Spotlight on... Dr Tse-Hui Teh

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This week we meet Dr Tse-Hui Teh, lecturer in urban design and planning at the Bartlett School of Planning. Here, Tse-Hui chats to us about her involvement in Trellis and being shortlisted for the UCL Education Award for her work creating the BSP BSc3 Work Shadow Programme.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m a Lecturer in urban design and planning at the Bartlett School of Planning. I conduct research about making urban environments sustainable using methods of codesign, public engagement, interviews and group discussions. I also teach students, am involved in their pastoral care and am the Careers Tutor for the department. 

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I started as a PhD student at UCL in September 2007. The previous academic year I was a research and teaching fellow at Columbia University.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of? 

There are four projects that I’m particularly proud to have worked on. Three are related to sustainable sanitation and public engagement and one is to do with my role as careers tutor. 

In 2013 my colleagues Sarah Bell, Barbara Penner and I organised the UCLoo festival. I was most involved in installing a vacuum flush compost toilet in the North Observatory in the Main Quadrangle. It was amazing to have a working sustainable sanitation system for people to use during the two-week festival. It was opened by the Provost on World Toilet Day (19 November)!

After the toilet was de-commisssioned, I spent some years searching for a partner organisation and place where we could re-commission the toilet. I was fortunate to work with Dr Lena Ciric (CEGE) and Spitalfields City Farm to install the toilet which we opened in May 2019. After a series of workshops funded by a UCL Beacon Bursary, Jennie Webber produced a set of murals featuring the farm animals - explaining the nutrient cycle and the need to use alternative sanitation systems. You can go and use the toilet whenever the farm is open. Please make a deposit for our ongoing research! 

In 2018 while we were installing the toilet, I got involved with Trellis, a programme run by Lizzy Baddeley in the UCL Public Engagement Unit for the UCL East Campus. She’s been brokering collaborations between artists and researchers. Amanda Lwin and I were successful in having our idea funded. Amanda made the most amazing distributed fountain titled ’Artemis of the Lea’. It was a set of watering vessels which were inspired by fertility goddesses and are sized and shaped so that you can take a wee then dilute your urine with water for the perfect fertilizer for your garden.

It was inspired by my research, which has found that one of the most difficult parts of making sanitation sustainable is the ick-factor and Amanda’s themes of uncovering the networks that keep the city running. This was such a beautiful and practical way to open minds and start conversations.

The last initiative has to do with my role as Careers Tutor. In 2013, with the support of UCL Careers, I created and launched the BSP BSc3 Work Shadow Programme. It offers BSc3 students a two-week work shadow opportunity in the built environment, bookended by two workshops at UCL which offer practical employability tips and identify transferrable skills, and tie together the professional experience with their three years of academic learning at UCL. My work on this programme was shortlisted for the UCL Education Award.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

Besides the usual of writing up my research, teaching, and preparing the online module delivery in the coming year, I’m also working in an interdisciplinary team of modellers and social scientists on a project titled CAMELLIA: Community Water Management for a Liveable London.

What is your favourite album, film and novel? 

I can’t really say these are favourites, but fragments of them frequently pop into my head!

Albums: Daisies of the Galaxy, Eels; Four Seasons, Vivaldi; Bridge over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel.
Films: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin; I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach.
Novels: Never Let me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro; The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

From Tom Parry: "Red sky at night. Shepherd’s delight. Blue sky at night. Day."

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

L.M. Montgomery, Haruki Murakami, Mark Oliver Everett, Trevor Noah, Chen Guidi, Wu Chuntao, my family, and four friends so that we will all have a memory to share in years to come.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Embrace the nothingness! (The most enigmatic advice I’ve ever been given.)

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I went to a performing arts high school to train as a ballet dancer.

What is your favourite place?

Balmoral Beach, Sydney, Australia.


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