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Spotlight on... | 28/04/2021

"Spotlight on…" DP Graduates

Two of our doctoral researchers successfully defended their dissertation! Learn more about Lisa’s and Leo’s PhD journey in the graduate interviews.


    Two of our doctoral researchers successfully defended their dissertation! Lisa Hoffmann completed her dissertation on the topic “Social Cohesion under Threat? Evidence from Behavioral Experiments in sub-Saharan Africa” at Universität Hamburg at the end of March. Leonardo Bandara defended his dissertation titled “Nuclear Latency and the Participation Puzzle: Constructing the International Non-Proliferation Regime” at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen early April. Learn more about Lisa’s and Leo’s PhD journey in the graduate interviews below.

    Lisa Hoffmann

    How would you explain your research topic to your grandmother in three sentences?

    In my research, I try to find out how different groups of people live together and make economic decisions. In three chapters of my dissertation, I look at the role of religion and ethnicity and in one chapter, I focus on the behavior of young politicians. All of my cases are based in sub-Saharan Africa.

    What was your most influential experience during your time as a doctoral student?

    Initially, I wanted to do research on corruption in South-East Asia. At GIGA, I got the chance to implement field research in the scope of a totally different project: on religion and sustainable development in Ghana and Tanzania. After this experience, I found the region of sub-Saharan Africa and the question of how different groups of people live together so interesting that I completely changed the focus of my dissertation.

    What was the biggest challenge during your research process and how did you cope with it?

    Balancing my time between teaching and doing research was challenging. I had a 75 percent position at Universität Hamburg, but I tried to balance my teaching obligations in a way that I taught twice as much as I would have to in one semester so that I could do field research in the following semester. Luckily, my supervisors agreed to such a deal – but it was quite stressful.

    Which moment of your working process would you like to relive / experience again?

    I particularly enjoyed doing fieldwork for my dissertation. Meeting new people and listening to their perspectives on my research topic was very inspiring. And of course the informal, not work-related conversations in the evenings were also very interesting.

    Leonardo Bandarra

    What was your initial motivation to address the topic of your dissertation?

    While some still see nuclear weapons as status symbols, most countries and people now perceive them as tokens of madness. Why such polemic? Does it still make sense?  Curiosity about those issues was at the heart of the doctoral proposal I submitted to the GIGA-DP nearly five years ago.

    How would you explain your research topic to your grandmother in three sentences?

    Many countries could build nuclear bombs, but they do not because of political, rather than technological, reasons. Interestingly and unexpectedly, those are also the countries that participate the most in organisations, institutions, treaties, and informal groups that contain the spread of atomic weapons. My dissertation looked at why is it so.

    What was the most valuable piece of advice that you received during your doctoral studies?

    Always try to have the bigger picture in your head, and then zooming in and out of it.

    Looking back: what advice would you now give to your younger self at the starting point of your doctoral studies?

    Do not overdo and try to take longer vacations, particularly during summer.