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While studying a PhD in the University of Reading's School of the Built Environment, Dr Natalya Sergeeva explored narratives of innovation in the UK construction sector.

Natalya's research received international recognition with a Rod Howes Commemorative Award for Innovation at the Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM) conference. 

After completing the PhD, Natalya continued her academic journey and she is now an Associate Professor at University College London (UCL).

Natalya Sergeeva in cap and gown

Choosing to do a PhD at Reading

Prior to joining Reading, Natalya obtained an MSc (Hons) Economics and Construction, and gained experience in the construction industry managing and overseeing projects. 

Natalya's desire to pursue education to the highest level and follow her research interests is something that has been a goal from an early age. 

The global reputation of the School of Construction Management and Engineering helped Natalya, who originates from Russia, identify Reading as the place to take up her research. 

"The School is internationally recognised for research in its field, while aligning with my background and interests.

 "At Reading, I studied alongside a network of like-minded professionals and critical thinkers. The environment provides the right space for conducting research, pushing boundaries and coming up with new, original ideas."

Pursuing innovation

Natalya's research addressed how and why narratives of innovation are mobilised from a sensemaking perspective in the built environment. This being an important element that is critiqued widely in industry. 

"Innovation in construction is subject to multiple interpretations which makes this topic interesting and likely to be popular over the years." 

As well as support from a range of diverse and recognised academics at Reading, Natalya regularly connected with industry to substantiate her research. 

"I attended construction industry events on innovation, including those delivered by Constructing Excellence, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Chartered Institute of Building, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. 

"I also participated in international conferences such as the Process Symposium and Nordic Infrastructure Conference, where I benefited from the support of industry leaders." 

The output of Natalya's research has provided value for insightful understanding of innovative narratives and how this is applied in day-to-day work, while further establishing collaboration with industry partners.

Part-time PhD

Throughout her PhD, Natalya was based in private accommodation in Reading and also worked part-time. Being part-time, Natalya was able to balance her studies with employment and make use of what the Whiteknights campus has to offer. 

“I enjoyed living in Reading and working on the campus. I liked cycling around the campus, walking in the garden, and playing badminton and frisbee with friends.”

Network of support

Completing a PhD requires a huge amount of personal motivation and, importantly, a supporting cast. For Natalya, a range of supporters inside and outside of the University of Reading gave her the boost she needed. 

“My family and their belief in me certainly helped me to complete my PhD successfully. It also wouldn't have been possible without my close friends and supervisors Professor Stuart Green and Professor Martin Sexton.” 

To complement this support, Natalya worked alongside the thriving and inclusive community of PhD students, who provide a means of discussion and knowledge sharing. 

“The International Study Language Institute at the University also helped me in getting acceptance onto my PhD.”

Academic career

After graduating from Reading, Natalya took the next step in her academic career, joining The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management at UCL. 

Here, Natalya shares her research and knowledge, gained at Reading and throughout her academic career, with the next generation of innovators and project managers. 

“At UCL, I am a programme leader for MSc Construction Economics and Management, and in 2018 I became Associate Professor in Project Management. 

"Striving to learn and being willing to overcome difficulties give me the results that I want to achieve. My plans for the future include delivering interesting lectures to my students, continuing to publish research and articles, working on research grants, consultancy, executive education and exploring new opportunities."

Returning to Reading

Natalya completed her PhD in 2014, but has maintained her relationship with the School of the Built Environment at Reading, where she often returns to share best practice. 

Her research-led teaching emulates the ethos of the academic community at Reading. 

“I'm now a visiting academic at Reading and give lectures on project management. I collaborate with my former PhD supervisor and other colleagues and students on academic articles, while also running industry workshops together with them.” 

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Athena SWAN Silver Award