Nishant completed his MBA at the University of Oxford, before starting his PhD at UCL STEaPP in 2019.
How did you come to realise you wanted to study for a PhD?
I was passionate about a subject matter, specifically around the ideas surrounding emerging technology introduction into society and how one shapes the other. In particular, my interest gravitated towards the impact of digital systems on individuals and societies, and how standardising forces of technology governance clashed with varied cultures and considerations of personal and social identity.
It took me some time, and direction from my soon to be supervisor (Dr Irina Brass), to hone in on a specific problem statement that was interesting to me and also defined enough to pursue as a PhD question.
Why did you choose to undertake a PhD at UCL STEaPP?
My research interest was interdisciplinary, cutting across a variety of subject matters - engineering and technology, sociology, policy, economics, management sciences - and STEaPP was one of the few places that encouraged interdisciplinarity in their PhD programmes.
Also, equally important was finding the right supervisor. Dr Irina Brass's research interests lay in the same overall field plus she was encouraging and supportive from the get-go (even when I was just a prospective applicant). This really gave me confidence to pursue research under her guidance.
What is the focus of your PhD?
My research focus is "Responsible Governance of Digital ID Systems".
Digital ID (eID) systems are multi-stakeholder platforms that are increasingly becoming important in a variety of interactions. Be that in negotiating the citizen-state relationship, accessing financial services, entertainment or health service - eID systems become central to these interactions and their use is ever growing.
My research looks into how eID systems are governed today, what issues exist in their governance and how they can be improved to achieve multi-stakeholder objectives while minimizing harms.
What has been the highlight of your PhD so far?
I have published two papers. Writing, researching, refining them were extremely difficult but hugely beneficial experiences for me. Publication not only showed me that my research had academic interest but also made me a more confident writer and researcher in the process.
How would you describe the community at STEaPP?
The community at STEaPP is very approachable. What I really love is the lack of hierarchy and the effort the department makes in creating inclusive spaces.
I would also like to add that my superstar PhD peers have also been amazing to me! I don't get to see them often enough due to work commitments but they have always been welcoming, supportive, and great fun to hang out with.
What are your future plans/aspirations?
In the short term, to finish my PhD :-)
Beyond that - I'd like to find a balance or convergence in my professional and academic careers.
Do you have a mentor/role model who has inspired you?
My grandfather was an Indian freedom fighter, sociologist, and someone who always cared for the people around him. Post Indian independence he came back to our hometown to help redevelop the state's beleaguered academic institutions. He constantly imagined how people, society, and nations can be better for everyone in it. Aside from his eruditeness, he was someone that always had time for me. He passed while I was still quite young (15 years of age), but more than 25 years on I still think of him everyday. He is very much the person that continues to inspire me everyday.
What advice would you give to future PhD students?
1. Stick with it, even when it gets tough (which it will)
2. Write often and try to publish
3. Find time for leisure and enjoyment outside of the PhD