Colin Vanelli, BSc International Relations third-year student, speaks about his experience participating in our alumni-funded Undergraduate Research Assistantship scheme, the skills he developed, and what he hopes to do after graduating this year.
Last year, you took part in our Undergraduate Research Assistantship, working on Dr Robert Falkner’s project ‘Great Powers, Climate Change and Global Environmental Responsibilities’. Could you briefly summarise this topic, and why you were interested in this?
Dr Falkner’s project, with Professor Barry Buzan, is to develop a theory for great power politics on climate change. Their core argument hinges on an English School approach, focusing on the (contested) development of ‘environmental stewardship’ as a primary institution of international society and the ways in which great powers (who, on climate issues, are somewhat different from the traditional ‘great powers) seek to manage this. I was working on a lot of climate justice work prior to the project, and was struck by the opportunity to contribute to foundational scholarship in what is a fascinating, nascent, and deeply urgent field.
What kind of work did you do during this project, and what skills did you develop during this?
My work mainly assisted with the book’s coming-together: checking extant research in the field; checking references and factual aspects of the conceptual work; and working to integrate work from contributors, who wrote chapter profiles on specific ‘great powers’, into the body of the book. I learned a lot about the rigour and precision behind this sort of scholarship—without even mentioning what I’ve learned from the book’s content.
What lessons did you learn from working on this project? Is there anything you learned about working in research that surprised you?
Academic work can be painstaking and frustrating, but ultimately deeply rewarding. That wasn’t a big surprise, although working in the early days of COVID didn’t help! In the end, I was struck by the wide breadth given to contributors to develop their ideas, and by the real, organic process by which conceptual frameworks and real-world examples inform and underpin each other.
When you’re not studying, what do you like to do? Are you involved in any extra-curricular activities?
I run the newspaper sections of the LSE paper, The Beaver, where I mostly focus on investigative work. Outside of that, I work on climate justice and mutual aid projects, and I’m a big Boston Celtics fan.
Do you have any idea what you’d like to do after graduating? If you have a clear idea, why do you want to pursue this career?
I’ll be working as a caseworker at Detention Action, a charity working with people in immigration detention and under immigration powers in prisons in London. My work will focus on practical support for individuals and assisting with strategic litigation to push for change.
What will you most miss about LSE when you graduate?
The opportunities! Regardless of where I went to university, I would have been reading the work of Dr Falkner and Professor Buzan. So the opportunities at LSE—even to just be a fly on the wall—are hard to beat.
Environmentalism and Global International Society by Robert Falkner – coming soon.
Read more about the professional development opportunities the Department of International Relations offers to current students.
The Undergraduate Research Assistantships are funded by LSE alumni donations: if you’d like to donate to LSE, please find out more and make a donation.