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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  Study  /  Undergraduate  /  Dissertation Images Competition 2017

Dissertation Images Competition 2017

Our undergraduate students do all sorts of things as part of their final year dissertation research. 2017 was the second year of the ‘dissertation images’ competition that we ran as one way of celebrating that diversity. Our third year students were asked to submit images from their dissertation projects that give a flavour of what they were trying to do and how they were doing it. Prizes were awarded for the best. This display showcases some of the entries, each with a short account of how the image relates to the broader study.

Winner of the ‘emotions’ category and overall winner: Thasneem Zaman

Access to education is an important issue in Bangladesh, with many young people without access and high drop-out rates. In response, Thasneem’s project focused on how the social relations between domestic workers and their employer families can sometimes stand in the way of worker education. In this image, some respondents are sat opposite her on the floor whilst she perched upon a bed. She wanted to sit alongside them. But they did not think this was right. There was a delicate balance of power for her to negotiate during her interviews as she tried to build rapport whilst staying mindful of how her respondents saw her.

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Winner of the ‘method’ category: Yi Ming Ang

Yi Ming’s study sought to go beyond how high-rise blocks are commonly portrayed to understand the detail of life inside them. His specific focus was on the experience of high-rise living within public housing in Singapore. This picture captures two contrasting ways of thinking about the tower blocks involved. In the background, we can see the distanced way in which they are so often portrayed – as objects of architectural reflection and mass urban planning. But this image has also been framed by the window of an individual resident. Tower blocks are always experienced from within as much as contemplated from afar.

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Winner of the ‘data’ category: Victoria Lebegue

Victoria’s project examined the impact ‘of sustainable’ chocolate production practices by comparing the biodiversity impacts of different cocoa farming strategies in Chiapas, Mexico. Managing sunlight is a big part of the issue here, with different styles of farming entailing different levels of exposure and shade for the crops involved. This also impacts upon the insects and other creatures that potentially live alongside them. So the extent to which sunlight filters through, as shown in this image, is more than a matter of aesthetics. Different sunlight practices can actually have quite an impact on local ecosystems and economies.

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Tz-Ching Tai

How are culture and economy intertwined in the Taiwanese night market? This is one of the questions that Tz-Ching sought to answer through her interviews and observation there. The night market offers a fun experience for city dwellers to enjoy after a long day at work. But that same sense of fun can be also good for business. In this image, the owner of the yuzu stall, sporting a comical hat made from the yuzus that he sells, is making a face at her as she took photos in the night market. He is taking pleasure from being friendly and humorous. But creating the right atmosphere through these means may also encourage customers.

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Beth Roberts

In her dissertation, Beth explored the relationship between the government and refugees in Cyprus. She sought to compare international legal protocols and the reality of the conditions provided by the government to people on the ground. She did this through a range of methods that include ethnography, interviews and surveys in Cyprus. This image depicts the home of one of her respondents, Tag, who arrived 20 years earlier after the smuggler boat that carried him sank off shore. He is still fighting for the right to come to the UK. But for the moment he lives here with his family and his dog, determined to keep their case alive.

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Rory Dawson

For his research, Rory helped build a family ‘croft’ farm house in the Scottish Highlands. This led to interviews with other crofters, planning lawyers and other stakeholders. His aim was to examine the current ‘cultural construction’ of crofting. Many interviewees said they rarely considered the 18th century Highland ‘clearances’ that forced locals off the land. Yet one couple was keen to show him this map. It was given to their family to define the land they could legally farm at this time. The historical injustices faced by local farmers still linger on in how crofting is imagined. But what is equally important to farmers now is how certain legal loopholes linked to the clearances can help current crofting families stay on in the area.

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Edward Dixon

Ed’s project examined renewable energy projects on agricultural land in the East Riding of Yorkshire. He sought to compare and contrast the different views and experiences of relevant schemes of various stakeholders, farmers and residents. The East Riding has an interesting historical relationship with energy production as different energy sources have waxed and waned over the years. This image, captured with a friend’s drone, depicts this. It contrasts a past of coal burning power stations and a possible future built on evidence that this could the best place in Britain for wind farms. In the foreground, there is a turbine that could soon be joined by many more. In the background, we see a traditional power station.

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Rebecca Mason

Rebecca’s study focused on the potential benefits of adding Biochar - a carbon-rich material that comes from burning biomass at high temperatures – to agricultural soils. To do this, she spent time with the VegPro farm near Lake Naivasha in Kenya – an exporter of flowers and vegetables to global supply chains such as those linked to Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer – and a keen proponent of sustainable farming techniques. This image depicts the three farm workers (Edwin, Francis and Ali) with whom she built the ‘Kon Tiki’ kiln.

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Ellen Thompson

During her year in Canada as part of the ‘Geography International’ degree, Ellen turned her own experience into her dissertation. Her project looked at the cultural function of certain foods amongst international exchange students at her host University in British Columbia. This involved interviews with other international students, as a particular group of ‘temporary migrants’. Certain foods can provide a welcome ‘taste of home’ in the context of adjusting to a new country. They can also offer a means of getting to know others from different cultural backgrounds. Shown in this image are her 'interview essentials'. In keeping with her topic, she wanted to give all her participants a 'taste' of her own home as a 'thank you’ for taking part. So she naturally offered them some British tea, biscuits and chocolate.

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Ruth Belchetz

Ruth’s study examined ecosystem recovery after wildfire. She did this with reference to the regeneration of an area of peatland bog in County Donegal, Ireland. She chose this site because there are sections that were both affected and unaffected by the fire they experienced there in 2011. Practically, her study involved comparing remote sensing data and collecting her own material on what species can be found in the two areas through random quadrat analysis. Some of the species that found their way into her quadrats could make for attractive compositions. This one contained Sundew and Sphagmum moss.

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