PhD students

Meet our PhD students in Urban Development and Governance

Explore the community of our PhD students at IHS, where diverse perspectives meet to study Urban Development and Governance. Our global cohort of students brings unique insights to the exploration of urban challenges as they delve into the complexities of governance, sustainability, and social dynamics within urban contexts.

Male standing in front of a photo of Rotterdam

Malek Al Jebaie

PhD Candidate of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action for the Doctoral Network "DETOCS"

Supervisor: Prof.Dr.Dr. (Lasse) L Gerrits (IHS)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Beatriz) B Calzada Olvera (IHS) and Dr. (Joren) J Verchaeve (ECOS)

Malek Al Jebaie is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) and Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS) in Brussels, under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action for the Doctoral Network "DETOCS." He holds a Bachelor's degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering and an Erasmus Mundus Master’s in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from Lund University (Sweden) and Central European University (Austria).

Malek's PhD research focuses on the industrial decarbonization of the cement industry. He analyses how industry regulations and standards impact the adoption of low-carbon cement blends and explores how internal firm dynamics and industry-specific characteristics influence the diffusion of low-carbon cement innovation. This interdisciplinary research draws on concepts from political economy, evolutionary economics, and sustainability transitions.

Before joining IHS, Malek collaborated with international and local organizations in Lebanon on key climate adaptation and mitigation projects. His work included research and implementation of urban Nature-based Solution Experimentation funded by the Spanish Cooperation Agency (AECID) and leading the Blue Economy Dialogue and Sustainable Consumption and Production action planning in Lebanon under the EU-funded SwitchMED II program.

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Denk, Luka

Real-Time Health Impact of Pollution

Supervisor: Prof.Dr.Dr. (Lasse) L Gerrits (IHS)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Alexander) A Los (IHS)

Luka's academic background is in Environmental Physics. His interests lie in the physical environment. During his PhD, he aims to create localized and personalized air pollution exposure data using existing observations and model output, as well as attempt to create highly localized forecasts.

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Enseñado, Elena Marie

Learning between cities on climate change policies, including its contexts, processes, conditions, and outcomes

Supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Jurian) J Edelenbos (IHS/ESSB)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Leon) L van den Dool (IHS)


Alongside her PhD research, Elena works at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies as a specialist in Nature-based Climate Change Adaptation planning. Her expertise includes climate change and environmental planning, learning for socio-technical transitions and social-ecological resilience, ecosystem services and nature-based solutions, and participatory tools and methods.


Elena’s PhD research focuses on city-to-city learning on climate change policies. Recognized as a process of (mutual) learning between and among cities and their representatives, city-to-city learning is often linked to policy learning, policy transfer, policy mobility, and policy diffusion, among other related concepts. In her research, she investigates the contexts, processes, conditions, and outcomes of city-to-city learning.


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Held, Tobias

On emergent trajectories of electrification – A complexity-informed approach to understanding and governing urban electric vehicle transitions

Supervisor: Prof.Dr.Dr. (Lasse) L Gerrits (IHS)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Alberto) A Gianoli (IHS)


Tobias holds an MA degree in Political Science, specialising in Governing Complex and Innovative Technological Systems from Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg in Germany. He is participating as an external candidate in the IHS PhD programme. Tobias mainly works as a researcher in German academia at the crossroads of governance, innovation systems, and sustainability transitions.


Tobias investigates under which policy configurations electric vehicle (EV) transitions in urban areas can successfully be promoted. To answer the research question, he analyses EV policies in Europe and the United States of America cities. Methodologically, Tobias applies different variants of Qualitative Comparative Analysis to cases across different countries (Europe) and states (US). The focal points of the analyses are dynamic interactions of different EV policy measures at different policy levels and within different contexts and trajectories of urban EV transitions unfolding in the course of time.

Lim, Dasup

Social Well-being of the Elderly and Public Space Quality in East Asian Neighborhoods

Supervisor: Prof.Dr.Dr. (Lasse) L Gerrits (IHS)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Sofia) S Pagliarin (IHS)


Dasup Lim's academic background includes Urban Planning and Policies and Landscape Architecture. She is interested in ageing societies and urban regeneration.


Her doctoral research is to analyse the relationship between the social well-being of the elderly and the quality of public spaces in East Asian metropolises, Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei. Its objectives are to comprehensively know the various effects of public space within the East Asian Metropolitan context and to get insight into the complex relationship between the elderly and the environment.

Liu, Jie

Community Resilience (CR) in China in the Context of Disaster Management

Supervisor: Prof.Dr.Dr. (Lasse) L Gerrits (IHS)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Alexander) A Los (IHS)

Jie got her master’s degree in the specialization of “Cartography and Geographic Information Systems” in 2022 from Wuhan University (China). She currently focuses on community resilience, disaster management, and disaster risk. During her PhD, she will explore the dynamics of community resilience and its driving factors in the context of disaster management so as to propose community resilience enhancement strategies for future events. 


Patchineelam, Satya Maia

Voicing the Invisibles: Investigating Impacts of Resettlement on Riverine Women Due to the Construction of Belo Monte Hydropower Dam


Voicing the Invisibles: Investigating Impacts of Resettlement on Riverine Women Due to the Construction of Belo Monte Hydropower Dam

The construction of the most controversial dam, Belo Monte, in the Brazilian history disrupted the free-flow waters of the Xingu River and home to various indigenous tribes and riverine communities. The creation of a reservoir has displaced families and resettled many to the nearby city of Altamira. Riverine women had to face this impact on their livelihoods and the alteration of the traditional riverbanks and forest dynamics. This change forced riverine women to adapt to living in an urban area where their traditional knowledge became impractical. This disconnection between the river and livelihood has taken a toll on the riverine women’s mental health and independence. 

Together with different actors, composed mostly of women members of governmental authorities, non-governmental bodies and academic institutes, a riverine council was co-created with the aim of upholding human rights and formulation of just compensation strategies attuned to the specific needs of the riverine community amidst their adaptation to the new environmental paradigm. Leveraging constitutional rights overlooked by the corporate entity responsible, the riverine community managed to reclaim their status as traditional custodians of the land and secure permission to reoccupy the banks of the reservoir. 

Through tenacious advocacy and collaboration, riverine women emerged resilient, finding their voices and mobilizing for the protection of their rights. Alongside the riverine men, a platform materialized, facilitating the riverine community’s endeavour to reclaim their traditional livelihood.

Photo of Tannya Karín Pico Parra

Pico Parra, Tannya Karín

Natural Based Solutions (NBS) for urban environmental sustainability in Andean Ecuadorian cities. Case of study: Quito

Supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Jurian) J Edelenbos (IHS/ESSB)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Alexander) A Jachnow

Tannya’s background is in architecture, urban planning, and sustainability. She studies how cities worldwide progressively recognise the benefits of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) knowledge being incorporated into their climate policies. However, in the case of Latin America, a megadiverse and highly vulnerable region, the link between the NbS concept and adaptation actions has yet to be widely developed. Therefore, her research focuses on her native Ecuador, aiming to identify the Absorptive Capacities (ACAP) of Quito’s local stakeholders to acquire, assimilate, transform, and ultimately exploit the knowledge of the concept of NBS.

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Qaffas, Yasser Asim

An appraisal, on the impact of rising mega shopping malls on the sustainable urban planning and development of Jeddah city, Saudi Arabia

Supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Jurian) J Edelenbos (IHS/ESSB)
Co-supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Frank) FG van Oort (ESE)


Yasser's academic background is in urban and regional planning studies. He was awarded his master's degree in urban land use studies in 2012 from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. In his MSc thesis, he explored the User-Initiated Transformations of Public Housing in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Before joining IHS, he worked as a lecturer in the urban and regional planning department of King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, KSA.


His research interests include the sustainable development of patterns of retail areas. The research aims to investigate the extent to which mega shopping malls in Jeddah comply with the principles of sustainable and resilient urban planning, particularly in terms of their social and economic impacts, while also effectively catering to the shopping needs of the local population. His approach combines concepts of sustainability and resiliency, customer satisfaction, and socioeconomic external effects.

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Quadros Aniche, Laura

Coastal City Living Labs for co-creating, embedding, translating, and scaling Nature-Based Solutions. Enhancing climate change resilience in Europe

Supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Jurian) J Edelenbos (IHS/ESSB)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Alberto) A Gianoli (IHS)


Laura Quadros Aniche is an Urban Sustainability and Climate Change specialist. Laura holds a Master's (cum laude) in Urban Management and Development with specialization in Urban Environment, Sustainability, and Climate Change, an MBA in Real Estate Business and Civil Construction Management, and a five-year Bachelor's degree in Architecture and Urban Planning. She has been working at IHS since 2017 with education, advisory, and urban sustainability and governance research. Before moving to the Netherlands, Laura worked for twelve years in project management, urban development projects, civil construction, and real estate business.


Her PhD research focuses on Coastal City Living Labs for co-creating, embedding, and translating Nature-based Solutions, enhancing the transition towards climate change resilience in Europe. Her cases are part of SCORE(Smart Control of The Climate Resilience in European Coastal Cities), a large H2020 research and innovation project aimed at the development, deployment, evaluation, and uptake of integrated Ecosystem-Based Approaches (EBA) and smart technologies to improve the climate resilience of European coastal cities, through the establishment of a Coastal City Living Lab (CCLL) infrastructure involving multiple stakeholders and supported by novel digital technologies.

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Schuller, Emanuel

Collective bargaining reigns in the knowledge economy

Supervisor: Prof.Dr.Dr. (Lasse) L Gerrits (IHS)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Paula) P Nagler (IHS)

Emanuel Schuller’s academic background lies in political science. His PhD project aims to explain under which conditions struggles for the regulation of low wages have been successful in the Knowledge Economy.


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Sharma, Somesh

Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Safe, Inclusive and Sustainable Cities

Supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Harry) H Geerlings (ESSB)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Alberto) A Gianoli (IHS)


Somesh Sharma is working as a Specialist in Environment and Sustainable Development Planning at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam. His responsibilities at IHS include conducting research, teaching courses, providing advisory services, and delivering training and capacity-building programs. Somesh's primary research area centres around the Governance of Artificial Intelligence in Smart Cities. He teaches a range of courses, including Urban Management, focusing on Good Governance for Complex and Contemporary Cities, Urban Management Tools for Climate Change, and Local Government Finance.


His research aims to attribute AI's impacts (benefits and concerns) to its multiple stakeholders. The deductive multi-stakeholder framework created in this research will be applied to the case of fully automated driverless vehicles. The findings of this research will contribute to the ongoing debates about multi-stakeholder collaboration for governing digitalized societies and maintaining safety, inclusiveness, and sustainability in cities and communities.

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Sheikh, Md Shemul

Climate Change and Population Dynamics Nexus: Understanding Climate Induced Migration in Coastal Bangladesh

Supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Jurian) J Edelenbos (IHS/ESSB)
Co-supervisor:  Dr. (Alberto) A Gianoli (IHS)


Shemul Sheikh's present study centres on the connection between migration caused by climate change and the susceptibility of livelihoods.  He possesses a solid academic foundation in the fields of Geography and Environment. Sheikh obtained his second master's degree in International Cooperation in Urban Development (ICUD) from Technical University Darmstadt, Germany, and International Cooperation in Urban Planning (ICUP) from the University Grenoble Alpes, France. 


Shemul Sheikh's research sheds light on the livelihood vulnerabilities of climate-induced migrants, including gender, as well as their adaptation strategies in Bangladesh's southwestern coastal area as a case study. His research seeks to understand how public policies and programs moderate the relationship between climate-induced migration, livelihood vulnerability, gender vulnerability, and the adaptation measures adopted by migrants in Bangladesh. He analyses this phenomenon through quantitative data collection via household surveys, focus group discussions, in-depth semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, and a detailed exploration of climate migrants’ narratives via case studies.

de Wijn, Marija

Pathways towards city level climate action

Supervisor: Prof.Dr.Dr. (Lasse) L Gerrits (IHS)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Alberto) A Gianoli (IHS)


Marija holds an MSc degree in political science and international development studies, both obtained at the University of Amsterdam. With over 15 years of experience, she has worked extensively on issues such as local governance, decentralization, and urban development. She is currently based in Beirut, Lebanon, where she manages a joint UNDP/UN-Habitat project that aims to strengthen municipal resilience.


Over the past two decades, researchers have identified various enabling factors that lead to effective urban climate governance. There is a consensus that these factors work in conjunction with different pathways of interacting conditions. Yet, what these pathways look like remains a question. Furthermore, the scope of research around urban climate governance has been relatively narrow, focusing on cities in high-income countries in the form of case and small N studies. Against this background, Marija’s research aims to contribute to the scholarly debate on urban climate governance by examining city-level pathways towards climate action in low- and middle-income countries, utilizing a multilevel governance framework. Through a systematic literature review, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), and by developing two in-depth case studies, Marija seeks to identify pathways toward transformative urban climate action in low- and middle-income countries.

Zhang, Xuelei

Urban Conservation and (Re)development in the Mainland of China

Supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Jurian) J Edelenbos (IHS/ESSB)
Co-supervisor: Dr. (Alberto) A Gianoli (IHS)


Xuelei Zhang is a Ph.D. candidate majoring in public administration. Her research focuses on urban heritage management and urban governance.


Urban heritage contributes in various ways to sustainable urban development with multiple values. However, urban heritage conservation is threatened, especially in rapidly developing cities. Meanwhile, there could be a mutual promotion between urban conservation and urban redevelopment. Her PhD research explores the institutional factors in the transformation of urban conservation and redevelopment relationships in mainland China with policy analysis and case studies.

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Zhu, Jialong

The city of the future: Towards an inclusive and smart city

Supervisor: Prof.Dr. (Jurian) J Edelenbos (IHS/ESSB)
Co-supervisors: Prof.Dr. W.M. (Martin) de Jong (DoIP) & Dr. (Alberto) A Gianoli (IHS)


Jialong's academic background is in urban regeneration and development. He received his MSc degree from the University of Manchester in 2019. In his master's thesis, he used the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City as a case study to explore the relationship between eco-city development and residents' lifestyle changes. His research interests lie in inclusive urban development, urban transitions, and smart cities.


His current PhD research uses mixed methods to explore the various characteristics of smart cities in China, their diversified development pathways, and the long-term impacts of various technologies adopted in cities. The research is concentrated on three groups of smart city projects led by the government, with specific case selection rules. His work compares Chinese smart cities to those in Europe and North America, pointing out both similarities and differences, especially in citizen participation and economic measures.

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