Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Meet Siera Vercillo, PhD candidate in Geography

“I came to Western University because of the leading scholarship and supportive environment that is ideal for my research. Although I could have stayed in Europe or gone to the United States, my supervisors are world renowned, very present in my learning, and they have provided me a space working in a lab with other like-minded graduate students.”

Supervisors: Dr. Isaac Luginaah and Dr. Anthony Weis

What’s the best advice you could give to someone considering applying to your graduate program?
Ask questions and reach out to people in the program and department: both faculty, students and administrators. They want to talk to you and provide you with as much information as possible to help you make decisions about your future graduate program.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
University of Toronto in Political Science and African Studies (Bachelors of Honours Arts) Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex in Gender and Development (Masters of Arts)

Describe your research in 100 words or less.
My research finds solutions to the problem of hunger globally. Paradoxically, those who suffer the most from hunger are small scale, female farmers, who also grow most of the world’s food. They are disproportionally food insecure because they depend on their environments and market prices that are unstable. Men are migrating out of rural areas because farming is becoming more challenging, and women have increasing roles in growing and selling food to feed their families. I explain the political, economic, social and environmental factors that are contributing to this, and its implications, applied to the comparative case study of Ghana.

Where’s your favourite place on campus to work?
I prefer to work in the Environment, Health and Hazards Lab in the Geography department where I have a desk because of the interactions with my Canadian and African colleagues pursuing similar research. We collaborate to contribute to knowledge, solve problems and make policy recommendations.

What are you most passionate about?
Working towards social justice: ensuring women’s rights and the right to food.

What is it about your grad program that enables you to thrive and be successful?
The supportive community – without my colleagues in the lab, active guidance from my supervisors and reliable administrators I would likely have lost my focus.

What is your “dream” career?
To work in research for social justice – that could be as a faculty member at a university, a policy analyst for government or as a programs adviser at a research think tank or non governmental organization.

What one thing would you like people to know about you?
I am a feminist geographer who likes to cook.

Program Websites

Program Contact

Lori Johnson (
Graduate Administrator

Department of Geography

Western University
Social Science Centre Rm 2322
London, Ontario N6A 5C2

t. 519-661-2111 ext. 85033
f. 519-661-3750

The PhD is a research degree in which the thesis, contributing original knowledge to the field of research, is the primary focus. Graduates go on to academic careers or to other occupations in which doctoral-level education is an asset or prerequisite. Courses are chosen to ensure that students have the background required to undertake the thesis research. Students are educated in geographical research through courses and especially through direct individual supervision.

The Own Your Future doctoral professional development program creates career-ready graduates with the Power Skills necessary to excel in their studies and achieve their future goals. Assess your own strengths and opportunities for growth and focus on what you want to get out of your time here at Western. To learn more, visit

Program Length

  • 12 Terms

Program Design

  • Full-time study
  • Thesis-based

Funding Information

Applicants are encouraged to apply for the following scholarships (if eligible):

Admission Requirements

  • Successful completion of a Master’s degree.
  • Minimum GPA of 78% or B+ from all graduate grades.

Additional Requirements

  • Covering letter (offering additional information or clarification of application items).
  • Sample of graduate-level writing.
  • Résumé (a brief summary of experience, achievements and skills).
  • Copies of relevant publications, if available.

English Language Proficiency

Applicants whose first language is not English must furnish evidence of their proficiency in the use of the English language:

Application Deadline

  • February 1

While we technically receive applications year round, the Graduate Affairs Committee begins review of applicant files for Fall admission in February. Applications received after the deadline may have a lower chance of success for admission and funding.

Fields of Research

  • Environment, Development and Health
  • Geographic Information Science
  • Physical Geography
  • Urban Studies