamentally the PhD is yours! In some disciplines your supervisor may play a very close guiding role, especially the start, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of dependence. You will have to defend your thesis in the final exam. So don’t be afraid to try things you think are important and to discuss options robustly with your supervisor(s). As you progress in your research you should be becoming an expert, so don’t give way to critique too quickly.

In other disciplines, you may be only too aware that it’s your PhD! So…

10. Draw on as many sources of wisdom and support as you can

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut. So don’t!

Seek out other sources of support, find a mentor or two. Attend seminars in other related departments. Approach other researchers and academics. Make the most of being at a comprehensive research-intensive institution. Time spent thinking about bigger issues, the broader research context is rarely wasted and may yield information, stimulate new ideas and help you move forward.

I wish you all the very best in your doctoral research.

Nigel Eady
Director of Research Talent

Top 10s – Who’s on your team?

Nigel Eady Director of Research Talent

Nigel Eady, Director of Research Talent.

Who are the people who are helping you to be successful? Are you making the most of that support? Is there more support you could draw on?



I’ve been watching a lot of the Athletics recently. My father loved running and whilst he wasn’t ever close to being national standard, he had friends who were pretty close to it. When I was young, the TV would always be on if there was a big event happening, especially the Olympics or European Championships.

I think athletics is a pretty good analogy for the journey of the PhD.

We tend to think of athletics as an individual sport, but it struck me how many of the athletes talked about all the other people who had enabled them to be successful – family, friends, coaches, other current athletes, former athletes, the list went on.

When it comes down to it, like the athlete in the championship on the race track, there’s only one person who writes the thesis and goes through the oral exam.

Yet also like the athlete, to be really successful, you need a whole host of people supporting you and cheering you on.

Thirty or more years ago, a PhD was a solitary pursuit. You did everything on your own, with just the guidance of your solitary supervisor. However those days should be long gone. It’s well recognised that effective training of inexperienced researchers requires much more than one person! So who is on your team? Every athlete draws on a slightly different group of people, or perhaps draws on some people more than others.

Here is a Top 10 of people whom you might draw on. There’s no ‘one size fits all’. However, I’d dare to suggest if you’re not making use of most of these possible supporters, then you’re giving yourself an unnecessary handicap!

1. Supervisor

Certainly the most crucial person in your team. How well are you working together? When I’m discussing challenges with doctoral researchers, it’s often the case that there are mismatches in expectations between student and supervisor. Maybe you discussed expectations when you started your research degree but things change. If you’re in the final phases of the PhD and writing up, you’re likely entering new territory in your relationship. What can you expect from your supervisor then? What do you think you need? Have you had a proper conversation about writing the thesis or is it all based on assumption, what you’ve heard from others? Use your time effectively by having a clear discussion with your supervisor about what you think you need and what they can offer you. And this is true throughout the PhD.

2. Second supervisor

Hopefully you know who your second supervisor is! How often do you meet them? What do you discuss? Every second supervisor will be a bit different. Maybe yours brings a particular interest or skill to the table. Maybe their research interests are related but in a somewhat different area. What do you need from them? Maybe it’s just general discussions about how to tackle the PhD. Do you know their strengths? What can you learn from them? How can they add either to your research or your skills?

3. Other academic colleagues, researchers/staff at different levels

Sometimes you just need someone who gets the academic and research environment but isn’t connected to your project. Someone else in your department or even in another School or Faculty. Maybe you share an interest outside your research. Maybe you’ve had an interesting conversation in a dept seminar and they seemed like someone you’d get on with. It’s great to have a few people around you who understand your world and can offer advice, contacts or experience.

4. Mentors

Do you have a mentor? There are many ways to get a mentor – formal schemes and informal approaches. A mentor can be invaluable for navigating complex environments or for considering what next. Having run mentoring schemes in the past, I think you get the most value from a mentor when you, as a mentee, are in the driving seat, making sure the mentoring is providing what you need.

5. Peers

I hope you have a few people around you who know exactly what you’re going through now. You may be fortunate and have lab colleagues or peers in your dept who share an office with you. Downloading your woes to someone who understands can definitely be cathartic (as long as you promise to be that person for them when they need you!)

6. Staff who support doctoral students – academics and professional services

You should have a PGR Coordinator or equivalent in your department, whose role is to support and advise doctoral researchers. You may also have PS staff who support PhDs. They may be the people you ask very basic questions about the PhD and the process, they may be the ones who can guide you if problems arise, whether complex ones or very simple ones.

7. One-to-one expert support

Did you know you can meet one-to-one with a careers consultant to discuss any career related issue or question? You might have no idea what to do next or what you want to do? They’ll help you to start working that out. You might need advice on a job application or an interview. You can also meet one-to-one with a professional writer to help you with your writing. Maybe you’re struggling to get words on paper. Maybe you’ve got the words down but you’re struggling for clarity or to communicate your argument.

8. Support services

In a similar vein, there is lots of support at King’s – start with Student Services (housing, money and more), who will point you to the relevant team. Ask for help before it all gets too much.

9. Friends

Sometimes you just need someone to tell you to forget your research for a few hours or a weekend and do something completely different. As a friend of mine says, “Have breaks, make breakthroughs!”

10. Family

I know not everyone is close to their family, but if you are, they are clearly a great resource. Perhaps your family are far away? If so, why not plan ahead – put a home visit in the diary, something to look forward to.

Like I say, different people need different help at different times. Just don’t suffer in silence!

Nigel Eady
Director of Research Talent

Announcing the winners of the first King’s Research Mentoring and Support awards

A group photo of the three winners of the Research Mentoring and Support winners; Dr Deborah Robson, Dr Melissa Washington and Sharwari Verma

Mentoring & Support Prize Winners 2023; Dr Deborah Robson, Dr Melissa Washington-Nortey and Sharwari Verma

We are pleased to announce the winners of the very first King’s Research Mentoring and Support awards!

The Centre for Doctoral Studies introduced a new Research Mentoring and Support Excellence award to recognise all the non-supervisory members of staff who make important contributions to Postgraduate Researchers’ (PGR) success and support the approximately 4,500 PGR students that are registered at King’s.

We received over forty nominations for the three Research Mentoring and Support awards and the three winners showcased the best of the wider mentoring and support that staff provide to enable King’s postgraduate researchers to succeed.

The winners are:

Dr Melissa Washington-Nortey, Postdoctoral Project Manager, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience

A profile picture of Dr Melissa Washington-Nortey

Dr Melissa Washington-Nortey

‘Melissa is a huge help to me when I’m conducting my systematic review. She attended my meeting with supervisors to discuss the systematic review, during which she shared her knowledge of social support and parenting from a cultural perspective, assisted me in clarifying the review questions and built the framework for meta-synthesis.’

‘Melissa is postdoctoral project manager of the NIHR-funded SPARK project that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of children with developmental disabilities and their caregivers in Ethiopia and Kenya. SPARK supports four postdocs and five PhD students; two PhD students are affiliated to KCL. Since taking up the role of SPARK training lead Melissa has gone far beyond what would be expected to support the training of PGRs affiliated to SPARK. She organised a training survey to identify training needs, which suggested the main training gaps centred around qualitative research skills and expertise on clinical trials. In response she organised first an online qualitative research training course, attended by all SPARK trainees, including the two SPARK KCL PhD students as well as a third KCL PhD student.’

‘Since she has joined the lab, she has worked hard to support lab members, especially PGR students, in ways that go above and beyond her responsibilities as a project manager in a burdensome large international project (SPARK) of which some of us PGR students in the lab are not even part of.’

A profile picture of Dr Deborah Robson

Dr Deborah Robson


Dr Deborah Robson, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience

‘Dr Robson – Debbie – is a beacon of mentorship and support. In academia, excellence in mentorship and support often remains unsung, however, without this, the traditionally celebrated measures in academia (robust researchers and teams, high-quality publications, high-value grants) would not be realised. My nomination for Debbie includes case studies of Debbie’s support of several PhD and Master’s students which outline the ways in which Debbie has provided crucial academic guidance; personal mentoring to increase these students’ self-confidence and career ambitions; and a listening ear when they were feeling excluded from the King’s community. Innovative supervisory practice often eludes definition, but in Debbie’s case, this is reflected in her accessibility and the inviting atmosphere of her office. Debbie’s impact extends far beyond the students and colleagues whom she supervises in a formal capacity. Debbie’s consistent commitment to pastoral care and fostering personal and professional growth deserves recognition.’


Sharwari Verma, Senior Research Technician, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine

A profile picture of Sharwari Verma

Sharwari Verma

‘Sharwari is a senior research technician in the lab I am conducting my PhD in. She was not directly involved with any of my work but still spent many days throughout the year to train me on certain techniques, help with trouble shooting, answer my many questions and she was always there for emotional support. She goes above and beyond to help others and I cannot imagine another individual that deserves this prize more than her.’

‘As a lab technician, Sharwari has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for students. She has gone above and beyond her duties to provide not only technical guidance but also personal support, offering a listening ear and practical advice to those facing personal or professional challenges.’

Congratulations to all our winners and nominees, it’s a great achievement, thank you for all the support you give to our PGRs at King’s College London.

Announcing the first round of winners of the 22/23 King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize

Congratulations to the first round of winners of the 22/23 King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize!

Each year a limited number of awards are given to celebrate truly outstanding research and theses completed by King’s doctoral students. The prizes are nominated by the external examiners and are judged by a panel consisting of the College’s Director of Research Talent and the Chair of the Research Degrees Examinations Board.

Meet our winners:

Dr Jacob Gracie,  Faculty of Arts and Humanities

I am very grateful to have received this award. Completing the thesis would not have been possible without the support of my supervisor, Dr. Jon Day, and the company of my friends and family. Thank you also to my examiners – Prof. Bettina Bergo and Prof. Josh Cohen – for their engagement and receptiveness to my project. I am grateful to have had the time to undertake the research for the thesis, which was hugely fulfilling and at no point followed a linear trajectory! Thank you to King’s and LAHP for the opportunity. Thanks also to the members of the KCL Fair Pay for GTAs campaign and all the PhDs, GTAs, and other students and staff who attended various meetings and events related to the campaign – it was a privilege to work and learn in your company over the last few years.

Dr Harriet Fagerberg, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Prior to commencing a PhD in Philosophy on KCL and Humboldt’s joint PhD programme, Harriet completed an MA in Philosophy of Psychology at KCL and a BA in Philosophy, Psychology and Politics at Maastricht University College. Her PhD thesis – entitled ‘Disease, Dysfunction and the Brain’ – defended a new theory of pathology as a special kind of biological dysfunction, and applied it to the brain. Three chapters of Harriet’s thesis were adapted and published as journal articles in Philosophy of Science, Biology & Philosophy, and The European Journal for Philosophy of Science. After handing in her PhD in August of 2022, Harriet took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship on the Templeton Foundation funded project ‘Agency, Directionality and Function’ at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is currently working on the nature of biological function and whether psychiatric disorders should be understood as dysfunctions.

Dr Heather White, Faculty of Dentistry, Oral and Craniofacial Studies

Dr Heather White I am honoured to receive this thesis award and have my work recognised by King’s. My research explored the relationship between cranial sutures and skull morphology across mammalian taxa.

My PhD was completed in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, where I accessed museum specimens to build a comparative ontogenetic dataset spanning the phylogenetic breadth of Mammalia. Through a series of distinct and interlinked chapters I found that the development of cranial sutures was highly integrated with overall cranial morphology. Consequently, I proposed that developmental mechanisms shaping suture morphology are central to the evolution of mammalian cranial phenotypic diversity. I would particularly like to thank my supervisors for their support and enthusiasm throughout my PhD, Prof. Abigail Tucker and Prof. Anjali Goswami.

My research has led to many outreach opportunities which I am forever grateful for. These have included Nature Live talks hosted by the Natural History Museum, school talks, and NHM Lates. I have competed in the London final of FameLab, received a conference poster prize, presented my research in the prestigious D. Dwight Davis Award at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology conference, and have been invited to present my research at an upcoming conference symposium.

Following my PhD, I have completed a postdoctoral research position extending my work on cranial sutures into evolutionary time to study the synapsid to mammal transition. Additionally, I have used my quantitative morphometric skills to analyse the impact of plastic pollution on bird wing shape. Most recently, I have started a job as a Data Scientist at the Office for National Statistics working on the UN Sustainable Development Goals project. Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has been a part of my PhD journey, without whom this research would not have been possible.

Dr Aimee Cheesbrough, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine

Dr Aimee CheesbroughBefore beginning my PhD, I studied Medical Engineering (MEng) at the University of Leeds. With an interest in stem cells and regenerative medicine and an eagerness to move into the Biosciences, I joined the BBSRC London Interdisciplinary (LIDo) DTP in 2017. My PhD project was co-supervised by Dr Ivo Lieberam at KCL Centre for Gene Therapy & Regenerative Medicine, and Prof. Wenhui Song at the UCL Centre for Biomaterials in Interventional Science. During this time, I developed an in vitro model of skeletal muscle function, made from a combination of electrospun nanofiber scaffolds and optogenetically controlled human iPSC-derived myofibers. I was fortunate to have this work published in Advanced Materials in March 2022. Towards the end of my PhD, I worked closely with colleagues at KCL to use this technology as a platform for modelling neuromuscular diseases. We developed a 96-well screening platform for identifying phenotypic variation in neuromuscular co-cultures generated from ALS patient-derived iPSC cell lines.

Outside of my PhD, I really enjoyed getting involved in public engagement activities. I spent 3-months doing an internship at The Royal Institution, where I worked as part of their Masterclass team to organise and deliver engineering, mathematics and computer science masterclasses to school children. I was lucky to be working there during December, during the lead-up to their famous BBC Christmas Lecture series which was very exciting! I was also involved with public engagement activities for KCL Stem Cells, where we developed a ‘Growing New Body Parts’ stand for the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.

Since finishing my PhD I have been working at Ivy Farm Technologies – a cellular agriculture biotechnology start-up based in Oxfordshire. I am really excited to be working in such an innovative sector and to be able to apply the skills and knowledge gained during my PhD to contribute to a better future for animals and the planet! I am truly honoured to have received the King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize and would like to thank all those who made my time at King’s so memorable – Thank you!

Dr Luis Alameda, Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Dr Luis Alameda

I studied medicine at the Universities of Sevilla, Lund and Florence, and trained in psychiatry and psychotherapy in Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) where I specialised in early intervention in psychosis and started exploring various aspects on the link between childhood trauma and psychosis doing my thesis (MD) on this topic. From 2017 to 2022, I worked in South London and Maudsley as a Consultant psychiatrist, mainly in early intervention and treatment resistant on psychosis, while I did a PhD at the Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London.

My PhD explores the nature of the association between childhood trauma and psychosis, covering epidemiological, clinical and molecular data, with the intent to improve the care of patients with psychosis who suffer from these experiences and to better understand the mechanisms involved. My research has helped a better understanding on the epigenetic mechanism linking trauma and psychosis; previously hypothesized but never explored, and has also opened new venues for clinical applications, such as the key role of anxiety, mood, and dissociation in this population; and the differential role of abuse and neglect, both in terms of clinical manifestations and epigenetic mechanisms.

Just after my PhD submission, I was appointed as the head of the Treatment and Early Intervention for Psychosis Program (TIPP) in CHUV, in Lausanne Switzerland, where I am applying my skills in early intervention learned at the Maudsley and expanding my research in Switzerland and beyond.

Dr Brittney Regal, King’s Business School

Dr Brittney RegalBritt Regal’s doctoral research explored the role that organizational leadership cultures play in embedding co-production (citizen participation) in public services. Through examining six cases across three sectors, she drew conclusions about how certain leadership cultures impacted public service organizations’ engagement with citizens, particularly young people. Her supervisors, Dr Alexandra Budjanovcanin and Professor Ewan Ferlie, provided invaluable knowledge and expertise. She was also a recipient of the King’s Business School Collaborative Studentship.

During her PhD, Britt worked as a research assistant on the Horizon 2020 project, COGOV. She oversaw the delivery of case studies from partners across Europe and provided overarching analysis, alongside Professor Ferlie, on these case studies. She also supported the delivery of a toolkit for co-creation and provided analysis on the governing mechanisms fostering co-creation within the culture sector. To disseminate the findings from her PhD and COGOV, she hosted a day-long conference attended by professionals in non-profits as well as local government officers.

Previously, Britt worked in the education sector supporting schools and mentoring teachers at Teach First. She also worked as a secondary teacher in the United States.  Currently, she is a research associate at King’s College London working on an ESRC-funded project overseen by the Productivity Institute. Within this project, she is exploring the transition to sustainable mobility alongside Professors Damian Grimshaw, Marcela Miozzo, and Jonatan Pinkse. Her research interests include organizational studies, public management, and public policy particularly in relation to collaborative innovation, citizen participation, and sustainable development administration.

Dr Giuseppe Brandi, Faculty of Natural, Mechanical and Engineering Sciences

Dr Giuseppe Brandi

I am humbled and grateful to have been awarded the King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize for my work on Multidimensional Data and Multiscaling Time Series. This achievement would not have been possible without the exceptional guidance and support of my supervisor, Professor Tiziana Di Matteo. Throughout my research, her expertise and encouragement were pivotal, particularly in bridging my previous research background in Economics and Econometrics with the field of Quantitative Financial Data Analysis. This mingling of research approaches had a profound impact on my research forma mentis, shaping my identity as what I refer to myself today, a Datametrician.

I also express my sincere gratitude to the members of my thesis committee, Professor Elsa Arcaute and Professor Andrea Gabrielli, for their valuable feedback and support for my future pursuits. My research has been significantly enriched by the feedback and insights received from the scientific community during workshops, seminars, and international conferences, thereby strengthening its potential impact. Furthermore, the collaboration with Yewno proved to be instrumental, highlighting the potential spillovers between academic research and the Fintech industry. I owe a debt of gratitude to my family and loved ones, whose constant encouragement and inspiration have been key to my success.

Moving forward in my career as a Research Associate in Climate Risk and Analytics at Imperial College London, I am eager to continue exploring the intersection of applied mathematics and real-world problems that have a tangible impact on society.

Dr Naomi Wright, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine

Dr Naomi WrightIt is an absolute honour to be awarded an outstanding thesis prize for my PhD in Global Surgery undertaken at King’s Centre for Global Health and Health Partnerships. What a wonderful and long journey it has been to get to this point.

By trade, I am a Paediatric Surgery Registrar, with my training post in the Southeast of England Deanery. However, I have always been interested in and hence actively participated in global health research at every opportunity throughout my career.

Prior to the PhD, I had undertaken a BSc in International Health at the University of Leeds in 2004/5 and an MSc in Global Health with Global Surgery at King’s in 2016. I had also undertaken a 1-year Royal College of Surgeons Research Fellowship alongside the MSc. During this year, I had established a paediatric surgery research network across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and collectively we had undertaken the first and largest multinational, prospective cohort study into children’s surgical outcomes across the region. This highlighted a huge disparity in survival compared to high-income countries, particularly for neonatal surgical conditions. For example, gastroschisis (a condition where the baby is born with their intestines protruding through a hole in the abdominal wall) had a 76% mortality across SSA compared to 2% in the UK (published in BMJ Global Health).

It is this research that led onto my PhD. It involved expanding the above prospective cohort study to include a wider range of congenital anomalies (also known as birth defects) and this time in low, middle, and high-income countries across the world (published in The Lancet ). This involved establishing the first truly global paediatric surgical research network with over 1500 children’s surgical care providers involved in the study from 74 countries. We ran the study in 12 languages. Team members have been involved in disseminating the results throughout the globe, both within the medical community and to the public through newspaper articles, social media, and television.

The second part of my PhD involved a hands-on clinical interventional study aimed at tackling the unacceptably high mortality from gastroschisis in seven paediatric surgery centres across Ghana, Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania. This involved working with over 2000 team members, including surgeons, paediatricians, neonatologists, junior doctors, nurses, midwives, obstetricians, ministers of health, hospital managers, and other key stakeholders, to develop an evidence-based care bundle, and implement in across the seven tertiary hospitals and their referring hospitals and health centres.

Prior to the study the mortality from gastroschisis was 97%; at the end of the study the overall mortality had reduced to 65%. In real terms, 68 neonates survived from gastroschisis during the 2-year study, compared to just 3 neonates in the 2-years prior to the study. Many more have survived since too and further funding has been awarded to continue expanding the project. The study protocol has been published (Wellcome Open Research) and the results publication is in progress.

During the PhD, I had the opportunity to participate in and undertake numerous other associated research projects resulting in 15 publications, and many presentations at international conferences across the globe. I was blessed with winning the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons (BAPS) President’s Prize for best Clinical Research twice for the above work. I also helped organise the Global Initiative for Children’s Surgery (GICS) 3rd Global Congress in India, 2018.

Dr Francesca Ghirretti, Faculty of Social Sciences and Public Policy

Dr Francesca GhirettiFrancesca Ghiretti received her PhD from War Studies, King’s College London where she was awarded the Leverhulme Scholarship as part of the project ‘Interrogating Visions of a Post-Western World: Interdisciplinary and Interregional Perspectives on the Future in a Changing International Order’.

At King’s College London, she is also a fellow at the Centre for Grand Strategy.Currently, Francesca is an analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) where she covers EU-China relations, economic security, China’s engagement in the Global South, China’s footprint in Southern Europe and UK-China relations.

Francesca is also a Visiting Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Affairs (ECFR). Before joining MERICS, she worked as a Research Fellow Asia at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Rome leading a project on the Belt and Road Initiative in Italy. Previously, she also worked as a geopolitical analyst for CQS, a London-based hedge fund and as assistant to Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, former Secretary General of NATO.

Francesca’s Thesis, The securitization of Chinese foreign direct investments in the EU, researched the phenomenon of foreign direct investments (FDI) originating from China and flowing into the European Union has been receiving growing attention, particularly in light of the implications Chinese FDI carry that transcend economy.

This research seeks to give its contribution to the state of the art by looking at the phenomenon through the lens of the theory of securitisation of non-traditional security issues (NTS). Rather than measuring the nature, scope and impact of Chinese FDI in the EU, this project seeks to understand why the EU and two states, Italy and the UK, have begun to view Chinese FDI as a security threat and thus, transformed an economic matter into a security concern.

Meet the King’s Doctoral Students’ Association Board for 2022/23                                                                                                                                     

Meet the King’s Doctoral Students’ Association Board for 2022/23

The King’s Doctoral Students’ Association (KDSA) is the recognised representative body of the Postgraduate Research (PGR) student community within KCL’s Student Union (KCLSU). As an academic association, we have representatives across all ten faculties and five campuses. All doctoral students at King’s are automatically part of KDSA.

KDSA works closely with the university to further improve the PhD journey:

  • Ensure effective representation of part-time and full-time PhD students:
    • uphold, extend, and defend the rights of all PhD students at King’s
    • address student concerns such as funding issues, work-life imbalance or lack of support which undermine the student experience and research output
    • enable collaboration and exchange of good practices among faculty and department representatives
  • Foster equality, diversity, and inclusion of research:
    • create and sustain peer support networks for both academic and non-academic topics
    • improve and raise awareness of specialist support and resources available to different groups of PhD students
  • Improve representation of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) interests
  • Organise and aid PhD activities:
    • social events to strengthen the PhD community and connect PhD students across King’s
    • career and employability events to build professional skills and strategic networks
    • academic events to showcase research and facilitate academic collaboration
  • Refine and raise awareness of resources available to PhD students such as:
    • student services
    • mental and physical health and wellbeing services
    • career and employability services
    • Library and IT support
  • Promote sustainable research:
    • encourage bottom-up sustainable initiatives


Lina Kramer
Lina Kramer

Lina is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Political Economy (DPE) which is part of the School of Politics and Economics (SSPP). In addition, she is a recipient of the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (LISS-DTP) studentship award which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Lina’s research focuses on how artificial intelligence can be used to design and improve tax policy. For this, she developed the AI Government, a deep reinforcement learning framework that allows her to run dynamic simulations and improve political and economic modeling.

Next to her PhD, Lina is this year’s President of King’s Doctoral Student’s Association. She is committed to help enhance the PhD student experience, foster a vibrant PhD community, and enable all to excel in their research at King’s!

Prior to her PhD, Lina worked for six years as a consultant promoting the digitalisation of the German government and public sector. She further holds an MSc. in Economics from the University of Cologne and a BA. in Politics, Administration and International Relations from Zeppelin University.

Contact Lina: lina.kramer@kcl.ac.uk

Photo of Aleksandra Olszewska

Aleksandra Olszewska – Vice President

 Aleksandra (Ola) is a second year PhD student in the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, FoLSM. As a recipient of the BBSRC’s London Interdisciplinary Biosciences Consortium (LIDo) DTP she is doing an iCASE PhD supported by Biotherapy Services Limited.

Her research project focuses on Biotherapy Service’s developed Leukocyte and Platelet-Rich Plasma Gel for Diabetic Foot Ulcers. As part of her project, she investigates the therapeutic properties of the gel as well as is trying to characterize the English Diabetic Foot adult population to better understand potential recipients of the product.

Ola has previous experience representing the student community. She was the Volunteering Officer for the Mile End Campus at her previous University, QMUL, from which she holds a degree in Biomedical Sciences.

Contact Ola: aleksandra.olszewska@kcl.ac.uk

Navsheen Kaur
Navsheen Kaur – Secretary

Navsheen Kaur is a first year PhD student at the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine at King’s College London. Before commencing her PhD, she pursued her master’s degree in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology and her BSc degree in Psychology and Language Sciences from UCL.

In her new role as a Secretary, Navsheen is hoping to support the president and the communication with other committee members and the KDSA community as a whole. She would act as the ‘organiser’ of KDSA and ensure that things run smoothly and handle all the communication within the KDSA community. During her time, she wants to help build a strong and collaborative community amongst doctoral students and staff at Kings.

Contact Navsheen : navsheen.kaur@kcl.ac.uk

Photo of Tatjana Irina Zoller
Tatjana Irina Zoller – Public Relations Coordinator

Tatjana is a third year PhD student in Basic and Clinical Neuroscience. She researches RNA-binding proteins in human cell models to better understand their basic functions and their role in neurodegeneration. She joined King’s College London in 2019 as a research assistant before starting her degree in February 2020. Previously she studied Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Bern, Switzerland from which she graduated in 2019 with an MSc.

In her new role Tatjana plans to work with the KDSA board to foster better conditions for all PhD students by improving student-supervisor relationships, connecting students across all of King’s campuses and by raising awareness for King’s student mental health, disability, and neurodiversity support. She is hoping to raise awareness for KDSA’s causes with more PGRs and to foster and strengthen relationships with other King’s societies and organisations.

Contact Tatjana: tatjana.zoller@kcl.ac.uk

Leontine von Felbert
Leontine von Felbert – Representative for Strand Campus

Leontine is a third year PhD Student at the Defence Studies Department and her research focuses on the use of surrogate warfare in Great Power Competition. Prior to her PhD, she worked in Amman, Jordan for 3 years as a project manager and research fellow, focusing mainly on topics relating to regional security in the Middle East. Before moving to Amman, she completed her Master’s degree in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies at the University of St Andrews.

As the Campus Representative for Strand, she is organising a variety of events and opportunities for the PGR community to come together, get to know each other and create friendships and support networks.

Contact Leontine: leontine.von_felbert@kcl.ac.uk


Jie Tang
Jie Tang– Representative for St Thomas Campus

Jie is a third-year PhD student at the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, King’s College London. In 2020 she graduated from Peking University with an MSc degree in Biomedical Engineering. In her graduate project with Dai group, she worked with “Enhanced Bioluminescence Imaging of Inflammation Based on Dual-color Nanobubbles”.

Her current research interests lie primarily in nanomedicine, molecular imaging and translational research. She strives to participate in translational medicine. With the necessary techniques and skills obtained as a PhD student, she is sure that she will be able to fulfil her personal goals.

Contact Jie: jie.2.tang@kcl.ac.uk

Manar Ageeli
Manar Ageeli– Representative for Denmark Hill Campus

Manar is a first-year PhD student at the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience In the eating disorder group. Being especially interested in mindfulness and eating behaviors, her research focuses on combining mindfulness with neuromodulation.

She obtained her MSc. at the University of Nottingham in Clinical Nutrition. Her BSc. was obtained In Saudi Arabia also in Clinical Nutrition.  Previously, she worked as a Dietitian in several clinics and as a freelancer. During this time, she became interested in mental health and in the role of values, feelings, thoughts, and sense of purpose in shaping eating habits.

As the representative of the Demnark hill campus Manar aims to improve connections and cooperation between students to improve everyone’s PhD student experience.

Contact Manar: Manar.1.ageeli@kcl.ac.uk

Xenia Stieger
Xenia Stieger – Wellbeing Lead

Xenia is a second year PHD student in the Department of Political Economy and Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience. Her main research focus lies on how we can use Virtual Reality to help with intergroup conflicts and to increase resilience in vulnerable people.

She did her undergraduate studies at the University of Glasgow, where she was also part of the student representative council and a representative for the School of Psychology. During her Masters at the University of Leiden, she also engaged herself in representing students from her cohort and organised wellbeing lunches.

With her background in Psychology, her own mental health history and experience as a  trained Mental Health First Aider, Xenia wants to ensure that other PGR students know who to turn to when they are struggling. Furthermore, she aims to build a compassionate PhD community of mutual support.

E-Mail: xenia.stieger@kcl.ac.uk

Zeynep Sahin
Zeynep Sahin, Equality
Diversity and Inclusion Co-Lead

Zeynep is the Diversity and Inclusion co-lead for KDSA. She is a first-year PhD candidate at the Department of Old Age Psychiatry where her work uses retinal imaging and artificial intelligence to detect and diagnose neurodegenerative diseases at the earliest time-point. Prior to joining KCL, Zeynep was a research fellow at the University of Cambridge.

Contact Zeynep: zeynep.1.sahin@kcl.ac.uk

Lienkie Heilien Diedericks
Lienkie Heilien Diedericks
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Co-Lead

Lienkie is the other Diversity and Inclusion co-lead for KDSA. She is a final-year PhD student at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine (GHSM). Her research is centered around the South African tuberculosis epidemic. She is interested in how the South African colonial-apartheid context has shaped public health and policy discourses around tuberculosis, and how these discourses overlap with, differ, or affect, the construction of drug-resistant TB as a health security threat.

Lienkie is also employed by the Centre for Doctoral Studies as a Disability Support Officer on a part-time basis, and she is a Service Officer on the Neurodiversity and Mental Health Society Committee. Prior to her PhD, Lienkie completed an MSc in Bioethics and Society at the GHSM department at King’s. She also holds a BA in analytic philosophy and French, and a postgraduate degree in analytic philosophy from the University of Cape Town.

In her new role as EDI co-lead, Lienkie would like to champion PGR disability issues.

Contact Lienkie: heilien.diedericks@kcl.ac.uk

Susan Steward
Susan Steward – Representative for Part-Time PGRs

Susan is in the final stages of her PhD in the Department of Geography. Her thesis is entitled ‘Growing up in North Norwich in the New Millennium: influences of neighbourhood and secondary school on shaping young lives in a disadvantaged area of a small city’ and so combines the disciplines of Geography and Education.

At the beginning of her PhD study, Susan worked part-time in the University of Cambridge as a Research Associate in Education and so has direct experience of trying to balance the demands of working, studying and family life at the same time. She also lives outside of London in Lowestoft (Suffolk) – England’s most easterly town (and also one of its most inaccessible).

Contact Susan: susan.steward@kcl.ac.uk

Diana Catana
Diana Catana – Co-Representative for International Students

Diana is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Physics at King’s College London. Her research focuses on investigating the effects of mechanical stress, or applied force, at cellular and molecular level. Previously to joining King’s, she got her integrated masters in Biochemistry in 2020 from UCL (University College London). Her passion for advocating for a better international students’ experience goes back several years to when she worked for the International Students House as a Resident Advisor. This role gave her the experience necessary for becoming a #WeAreInternational student ambassador for UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs), a position that she has been holding since January 2022.

In her role as Representative for International Students for the KDSA board, Diana aims to be the voice for international students and advocate for a parity of experience with home students. This, in turn, would reduce any additional unnecessary stress and smoothen the journey of any international PhD student and allow them to make the most of their time at King’s and in the UK.

Contact Diana: diana.catana@kcl.ac.uk

Zhaozhang Sun
Zhaozhang Sun – Co-Representative for International Students 

Zhaozhang is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative industries at KCL. She is currently doing an interdisciplinary project in health communication, which is fully funded by King’s-China Scholarship Council. Her research focuses on investigating effective communication strategies that may be beneficial for people’s diabetes-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.

Prior to her PhD, she worked as an executive editor at a national media in China and was awarded a National Journalism Prize. She got her bachelor’s degree in Language and Literature at Central South University, China, and then completed MA in International Journalism at University of Leeds, UK.

As the Representative for International Students, Zhaozhang aims to work proactively with the KDSA board and contribute positively to improving the experience of international PhD students at King’s, including the transitional periods before and after.

Contact Zhaozhang: zhaozhang.sun@kcl.ac.uk

Raúl Zepeda Gil
Raúl Zepeda Gil –
Representative for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs)

Raúl is a PhD candidate in the Defence Studies Department and Graduate Teaching Assistant for the War Studies and European & International Studies. His current research project is about young men’s mobilisation into the current Mexican Drug War. He has a BA in Political Science from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and an MA in Political Science from El Colegio de Mexico. In King’s College London Student Union, he has been twice elected Delegate to the National Union of Students (NUS) on a working-class agenda. He was president of the Mexican Society, Postgraduate Rep in the LGBT Society, and president of MexSocUK, the national organisation representing Mexican Societies in UK Student Unions.

Contact Raúl: zepeda.raul@kcl.ac.uk

Juliana Fernanda Holanda Bezerra Pereira
Juliana Fernanda Holanda Bezerra Pereira –
Representative for Healthcare Professionals

Juliana is in the fourth year of her PhD at the University of São Paulo and came to King`s College Hospital for a PhD sandwich/joint Program due to a partnership between the University of São Paulo and King`s College London.

Juliana holds a specialist title in Anaesthesiology and Pain Management, and for seven years she worked as a Consultant Anaesthestist in private and public hospitals in São Paulo. Now, Juliana is based in the Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care Medicine at King`s College Hospital.

Juliana’s working thesis title is “Simplified algorithm for prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting in an oncological hospital: a quasi-experimental study”, and her research interests are Anaesthesia in Oncological patients, Perioperative Medicine, Patient Blood Management, Anaesthesia in Obstetric patients, and intra uterus procedures.

Contact Juliana: juliana.pereira2@nhs.net

Chara Christodoulidou
Chara Christodoulidou – Representative for the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy (SSPP)

Chara is a first-year PhD student at the Department of Political Economy. Her research is focused on conflict-related violence against women and female political representation. She has previously studied law and completed her master’s in Public International Law at Queen Mary University of London in 2018. Prior to joining King’s, Chara held compliance positions and has worked as a litigation lawyer. Chara is looking forward to help her fellow PGRs to have the best experience while at King’s.

Contact Chara: chara.1.christodoulidou@kcl.ac.uk

James Rowland
James Rowland
Representative for the Faculty of Arts & Humanities

James is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of History at King’s College London. His research utilises contemporary newspapers and periodicals, parliamentary debates, works of political philosophy and travel literature to explore the influence of America on nineteenth-century British political reform debates leading up to the Second Reform Act.

Prior to his PhD, he was a master’s student at King’s where he completed his thesis examining the impact of the American Civil War on the British Press. As the representative for the Faculty of Arts & Humanities on the KDSA, James looks forward to working with the board to promote student welfare and strengthen the research community this year. he

Contact James: james.rowland@kcl.ac.uk

Mmekidmfon Umanah
Mmekidmfon Umanah
Representative for King’s Business School

‘Mfon is a Doctoral student at the King’s Business School. His research focuses on emerging digital technologies and how they can help social impact organizations balance paradoxical tensions in their business models and inherently scale their operations. ‘Mfon is a self-motivated individual who has spent the last 6 years running and leading social impact organizations.

Prior to joining King’s. He was Founder and CEO of Aimcare Health, a health tech company strengthening the primary healthcare system in West Africa by improving access to medical devices and supplies in the region. Aimcare provides inventory financing and inventory management solutions to clinics, pharmacies and patent medicine stores, helping solve their supply chain issues.

He plays golf, football, chess and loves afrobeats.

Connect ‘Mfon: mmekidmfonabasi.umanah@kcl.ac.uk

 Marianna Ryan
Marianna Ryan – Representative of the Dickson Poon School of Law

Marianna is a second-year part-time PhD student in the Dickson Poon School of Law.

Marianna’s research is in the field of intellectual property laws. Her study is dedicated to copyright in authors’ contracts and, in particular, fair remuneration and transparency triangle provisions of the Digital Single Market Directive 2019/790.

Marianna is employed full-time as a solicitor in a private law firm in London.

In her role as a representative of the Dickson Poon School of Law, Marianna is committed to making positive changes in the lives of doctoral students.

Contact Marianna: marianna.ryan@kcl.ac.uk

Mariana da Silva
Mariana da Silva – Representative for the Faculty of Life Science and Medicine (FoLSM)

Mariana is a third-year PhD student at the CDT in Smart Medical Imaging at the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences. Her doctoral research focuses on the use of interpretable AI to predict cognitive development from brain MRI data. Mariana sits on the Student Board of the Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention Society. She is passionate about Open Science and the intersection of Science and Politics.

In 2019, she completed an Integrated Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering and Biophysics from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and conducted her MSc thesis project at the University of Cambridge. During this time, she was part of the Student Board in the Biomedical Engineering Society at the University of Lisbon.

In her role as the Representative for the FoLSM at the KDSA board, Mariana aims to tighten connections between students from the various departments within the faculty and be a voice for all the graduate students in our community!

Contact Mariana: mariana.da_silva@kcl.ac.uk

Sinuhé Perea
Sinuhé Perea
– Representative for Faculty of Natural, Mathematical & Engineering Sciences (NMES)

Sinuhé is a predoctoral student in Photonics and Nanotechnology at King’s College London, literally trying to see (with light) what is hidden. He likes to solve problems, but since he rarely finds any solution, preferring to learn and ask, becoming part of a SPIE Student Chapter, contributor for MDPI and IoP, and recently Wolfram Research ambassador. He graduated in Physics and in Mathematics from the University of Oviedo (Spain) where he was also Computational Assistant at Faculty of Chemistry and awarded as best national young researcher by CEULAJ & ICMAT (CSIC).

Sinuhé’s current research focuses on near-field and topological photonics in (lossy) systems, light nano-routing, skyrmions, algebraic number theory (odd perfect numbers conjecture because remember, even primes are odd), medical physics, geology, sustainable solutions, and freshman economics.

Contact Sinuhé: sinuhe.perea@kcl.ac.uk

Oscar Allan Furlong
Oscar Allan Furlong – Representative for the Faculty of Dentistry and Craniofacial Sciences (FoDOCS)

Allan is a third-year PhD student in the Faculty of Dentistry and Craniofacial Sciences. His research involves microbial in-vitro experiments using natural products to test their therapeutic potential in managing dental diseases.

In 2007, Allan obtained his bachelor’s degree in dentistry from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico. Afterwards, he worked in private practice as a dentist and a health sciences lecturer at the University of Valley of Mexico. In 2017, Allan obtained his master’s degree in biomaterials at the University of Manchester.

Allan wants to enhance the student experience in the Faculty of Dentistry and Craniofacial Sciences through social and academic events.

Contact Allan: oscar_allan.furlong_lopez@kcl.ac.uk

Ling Wang
Ling Wang – Representative for the Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care (NFNMPC)

Ling is a third-year PhD student at King’s College London studying resilience and psychological first aid. She has practiced clinically in China with Orthopedic patients and emergency response where she saw a growing crisis of poor mental health afflicting patients and healthcare workers in the frontline. Her doctoral research focuses on the culturally developing and testing of a Psychological First Aid training program for empowering frontline healthcare workers.

Prior to King’s, she completed BA in China and MSc in Ireland. She will integrate her local practice and international education to develop social and behavioral intervention, to be a voice for vulnerable suffering patients and to advance health outcome improvements.

As the representative for the Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care on the KDSA, Ling looks forward to working with the board to improve experience for postgraduate students this year.

Contact Ling: ling.1.wang@kcl.ac.uk

Mariia Bogdanova
Mariia Bogdanova – Representative for the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN)

Mariia is a 1st year MRC DTP PhD student at the department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN). Her research is on the brain mechanisms of motivational deficit in depression. She has also recently begun her new role as an IoPPN Representative.

Before that, she graduated from Lomonosov Moscow State University with a Clinical Psychology degree. In addition to her research experience, she was also experienced in communicating and teaching science. For the past five years, she worked as an Assistant Lecturer at Sechenov Medical University and a researcher at the associated hospital. Also, she supervised 15 undergraduate thesis projects. This experience helped her understand how to be on the other side of scientific inquiry, this time as a supervisor.

In her new role, Mariia would like to improve student-supervisor relationships at IoPPN, raise awareness for mental health at King’s, and organise new events for PGR students.

Contact Mariia: mariia.bogdanova@kcl.ac.uk

Miki Uchima
Miki Uchima
– Representative for the Francis Crick Institute

Miki is a first-year PhD student at the Francis Crick Institute and King’s College London. Being especially interested in studying host-pathogen interactions, her research focuses on influenza virus host adaptation and flu-mediated host transcription shut-off.

Previously, she obtained both BSc. and MSc.  at the University of Bonn focusing on biomedicine and immunobiology. During this time, she was part of the student council molecular biomedicine. Further, she has worked as a research assistant at the University of Bonn and at Yale University.

Next to her PhD, Miki is a member of the student committee of the Francis Crick Institute and the King’s Doctoral Student’s Association. She aims to foster connections between students from King’s Campuses, the Francis Crick Institute and other collaborators of King’s and improve everyone’s PhD student experience.

Contact Miki: miki.uchima@kcl.ac.uk

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