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Researcher, Agropolitan Territories (2 years, extendable for PhD)

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

Future Cities Lab (FCL) is a research unit of the Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) and ETH Zurich established in partnership with Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS), and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). FCL is home to 120 multidisciplinary researchers across hubs in Singapore and Zurich, organised in eight research modules.

Project background

The ‘Agropolitan Territories’ module focusses on the possible threats that urbanisation and agriculture pose to sustainable development. We focus on Monsoon Asia, a region that supplies most of the world’s staple crops (90% of the world’s rice, 45% wheat, and 25% maize), supports over half the world’s population, and is undergoing urbanisation with unprecedented speed. Effects of those threats will be especially disastrous for both cities (increased poverty, ill-health, pollution) and countryside (increased depopulation, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, deforestation, biodiversity loss) in Monsoon Asia and beyond if not properly managed.

Our approach to these threats is guided by a vision for agropolitan territories which hybridise urban and rural settlement patterns for sustainable regional development. The module will draw on expertise in data analytics, coupled human-natural systems, agroecosystem science and urban design. We will produce innovative planning concepts, architectural designs, and building prototypes for sustainable agropolitan territories, anchored in specified sites in Vietnam, India and Indonesia. We aim to construct a 16-hectare demonstration agropolitan town for the site in Indonesia (

The module team is composed of two Principal Investigators (based in Singapore and Zurich respectively), two Co-Investigators (based in Singapore), two Module Co-ordinators (based in Singapore and Zurich respectively), and six research associates responsible for different aspects of the overall research mission.

This role is within the ‘Agropolitan Territories’ research module of the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL).

The role focuses on understanding how different actors and organizations (household, smallholder, provincial and national governments) interact to shape agropolitan territories. Social, technological and environmental aspects of these interactions are considered. The research is structured around a comparison across three case study sites in Kerala, Mekong Delta and Java.

The research may lead to a PhD scholarship at NUS for suitably qualified and interested candidates.

Job description

The scope of work shall comprise of but shall not be limited to:

1)  Research

  • Conduct comparative research on three case study sites to be selected in Kerala, Mekong Delta and Java
  • Focus on the social, technological and environmental nexus of agropolitan land-uses at household and smallholder levels 
  • Consider how local actors interact with the governance, land-use and infrastructure planning systems in each case
  • Disseminate research work by initiating, coordinating and leading on relevant publications

2)  Research Co-ordination

  • Coordinate field-based research in the three case study sites
  • Contribute to spatial data analyses on the core module themes and support development of the module’s open-source software ur-scape
  • Contribute to design and planning of the module’s planned demonstration project in Java

3)  Administration

  • Support reporting requirements and data management (KPIs, weekly meetings)
  • Support seminars, workshops, studios and exhibitions
  • Manage module website and publications reporting

Your profile

  • Postgraduate degree in urban design, urban planning, landscape architecture, or a related discipline
  • Proficiency with mapping tools such as QGIS and ArcGIS; experience with 3D modelling software such as City Engine a plus 
  • Experience conducting participatory action research, community outreach, qualitative surveys or other social science field studies
  • Passion for the ‘Agropolitan Territories’ theme, and the overall aims of the FCL programme
  • Attention to detail and good problem-solving skills
  • Strong interpersonal and interdisciplinary skills
  • Strong reading and writing skills in English, and preferably expertise in one of the languages spoken in the case study areas

Singapore-ETH Centre

The Singapore-ETH Centre provides a multicultural and interdisciplinary environment to researchers working on diverse themes focussed on sustainable and liveable cities, resilient urban systems, and patient-centric healthcare. The centre is home to a community of over 100 doctoral, postdoctoral and professorial researchers working in three main programmes: Future Cities Laboratory, Future Resilient Systems, and Future Health Technologies.
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We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • A comprehensive CV
  • Summary folio
  • Copies of transcripts
  • Sample of academic writing
  • Motivation letter 

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about Future Cities Laboratory can be found on our website. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Stephen Cairns, email (no applications).

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