UCL student wins award for research on surnames

6 July 2010

Wordle of British surnames

A PhD student from UCL has won an award for his groundbreaking research on the spatial distribution of families via their surnames.

James Cheshire, who is based at UCL Geography and the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), won the ESRI/UCL Development Centre Student of the Year award.

James used a UCL database spanning 26 countries, researching how surnames originally linked to careers – such as Smith, which is traditionally associated with the blacksmith trade – have been affected by migration trends.

When his research is completed in 2012, James’s work could support healthcare provision and guidance for medical staff admitting ethnic and cultural groups to hospitals by linking surnames to their families’ medical history, genetic history and chromosome research, settlement trends of ethnic groups, family migration history and even product marketing.

James said: “I am delighted that my spatial research has been recognised and praised by ESRI and UCL. I have collaborated closely with these two partners and I am hopeful that the project will be of great societal use when it is completed. I am keen to disseminate my surname research to a wider audience, and the award will support this.”

Richard Waite, the managing director of ESRI UK, a leading provider of geographic information systems (GIS) and co-sponsors of the award, said: “James’s project clearly highlights how location-based research can support many different societal challenges ranging from healthcare provision to researching family origins. 

"His work demonstrates the important role GIS technology has in supporting learning for future generations. We would like to congratulate James on this award and are very pleased to offer our continued support to encourage GIS students to flourish now and in the future.”

For more information about James's research, UCL Geography or CASA, follow the links above.

Image: A Wordle of British surnames


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