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Dr Maria Daniela Sanchez-Lopez

Dr Maria Daniela Sanchez-Lopez

Research Fellow of Newnham College / Research Associate at the Department of Chemistry

My research focuses on the geopolitics of renewable energies and the low-carbon energy transition, with a particular focus on lithium extraction in South America. My areas of expertise include: governance of lithium and low-carbon energy transition, human geography, economics, quantitative and qualitative methods, international development



  • April 2020 - September 2021: Research Associate, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, UK
    Project Manager of Innovate UK grant project: Upscalling Li Fe PO4 battery production for Bolivia.
  • October 2018 - present: Research Fellow, Margaret Anstee Centre for Global Studies, Newnham College, University of Cambridge, UK
  • March – September 2018: External analyst of the Latin America Country Risk Team, IHS Markit – London, UK
  • 2013 – 2017: Postgraduate researcher and Teaching Assistant, University of East Anglia – Norwich, UK
  • March - May 2013: Consultant, HIVOS International - La Paz, Bolivia
  • 2007 – 2013: Researcher, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – La Paz, Bolivia
  • 2008 – 2009: Consultant, HIVOS International – The Hague, The Netherlands


  • 2013 – 2017: Ph.D. in International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
    Dissertation Topic: "Mineral Extraction in a Plurinational State: Commodification and Resource Governance in the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia"
  • 2005 – 2006: Master of Arts in Development Studies, Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands
  • 1999 – 2003: Bachelor degree, Universidad Católica Boliviana (UCB), La Paz, Bolivia

Specialisation courses

  • 2014: Developing Teaching Skills for Postgraduate Students, Centre for Staff and Educational Development (CSED), University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
  • 2011: Sustainable Natural Resource Management in Latin America: Innovation in market-based and state-led mechanisms, International Institute of Social Studies (The Netherlands) in partnership with Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Quito, Ecuador.
  • 2009: Advanced Study Course on Managing Globalization and Transition, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia, Italy


  • 2015: Royal Geographical Society, Dudley Stamp Memorial Award for PhD fieldwork in Potosi, Bolivia.
  • 2015: UK Society for Latin American Studies, SLAS Postgraduate Travel grant
  • 2013: University of East Anglia, UEA Postgraduate Studentship, Social Sciences Graduate School.
  • 2009: Fondazione Caripplo, Studentship for the Advanced Study Course on Understanding and Managing Globalization and Transition, Universität delis Stud di Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
  • 2007: Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), Research Grant programme: "Investigación sobre Temas de Desarrollo". Research project: "Investing in water and sanitation infrastructure: Social participation as social inclusion, case of water provider enterprises in Bolivia".
  • 2005-2006: Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education (NUFFIC), Netherlands Fellowship Programme Master studies, The Hague, NL.
  • 2003-2004: Universidad Católica Boliviana, Academic Excellence Award and Scholarship for Academic Excellence.


In the dusk of the fossil fuel age and given the challenges of climate change, important geopolitical transformations are happening in the global energy system. Renewable energies are now firmly at the centre of global debate, requiring novel strategic resources such as lithium for new technologies leading to the low-carbon energy transition. Lithium-ion batteries play an essential role in two aspects: by expanding and massifying the use of electric vehicles reducing the CO2 emissions from the transport sector; and by increasing the efficiency and capacity of renewable energies through large energy storage systems to be connected to the grid. Both of these will dramatically change the residential and commercial energy markets.

My research explores what is behind the green paradigm of the low-carbon energy transition and what will be the impact of the massive demand for strategic minerals required for the new technologies in low-income resource-rich countries.

I focus on the geopolitics of renewable energies and lithium in the South American salt flats of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile in order to understand the different elements shaping the governance of lithium in the region, the role of China in accessing the lithium supply chain, and the new forms of dependency and neo-colonialism emerging in a world embedded in a low-carbon energy transition and the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.

My research interests include socio-environmental conflicts and green technologies, governance of lithium and energy politics, extractive resources in Latin America and environmental justice.


[Publications will load automatically from the University's publications database...]


  • 2013 – 2017: University of East Anglia – Norwich, UK
    • Introduction to Human Geography (seminars)
    • Research Methods in Social Anthropology (seminars)
    • Latin American Development (seminars)
    • Human Geography Field Course – cases of Chile and Sheffield (lectures)

External activities​

  • College mentor MPhil Anthropocene Studies - Newnham College.
  • Honorary member of the Anglo-Bolivian Society
  • Country representative at the Latin-American Geographies-UK.