UCL News


Spotlight on... Dr Priti Parikh

11 March 2021

This week we meet Dr Priti Parikh, Associate Professor at the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management. Here, Priti chats to us about being awarded the Senior Research Fellowship co-funded by BBOXX and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Dr Priti Parikh

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Associate Professor at the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management where I head the interdisciplinary Engineering for International Development (EFID) Centre. EFID centre works to impact energy, water and sanitation services for marginalised people. My team use mixed-method approaches for interdisciplinary research focusing on sustainable and resilient infrastructure, environmental improvements, integrated health-environment interventions and business models for resource constrained settings (slums and rural communities). I have been developing the empirical evidence base to link infrastructure access to the Sustainable Development Goals with amazing colleagues

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been in UCL for nearly eight years. Before that, I worked in industry for 15 years in engineering consultancies in India and UK (Arup and Buro Happold) to design and deliver infrastructure for global projects. As part of my mid-life crisis decided to pursue a doctorate at University of Cambridge where I interviewed 500 slum families to evaluate the impact of water and sanitation services. I am now a full time academic with board roles with Happold Foundation and Engineers Against Poverty and a changemaker for Engineers Without Borders.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I was awarded the highly competitive five-year Senior Research Fellowship co-funded by industry partner BBOXX and the Royal Academy of Engineering. Here I am addressing the big challenge of how to improve energy access in Kenya, Rwanda, Togo and the DRC through an improved understand of energy consumption trends combined with behaviour change interventions for remote communities. I work with communities where very little knowledge exists on how people use electricity from solar home systems and how likely are they to increase consumption in the future and what their future energy aspirations look like. 

I won the UCL Provost Education Award for my contribution to Engineering and International Development. This was a proud moment for me and colleagues who have been working hard to provide our students an opportunity to engage with global challenges and apply engineering solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This also motivates us to do more to enhance student learning and experience when they study with us at UCL.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

A few things on my to-do list. Firstly my ambition is make our centre even more interdisciplinary and branch out to areas such as development economics, climate change and infrastructure governance. The next thing is to bring good science to the public. As a British Science Association/UCL Engineering media fellow I will be working with New Scientist for four weeks to write articles about innovative technologies. Lastly, I would like to continue influencing policy and practice through empirical studies showcasing why engineering and infrastructure investment is vital to address the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

No single favourite album but all 80’s cheesy songs resonate well. My favourite film is Inception as I like the concept of dreams within dreams. Difficult to pick one novel but a huge fan of Agatha Christie series.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Poo jokes are the best. I performed as a stand-up comedian once about three years ago to fund raise for Engineers Without Borders UK. I was part of an all-female line-up where I spent 15 minutes happily sharing Poo Jokes. Surprisingly enough my audience enjoyed the jokes. Here it goes.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

My dream dinner guests would be George Clooney, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Priyanka Chopra.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep calm, though I still do not seem to be following my own advice!

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I enjoy reading palms. In the post-COVID world I can offer a free palm reading if you bring a slice of cake to my office.

What is your favourite place?

Cape Town is so beautiful with Table Mountain in the middle of the city. It is surreal going around this vibrant city and seeing Table Mountain at every point.