Dr Alasdair Rae


Room number: D26b
Telephone (internal): 26903
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 6903
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 6903
Twitter: @undertheraedar
My blog -
Google Scholar 


I’m an urban and regional analyst focusing on spatial data, GIS, neighbourhoods, housing markets, transport, commuting, quantitative data analysis, internet search data and geovisualization.

In addition to my role in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, I’m also the Director of the Q-Step centre at the Sheffield Methods Institute – one of 15 Q-Step centres across the UK. Q-Step is a £19.5 million programme designed to promote a step-change in quantitative social science training in the UK, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, ESRC and HEFCE.

I’m a founding Editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Regional Studies, Regional Science, now one of the leading open access publications in the social sciences. I also led the project to digitise the Department’s JR James Archive, an urban image collection which has now been viewed more than 6 million times.

I have a PhD in urban and regional policy from the University of Liverpool (2007), an MA from The Ohio State University (2003), and a BA (Hons) from the University of Strathclyde (2001).


I have led and worked on a wide variety of funded research for partners such as Google, the Bank of England, Rightmove, the Royal Town Planning Institute, Trainline, the Department for Education and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. I have extensive experience in the analysis and visualisation of large datasets and my work regularly appears in media outlets, such as The Independent, WIRED, the BBC, The Economist, and the Huffington Post.

My most recent research has focused on: i) understanding housing markets through the use of large internet search datasets, in collaboration with data partners at Rightmove; ii) understanding and visualising commuting and migration patterns, particularly through the use of community partitioning algorithms and cloud computing; and iii) understanding neighbourhood-level socio-economic phenomena, such as deprivation and mortgage lending patterns.

I take a multi-platform, portfolio approach to research dissemination, so in addition to traditional academic papers, I also write pieces for publications such as The Conversation, The Guardian and CityMetric. I also share this work on a regular basis via my blog.

Current and recent research projects


I’m a big believer in the idea that Universities are first and foremost about learning and teaching. This idea, combined with my belief that students should also have access to the latest research in their field, means that my teaching is closely linked to my research.

I teach using a variety of methods, including multi-media resources, in an attempt to stimulate critical thinking and independent learning. In the course of doing these things, I’ve been fortunate enough to have won some teaching awards, including the University’s Senate Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the award for Best Personal Tutor (Social Sciences) – voted on and awarded by the Union of Students.

I currently teach on the following modules:

I also teach students on the BA Quantitative Social Sciences degree as part of the University of Sheffield’s Q-Step initiative.

PhD supervision 

I am currently Primary Supervisor for the following PhD students:

  • Hanaw Amin, Land use change in Sulaimaniyeh City
  • Charlotte Hoole, Deprivation, educational attainment and resilience in Doncaster, South Yorkshire
  • Adipandang Yudono, National Spatial Data Infrastructure Adoption for Spatial Planning in Indonesia

Journal articles

View full list of publications