Student Profile: Sharda

PhD Topic
Gentrification and Facadism in Kensington, 1950-2022. 

Where did you study your undergraduate/masters?

I studied my undergraduate at Royal Holloway, University of London and received a 1st class (Hons) in History. I then did my MA in Cultural Heritage Studies at UCL gaining a Distinction. As part of the 1+3 in the MGS DTP I have recently finished my MSc in Social Science Research Methods at the University of Leicester. 

What have you chosen Leicester for your PhD?Portrait of Sharda

The University of Leicester is one of the leading universities for research in the UK. The Human Geography department has expert staff conducting exciting and innovative research. This includes my supervisor Professor Loretta Lees who is a leading academic of gentrification studies. The University also has a great postgraduate community with lots of social and academic opportunities for PhD students. 

Why have you chosen the Midlands Graduate School?
The MGS provides so many academic opportunities for PhD students, including overseas institutional visits, conferences and advanced training modules in a range of methodological approaches. The MGS also has a student-led conference which I helped to organise and run last year. The 1+3 MGS studentship provided me the opportunity to complete the MSc in Social Science Research Methods which extended my knowledge of geographical scholarship, creative and critical methods and enabled me to use quantitative methodology that I had never used before. The MGS also encourages networking among PhD students from different institutions and disciplines therefore creating an exciting and supportive postgraduate community.  

When did you decide you wanted to do a PhD?
I have been interested in doing a PhD since my second year of undergraduate studies, but I did not know then what I wanted to research. I began to investigate PhD opportunities towards the end of my MA at UCL when I became passionate about gentrification studies in Kensington and realised how useful and exciting this PhD would be. 

Why did you decide to do a PhD?

During my master’s dissertation on the impact of gentrification and cultural heritage among those living above shops on Kensington High Street, I realised that I could go much further with my research. The topic was incredibly important for all Kensington residents as they continued to experience the slow violence of gentrification-induced displacement. I knew that researching and writing a PhD could be socially and politically significant for changing housing policies in the borough, supporting residents’ rights and protecting secure housing for permanent tenants.

How did you go about looking for a PhD place?
I went to a Postgraduate Fair in London where I met lots of representatives from different universities and attended sessions on the PhD application process. These were very useful for learning how best to contact your supervisor or apply for funding. Since my MA research I knew exactly who I wanted as my supervisor, so I contacted Professor Loretta Lees with a full research proposal. Finding the best supervisor to guide your studies is the most important part of the PhD application process. 

How did you find out about Leicester/MGS?

I visited the University of Leicester to meet my supervisor and look around the department and campus which is where I discovered a thriving postgraduate community and a diverse, fascinating city.  My supervisor told me about the MGS DTP opportunity, and I applied very soon afterwards! 

What do you think will be most enjoyable about your PhD?

I absolutely love independent research, which includes finding the time to discover fascinating books and records in library catalogues, such as Ruth Glass’s (the first person to coin the term ‘gentrification’ in 1964) original housing maps from 1950’s London. I am also really looking forward to the many conferences, overseas research trips and teaching opportunities that a PhD provides. 

What do you think will be the most challenging about your PhD?
The amount of reading! It never stops as more and more research is published every day, but all this reading is useful as you learn how to develop your own unique theories and writing styles as well as build upon your research area making you an expert in your own field. 

Do you have any plans for after your PhD?
Firstly, I would like to make sure my PhD is put to good use and shared within my research community in Kensington. I would also like to stay in academia hopefully lecturing and teaching students as well as continuing to research gentrification and its impact on the everyday lives of residents.