Research is a form of freedom: Santiago, Reader in Economics at FoSSPP discusses the KURF programme

King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowships give undergraduate students the unique opportunity to learn alongside our leading academics during the summer. In today’s blog, Santiago Sanchez-Pages, a Reader in Economics at King’s reflects the value of KURF in a multidisciplinary setting, that gives students the opportunity to hone skills, experience new things and build their confidence through engaging in academic research. Applications for KURF in 2021 are still open, so hurry to apply before the deadline of 18 April!

Pile of books with an open book fanned out on the top
Image by Pixabay.

My route to academia, teaching and research

I joined King’s in 2017 and currently, I am a Reader in Economics. Previously I worked in Edinburgh and Barcelona.

When I was about to finish my undergraduate degree, I was severely confused about what I should be doing next. I did not see myself working in the private sector or becoming a public servant. I only had the vague feeling that I wanted to continue studying and learning but I thought that was not possible. Postgraduate programmes were not that well-known back then. I learned about the possibility of doing an MRes and then a PhD. I tried it without being fully convinced but then I learnt that that was exactly what I was looking for.

I love research and in my teaching, and I try to transmit that. It is a form of freedom. At this stage of my career, I am interested in new research projects but also in improving teaching methods and standards to infuse that love for learning and research to students at King’s. The Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy I belong to is extremely multidisciplinary and there are very exciting projects going on on very diverse topics. We have for instance a very strong and excellent group of people working on immigration, behavioural economics and new governance mechanisms.


King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship: what’s it all about?

KURF is an amazing initiative, and everybody can benefit from it. Firstly, you’ll get exposed to research and what it’s really like. In my own experience that was critical in my own decision to pursue postgraduate studies so many years ago. Also, I hope that our students will get to positions of power and influence at some point, and it would great if, thanks to having been involved with KURF, they learn to value research and support it wherever they go next in their careers. As an academic, I feel very privileged for the opportunity KURF gives me every year to work side by side with very talented and determined young people.


Reflecting on the student experience

Every fellow I have worked with has told me that they had a great experience. They learn to have a work routine because of course there are a number of targets that have to be met, but at the same time it is a research project, so thinking outside the box and encountering difficulties is part of the adventure. Proving to yourself and to others that you are reliable and at the same time seeing that you have an active input in the outcome makes the experience unique. This is still within a safe and friendly environment because it is understood that the main objective of KURF is for fellows to learn about themselves and about how academic research is conducted; the end product is not the priority here. I have mentored a fellow every year since I joined King’s. I have enjoyed it tremendously.


When you take part in KURF, you will be supported by King’s Careers & Employability to make the most of your experience, including ways to learn more about the knowledge, attributes, skills and experiences you are gaining. We are passionate about helping you build success, wherever you are in your career thinking.


Ariel shot of a man and a woman holding two cups of coffee on a round coffee table.
Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

What it’s all about: getting to explore new research avenues

For me, the KURF programme is an opportunity to pursue risky but very exciting projects I have in my drawer. Ideas come easily but we academics do not always have the time to pursue them. This programme gives me the ground to explore new research avenues whilst knowing that I am helping others to learn about research.

Preparing the projects, scouting for resources the fellows will later use is a fun part of the job. But for me, the “this is what it’s all about” is when I see a fellow finding out that they can do it, that they have been capable of delivering in a timely and reliable manner. That moment of pride and the realisation that they love research.


My advice for students thinking about KURF

My advice, especially for students this year, is to talk to the academics proposing projects during your application process. Identify the projects you feel interested in and contact the person! Learn about them, what the project is about, what it is expected from you. You will be spending quite some time working on it so you better like it! And, lastly, apply. KURF is a great opportunity that King’s offers you. Take it!


We want you to be part of the KURF programme – yes, you! Read more and apply on our web pages. Remember, send your application before the 18th of April 2021 for the chance of undertaking amazing work experience this summer!