Dr Rehan Shah
BEng (UCL), MSc (Oxf), PhD (UCL), FHEA, MIMA, MInstP


Research Funding

On this page:

Current Funded Research Projects

Promoting equity in education for sustainable development through community-based learning and teaching

Funding source: Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE)
Start: 09-10-2023  /  End: 31-10-2024
Amount: £1,000

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) plays a crucial role in equipping learners with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to create a sustainable future. Community-based learning and teaching provides a platform for learners to engage directly with local communities, enabling them to develop a holistic understanding of ESD through firsthand knowledge of local challenges, cultural practices, and sustainable solutions. However, achieving equitable learning outcomes in ESD remains a persistent challenge. This research project aims to investigate the integration of ESD and community-based education within the curricula of two collaborating universities in East London. Through co-creation with student partners, we will assess the extent of integration and identify gaps and challenges in achieving equitable learning outcomes in ESD. Working with Learning Development (LD) communities across both universities, we aim to develop recommendations for integrating effective community-based learning approaches into ESD practices.

Identifying and recognising threshold concepts in mathematics education

Funding source: London Mathematical Society (LMS) and QMUL School of Engineering and Materials Science
Start: 08-01-2024  /  End: 30-09-2024
Amount: £750

This scoping study project aims at identifying and recognising key threshold concepts inherent within undergraduate mathematics-based courses at university. Following this, it seeks to examine the pedagogical implications that knowledge and awareness of these concepts can lead to for teachers and educators, both with regard to curriculum development and assessment design. This will also be supported through findings obtained from a one-day workshop organised featuring discussions and interactions between internal and external academics and colleagues from various UK universities on identifying and recognising the implications of threshold concepts in the teaching of undergraduate mathematics . The discussions will enable lecturers to understand what key threshold concepts exist in mathematics-based modules and to identify/recognise such concepts in order to facilitate the development of students’ understanding within their own modules.

Locating communities in community-based learning: empowering local community groups in university-community partnerships

Funding source: QMUL Centre for Public Engagement
Start: 08-11-2023  /  End: 12-08-2024
Amount: £1,000

This project involves organisation of a workshop at QMUL featuring 20 existing local community partners involved in community-based learning and teaching (CBLT) in current undergraduate modules at QMUL to explore how they experience such community-university collaborations. The intention of this will be to develop and extend CBLT by foregrounding the voices of community leaders/representatives and build more mutually beneficial practice, while also extending the networks of the partners beyond the humanities and social sciences, thereby enabling them to work with the wider university, particularly within science and engineering disciplines.

Community-based placements in higher education (follow-on project)

Funding source: UCL Centre for Engineering Education
Start: 18-09-2023  /  End: 31-07-2024
Amount: £10,000

This follow-on project on community-based placements in engineering education will complement and build on the findings of its scoping study project carried out across UK universities such as UCL and QMUL. While the scoping study focused on community-based placements occurring as credit-bearing activities within the curriculum, the follow-on project will expand this definition to include summer internships, mentoring, volunteering and other types of relevant activities. The research agenda co-created with student interns in the scoping study will inform future priority research areas. The study may also be expanded to international settings to investigate best practice methods to compare and contrast them with the UK context.

Previous Funded Research Projects

Dynamics of swing pumping

Funding source: QMUL Faculty of Science and Engineering
Start: 12-06-2023  /  End: 04-08-2023

This undergraduate summer internship project involves modelling a playground swing system as an elaborated pendulum to investigate the mechanism of frequently adopted swing pumping strategies that are used to increase the amplitude of swinging through the input of additional energy into the system. An example of this, is the standing pumping strategy in which the rider’s repeated standing-squatting motion causes a change in the rider’s position relative to the suspending rope, which in turn leads to an energy boost and gain in swing amplitude. The aim of this study is to construct a mathematical model to analyse the effect of the standing pumping strategy on the amplitude of oscillation using a combination of both analytical and computational methodologies, to better understand the dynamics of swing pumping.

Community-based placements in higher education (scoping study)

Funding source: UCL Centre for Engineering Education
Start: 30-01-2023  /  End: 31-07-2023

Community-based placements in engineering education have the potential to generate benefits for students, universities and communities alike and are increasingly being formally included into the curriculum, particularly at universities like UCL and QMUL that have campuses within underrepresented geographical areas in East London. This co-creational project (in conjunction with student interns) aims to generate a comprehensive state-of-the-art review of all aspects of community-based placements at undergraduate and postgraduate taught levels to benefit engineering education: how they are initiated and in what contexts, what their advantages and limitations are and their impact on employability and student experience.

Other Research Projects

Teaching and embedding ethics in mathematics courses

For the last 20 years it has become increasingly obvious, and increasingly pressing, that mathematicians should be taught some ethical awareness so as to realise the impact of their work. This extends even to those more highly trained, ranging from graduate students to academic staff. But what should we be teaching mathematicians and how should we do it? This project is dedicated to understanding the need for the consideration of ethical aspects within mathematics and to outlining some of the ways in which we can incorporate the teaching of ethics within mathematics courses at university. The aim is to design and compile a teaching resource toolkit containing a set of varied mathematical problems across different topics with key ethical aspects embedded within them for use by lecturers for tutorial worksheets for individual modules.

Nonlinear mechanics of rods subject to surface constraints

Slender, elastic rod-like structures on or inside constrained rigid surfaces are prevalent in a wide range of engineering (drill strings in borewells, pipelines under the seabed, ocean cables), medical (stents in angioplasty of arteries), biological (DNA toroidal condensates, bacterial flagella), electronic (carbon nanotubes) and robotic (soft robots for in-pipe inspection) applications. This project seeks to employ a comprehensive variational theory of elastic two-strand braids to investigate the post-buckling behaviour of elastic rods lying on rigid tubular surfaces. Methods comprising the calculus of variations and Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics are utilised to procure more general types of solutions to various nonlinear boundary value problems, using both analytical and numerical approaches.

Mechanics of the growth and curvature of slender plant roots

This projects utilises multi-scale analytical and numerical modelling techniques to describe the process of cell and tissue growth occurring as part of the elongation and 3D bending and twisting of plant roots.

Empowering students by making STEM curricula more inclusive

STEM disciplines have traditionally been taught as an exercise in memorisation and repetitive application of formulae, with the historical aspects often confined to the contributions made by white male European mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. As a result of this, very few students can relate to these mathematical figures, which consequently contributes to the stigma that studying STEM subjects is esoteric, inaccessible, and extremely difficult for them. To rectify this, there is a strong need for increasing students’ awareness of diverse representation within STEM disciplines; not just through exposure to mathematicians, scientists, and engineers from diverse and under-represented backgrounds (including those identifying as female, disabled, and queer), but also those applying their skills within academia and industry through non-traditional pathways. This project aims to co-design (with students) teaching toolkit materials featuring short biographies of past and present mathematicians, scientists and engineers from under-represented minority groups to embed within undergraduate STEM courses. It also seeks to provide opportunities for students to gain exposure to diverse STEM role models by inviting currently active, diverse STEM professionals, compile links to multimedia resources to highlight their contributions and produce a diversity and inclusion agenda to inform future EDI initiatives in STEM curriculum design.

Diversifying the curriculum through community-based learning and teaching

Community-based learning and teaching in higher education, and other versions of it such as service learning, are now part of many syllabi worldwide.Diversification of the curriculum in this way can allow students to be exposed to different groups of people as well as develop a greater sense of confidence, sensitivity to issues of diversity and an increased capacity to manage issues of diversity positively. It also enables learner engagement and success through the potential to develop inclusive pedagogy. This project represents an institution wide study to discover the potential barriers and opportunities to community-engaged learning and teaching approaches. It uses a ‘students-as partners’ approach, where students interested in community-based learning take the leading role in the qualitative study. It is aimed at revealing the values and expectations, formal learning benefits and infrastructural considerations to implement this type of learning as part of future-facing curricula and provide recommendations for universities seeking to develop their own approaches towards facilitating community-based learning and teaching.

A systematic literature review of university-industry partnerships in engineering education

Over the last few decades, a wide range of works have featured case studies documenting successful pedagogic collaborations in the form of university-industry partnerships in the field of engineering education. In light of this, this project is aimed at conducting a systematic literature review of these studies centred around five key research questions: (a) purposes of university-industry collaborations, (b) theories used to motivate such work, (c) types of methods employed, (d) evidence-based best practices identified and (e) areas of future work to be explored. The findings are expected to yield recommendations for education practitioners to embed industry involvement within the undergraduate engineering curriculum.