karenlai_linkedin_2015I am an economic geographer with research expertise on financial geography, and am currently Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore (NUS). My research interests include geographies of money and finance, global cities, service sectors and market formation, focusing particularly on issues of financialisation, knowledge networks, and economic development in Asia. I am on the Standing Committee of the Global Production Networks Centre at NUS (GPN@NUS), Executive Committee of the Global Network on Financial Geography (FinGeo), and Steering Committee of the Global Urban Studies Research Cluster at NUS.

I received my Bachelor and Master degrees in Geography from NUS, and completed my PhD in Economic Geography at the University of Nottingham (UK). Before my current appointment at NUS, I was Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Geography, University of British Columbia (Canada). 

I enjoy reading, photography, yoga and Chinese calligraphy.

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Curriculum Vitae >>

Service & Professional Activities 

  • Member, NUS Department of Geography, Students & External Relations Committee (2012 – present)
  • Faculty Advisor, NUS Geography Challenge (2011 – present; Chair from 2016 – present)
  • Co-convenor, NUS Department of Geography Seminar Series (2013 – 2018)
  • Steering Committee, FASS Global Urban Studies Research Cluster (2013 – present)
  • Committee Member, Economic Geography Research Group, Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) (2013 – present)
  • FASS undergraduate discretionary admissions interview panel (2014 – 2018)
  • Editorial board member, Geography Compass, Economic Geography section (2015 – present)
  • NUS Department of Geography website/social media management (2015 – present)
  • Co-chair, Ministry of Education Geography Competitions Steering Committee (2016 -present)
  • Founding member and Events Coordinator (Executive Committee), Global Network on Financial Geography (FinGeo) (2016 – present)

Research Grants 

  • NUS Academic Research Fund (2018-2021). Fintech and financial ecologies in Singapore and Hong Kong. SGD$41,748.
  • NUS Strategic Research Proposals (2014-2017). The Global Production Networks Centre at NUS (GPN@NUS). Collaborator with Henry Yeung (PI) and Neil Coe (Co-I). SGD$4.95 million.
  • NUS FASS Start-up Fund (2011-2014). The making of financial subjects: investigating financial knowledge and practices in Singapore’s financial advisory industry. SGD$24,882.
  • Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Research Grant (2008-2010). Market mobilities: Tracing networks of capital and knowledge in Hong Kong and Greater China. CAD$6,000.
  • China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham (2005-2008). Approaches to ‘markets’: The development of Shanghai as an international financial centre. GBP£5,000.
  • NUS Academic Research Fund (2002-2004). Imagineering ‘Emerging Markets’: fund managers and financial knowledge networks in Singapore, Hong Kong and London. Collaborator with James Sidaway (PI). SGD$10,700.


  • Faculty Teaching Excellence Award (2013)
  • Best PhD Prize, Economic Geography Research Group, Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) (RGS-IBG) (2009)
  • UBC Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2008-2010)
  • University of Nottingham Graduate School Travel Prize (2007)
  • NUS Overseas Graduate Scholarship (2006-2008)
  • ORAS award (Universities UK) & University of Nottingham PhD Studentship (2004-2008)
  • NUS President’s Graduate Fellowship (2003-2004)
  • NUS Research Scholarship (2002-2004)

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