UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Laurent Liote

Laurent completed a BSc in Social Anthropology and an MSc in International Public Policy, both from the London School of Economics (LSE). He started his PhD at STEaPP in 2019.

Headshot of PhD student, Laurent Liote
How did you come to realise you wanted to study for a PhD?

I've always enjoyed learning and going into depth on what I was researching, both at university and in my professional life. I am also quite passionate about sharing what I've learned, especially if I can do so creatively. So when I learned that I could be a PhD researcher, study a relevant public policy issue for 4 years, get paid for it and teach alongside it, it was a no brainer!   

Why did you choose to undertake a PhD at UCL STEaPP?

What attracted me to STEaPP can be summed up in two expressions: multidisciplinarity and policy impact. When I looked into going back to university to do a PhD, STEaPP really stood out because it crossed disciplinary boundaries and was focused on policy practice. It was really important to me that my research was not limited to a narrow academic topic but valuable to a wider policy audience.

What is the focus of your PhD?

My PhD looks at engineering advice for public policy. Simply put, I use ethnographic methods to explore how UK ministerial engineering experts and policy professionals collaborate to deliver net zero policies. I also look at how the UK's civil service structure and culture influence engineering advice giving and recieving.   

What has been the highlight of your PhD so far?

So far, I would say presenting my research at international conferences. I've had the chance to present my findings in the US and in Thailand for the 29th and 30th Conferences on Transdisciplinary Engineering. This gave me the chance to showcase my work to international academic and policy audiences interested in the intersection of engineering and public policy.

How would you describe the community at STEaPP?

I've had a great time at STEaPP so far, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in department life - both socially and academically. Everyone, staff and PhD students, is very open-minded and it's been a pleasure to work alongside such a diverse group of experts. The STEaPP community has been very supportive in my PhD journey so far and very receptive to any feedback given.   

What are the facilities like at STEaPP, and the UCL campus generally?

The working environment is great, we have our own office where you can easily find a properly equipped desk, make yourself a coffee and catch-up with whoever is around. I am a keen runner so I've also benefited from the showers, lockers and changing rooms in the office and the nearby university gym. The wider UCL Bloomsbury campus is great too, there are a few student cafes and pubs where you can get food and drinks at a reasonable price - and now you can also explore the brand new UCL East campus!    

What are your future plans/aspirations?

Well, for now I'm fully focused on finishing my thesis which I will submit in December 2023. After that I hope to be able to stay in academia, researching issues at the intersection of engineering and policy - whether engineering for policy or policy for engineering. There are a few things in the works so keeping my fingers crossed! 

Do you have a mentor/role model who has inspired you?

In terms of mentors I have to mention both my supervisors, Dr. Adam Cooper and Prof. Neil Strachan who have guided me throughout my PhD journey <3  

What advice would you give to future PhD students?

1) Don't be afraid to reach out to academics if you're interested in doing a PhD in their field. 
2) Most PhD students are overwhelmed at the beginning of their PhD, it's confusing and there is a lot to get to grips with. Don't worry you'll figure most things out along the way but don't be afraid to ask for help if it gets too much!