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News & Media > Alumnae Awards > 2023 Alumnae Award Recipients > Dr Nikita Simpson (2011)

Dr Nikita Simpson (2011)

2023 Young Alumnae Award for Academia
Dr Nikita Simpson (2011)
Dr Nikita Simpson (2011)

Nikita Simpson (2011) is an Anthropologist who researches, develops interventions, and provides policy advice on mental health and inequality in India, Southern Africa, and the UK.

Nikita attended MLC School from Year 7 (2006) and graduated in 2011. At School she participated in Archdale and ISDA Debating, Public Speaking, Netball and Soccer, and in Year 12 she was the Churunga Vice Captain. At the 2011 Speech Night awards, Nikita was named the Dux of MLC School’s IB Diploma Candidature (aeq.) and won the IB prizes for French B, Geography, History Route 1 and Chemistry. For her achievements, Nikita was awarded the UNSW Scientia Scholarship and the USYD Outstanding Achievement Scholarship.

When the 2011 IB results were announced, Nikita was one of four MLC School students to achieve a perfect score of 45 (equating to an ATAR ranking of 99.95). (That year half of the perfect scores in Australia were achieved by MLC School students.) When asked about the contributing factors to her successful IB results, Nikita modestly said “There is a lot up to chance. It relies on what the question is – does it cover what you studied. Or you might get an examiner who doesn’t gel well with your writing.” She also gratefully acknowledged “the respect and freedom my teachers gave me to study what I love and how our relationships were characterised by mutual respect.”

After MLC School, Nikita completed a Bachelor of Politics, Psychology and Sociology, Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge where she achieved for Part I the mark of Class I (ranked #1) and was awarded the Polity Press Prize for Highest Mark in Sociology Part I. For Part II she achieved a Class I* with distinction. Her research in Social Anthropology was titled “That doesn’t happen here”: Sexual Violence and Female Agency in a Village in Himachal Pradesh, India. During her time at the University she was the Secretary of the Cambridge University Social Anthropology Society and was (and still is) a Contributing Editor of the Kings Review Magazine.

From 2016 to 2017, Nikita completed a Masters of Research, Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) for which she was awarded the grade of Distinction and won the Alfred Gell Research Proposal Prize.

Nikita completed her doctoral studies at LSE from 2016 to 2020. Her doctoral thesis (2021), funded through an LSE Doctoral Fellowship, focused on embodied forms of illness and mental distress amongst Gaddi tribal women in Himalayan North India. Based on fifteen months of fieldwork, she focused on the condition of ‘tension’ as an internal form of distress, noting inequalities of class, caste, gender and tribe in this community. Nikita’s doctoral work has been awarded a number of prizes, including the Alfred Gell Prize and the Rosemary and Raymond Firth Prize. During 2022, Nikita was engaged in a University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) Residential Research Program at the University of California, Irvine, where she developed the foundations of a book manuscript titled Tension: The Frequencies of Distress, based on this research.

In September 2022, Nikita became a Lecturer in Anthropology, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She researches, develops interventions, and provides policy advisory on mental health and inequality in India, Southern Africa, and the UK. Her current research is focused on healing and racial trauma in the UK and India. She is also Co-Principal Investigator on the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded ‘Trust in a Post-COVID World’ grant, focused on using participatory methods to investigate trust and racial inequality in Birmingham. She is also involved in the 2023 Commission on Social Infrastructures, led by LSE.

Prior to joining SOAS, Nikita was a Postdoctoral Research Officer in the Department of Anthropology at LSE, where she was involved in the EU-Horizon funded Periscope project. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she co-founded the LSE COVID and Care Research group, an intergenerational collective of researchers who have influenced policy on COVID-19 at the highest levels of government in the UK and the EU.

Nikita’s work with the LSE COVID and Care Research group addressed issues such as death and burial, care provisioning, furlough, stigma and racism, and local authority relations. Her work is published in a number of co-authored reports and policy briefs that have been widely read across the UK and EU. Her work has also been communicated through podcasts and through a participatory film on Somali women’s experiences of COVID-19 in Birmingham that she co-directed.

Since 2016, Nikita has also held the position of Head of Research with the non-profit organisation SHM Foundation. This organisation works globally to bring about positive social change through projects in learning, citizenship, health and the arts. Nikita led the design, implementation and evaluation of psychosocial support programs that leverage digital technology for people living with HIV in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In this role, she also co-founded Ember Mental Health, an initiative that funds and supports community-based mental health organisations to grow and thrive.

In 2015, Nikita returned to MLC School to speak at the Prefects’ Awards ceremony. In welcoming the 2015 Prefects to their roles as leaders in the School, Nikita said “Foster leadership as a practice of constant self-reflection and humility. Think wildly beyond your comfort zone, with compassion and courage… walk in the light of others, and allow others to walk in your light.”

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