Celebrate Our Staff – December 2019

Here we celebrate our colleagues’ achievements across the University this past month.

Professor Pietro Valdastri with his team, winners of the KUKA Innovation Award 2019

Professor Pietro Valdastri with his team, winners of the KUKA Innovation Award 2019. December 2019

Major prize for robotic colonoscopy platform

A robotic device designed to reduce the pain and discomfort of colonoscopy has won the KUKA Innovation Award 2019 at the MEDICA 2019 exhibition.

The device, now in the advanced stage of development, is the culmination of 10 years of research by teams from the Universities of Leeds, Turin and Vanderbilt, in the US.

Pietro Valdastri, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at Leeds, who is leading the collaboration, said: “We put a lot of effort into this project. We want to save lives with it.

“Colorectal cancer is a great danger and our technology can make screening more accessible and painless.”

He added: “The team, composed of Joe Norton, Bruno Scaglioni, James Martin and Giovanni Pittiglio, did an incredible job in setting up a great demo and illustrating to the audience and the judges the potential of our application.”

A small capsule-shaped device is inserted into the patient’s colon and is capable of relaying pictures and taking tissue samples.

A robotic hovering over the abdomen arm gently manipulates the capsule through the colon by using harmless magnetic forces. An artificial intelligence (AI) system monitors the precise location of the device in the body. 

Researchers believe the procedure will be less painful than a conventional colonoscopy, which involves a doctor or nurse pushing a semi-rigid endoscope into the body.

Patient trials to evaluate the effectiveness of the device are due to start next year and will be supported by Cancer Research UK, with the aim of using the robotic technology to help reduce the cost and pain associated with colonoscopy.

Find out more on the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering website.

Director General of Higher Education for Slovenia

Alt text: Dr Jana Javornik, who was recently appointed Director General of Higher Education for Slovenia. December 2019Leeds University Business School's Dr Jana Javornik has been seconded to the role of Director General of Higher Education for Slovenia

Dr Jana Javornik – Associate Professor in Work and Employment Relations at Leeds University Business School (WERD, LUBS) – has been appointed Director General of Higher Education in Slovenia’s Ministry of Education, Science and Sport.

The role sees Dr Javornik become responsible for the development of higher education policies and institutions in Slovenia. Her remit includes:

amending the Higher Education legislation, including the recognition and assessment of education

drafting the new National Programme of Higher Education (2020-2030)

drafting the Strategy for the internationalisation of Slovenian Higher Education; and

developing the Higher Education portfolio for the Slovenian European Union Presidency in 2021.

The most important concern of the Directorate is the financing of higher education activities, student housing and transport. It also focuses on the registering of accredited higher education institutions and programmes, and the review of the legality of work. And it ensures the fulfilment of conditions for the provision of higher education activities.

Since starting the role, Dr Javornik has taken on a number of additional initiatives to integrate Slovenian HE, research and science. Her office is also working to address future skills mismatches, as well as promoting excellence in knowledge and skills development.

She hopes her work will support further development of an inclusive, connected, effective and efficient higher education system, fostering quality, excellence and innovation.

Researcher named in Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 list

Dr Balkees Abderrahman, named as an honouree in the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 list for 2020. December 2019

Forbes Magazine's 30 Under 30 list for 2020 includes Dr Balkees Abderrahman

A Leeds PhD researcher has been named as an honouree in the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 list for 2020.

Dr Balkees Abderrahman was selected for her research on using hormones to safely attack certain types of cancer.

With more than 15,000 submissions for only 600 slots, this is a prestigious accolade that recognises the boldest and brightest leaders, entrepreneurs and game changers under the age of 30.  

Dr Abderrahman is a split-site PhD researcher based at Leeds and is the Dallas/Fort Worth Living Legend Fellow of Cancer Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, Texas). 

She works under the co-supervision of Leeds alumnus Professor V. Craig Jordan CMG OBE, Professor of Breast Medical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Professor John Ladbury, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at Leeds.

Dr Abderrahman said: “Pursuing discovery science is challenging and requires sacrifices. Working hard, being innovative and having potential is crucial, but equally so is a supportive environment.

“I am deeply honoured to be included in a group of individuals who are described as revolutionaries, trendsetters and game-changers, and motivated to harness my translational science to benefit society.

“My mentor is a Leeds alumnus and I am a Leeds graduate. He revolutionised women’s healthcare and I am Forbes 30 Under 30. This is the legacy of the University of Leeds – writing history one graduate at a time.”

Read the full story.

First for Leeds with Junior Medal honour

Dr Anwesha Sarkar, winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry Junior Medal. December 2019The Royal Society of Chemistry Junior Medal was won by Dr Anwesha Sarkar 

Dr Anwesha Sarkar has been awarded the prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Junior Medal in the Food Group.

This marks the first time the Junior Food Group Medal has come to Leeds.

Dr Sarkar’s research has led to scientific breakthroughs in designing novel food structures with targeted oral lubrication.

She was awarded a European Research Council (ERC) grant to fund Project LubSat. Based on step change research highlighted, it’s believed this work could lead to multiple health-related food solutions. The award will be presented in the first quarter of 2020 at Burlington House.

The aim of this award is to encourage and recognise excellence in early career scientists in the application of chemical sciences to the study of all aspects of food, drawing attention to the challenges in the food industry.

Dr Sarkar, Associate Professor in the School of Food Science and Nutrition at Leeds, said: “I feel really honoured to receive this prestigious RSC Food Group Junior Medal 2019.

“Research in my team lies at the crossroads of experimental colloid science and human health, with a specific recent focus on understanding the multiscale oral lubrication mechanisms.

“This award is a great recognition of the interdisciplinary research I do, not only for me but from my team and collaborators ranging from Engineering, Psychology, Physics and Dentistry.”

The Food Group is one of the Royal Society of Chemistry's many member-driven interest groups. It aims to promote the role of chemistry throughout the entire food chain, and enable transfer and sharing of information and networking between academia and the food industry.

Silver lining for LIME TEL team

The TEL team, made up of Gareth Frith, Dr Sue Bickerdike and Charlotte Pettersen. December 2019Gareth Frith, Technology Enhanced Learning Project Manager; Dr Sue Bickerdike, Technology Enhanced Learning Team Co-manager; and Charlotte Pettersen, Development Support Specialist with the award

The Leeds Institute of Medical Education Technology Enhance Learning (LIME TEL) team is celebrating success.

It has received a Silver Award for the project ‘Virtual Histopathology’ at the Learning Technologies Awards held at the London Park Plaza Hotel in November.

The team was presented with the accolade in the category of ‘Best use of simulations or virtual environments for learning’.

The TEL team’s virtual reality (VR) resource utilises 360 video with interactive hotspots and a dedicated audio track to allow users to virtually visit and learn about the working of the histopathology laboratories at St James’s University Hospital, using a VR headset or a tablet device. 

The judges’ overall verdict summary stated that it was “[a] cost-effective, relevant and well-designed solution involving the co-ordination and motivation of a big cast of players”. 

Professor Trudie Roberts, Professor of Medical Education in LIME, said: “The Learning Technology Award for the medical school TEL team validates our claim to be world leading in this area.”

The Learning Technologies Group is Europe’s leading showcase of organisational learning and the technology used to support learning at work. The 2019 awards attracted more than 350 entries from all industry sectors, with 165 entries shortlisted for the finals.

The simulations category attracted nearly 30 entries, making it the second most popular category at the awards.

Associate Dean appointment for Professor Anne-Maree Keenan

Professor Anne-Maree Keenan, recently appointed as Associate Dean, the NINR Academy. December 2019

Professor Anne-Maree Keenan, recently appointed as Associate Dean for the NIHR Academy

Professor Anne-Maree Keenan OBE has been appointed Associate Dean for Infrastructure for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Academy.

In her new role, Anne-Maree will be responsible for the research capacity training nationally for the NIHR Infrastructure. This includes Biomedical Research Centres, Research Schools, Patient Safety Translation Centres and Applied Research Collaboratives.

Professor Keenan (School of Healthcare at Leeds) said: “I am delighted and honoured to be appointed to this role. 

“I am excited about the many opportunities to help develop the next generation of researchers and equip them to face the challenges of our changing health needs.” 

This appointment builds on years of experience in facilitating and shaping a coherent framework for developing the next generation of academics and academic clinicians.

The new role will give Professor Keenan opportunities to widen the NIHR’s remit to develop strategies to encourage social care research. The post also provides a chance to help develop research capacity building for the global health initiatives.

She will also be responsible for supporting development of non-clinical early career researchers, embedding industrial collaborations early into clinical academic careers and facilitating public health career strategies in supporting and developing academics of the future.

Professor Keenan added: “Supporting each of the different groups within the NIHR Infrastructure in developing sustainable, vibrant and productive pathways is a central expectation for NIHR. This role has been developed in order to capitalise on the breadth of opportunities across the NIHR.

“We don’t want the NIHR-funded groups just to fund a research project, we want to encourage, promote and reward excellence in developing our researchers of the future.”

Double delight for academic author

Professor Bridget Bennett has recently published two books; an edition of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia and an edition of Walt Whitman’s extraordinary Leaves of Grass poems. December 2019Professor Bridget Bennett has recently published two books; editions of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia and Walt Whitman’s extraordinary Leaves of Grass poems

Professor Bridget Bennett has published two books – editions of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia and Walt Whitman’s extraordinary Leaves of Grass poems.

Both books emerge from Professor Bennett’s academic interests on 19th century US literary culture.

Professor Bennett, from the School of English at Leeds, said: “I’ve enjoyed producing accessible editions that will be of interest to a wide range of readers.

My Ántonia is one of the most beautiful novels I know – but it is also remarkably unsentimental about what it meant to be a pioneer and a woman.

“My edition of Whitman is part of the series of publications and events marking the bicentenary of his birth. His writing is extremely accessible and I’m happy to say that the edition is selling very well, bringing his work to new readers. I have used the final so-called ‘Deathbed’ text, and selected poems that give a sense of his radical politics and poetics, and also his personal fearlessness.”

“Both of these writers have a lot to teach us about handling adversity, so working on them is extremely timely.”

Set in rural Nebraska, My Ántonia is both the story of an enduring friendship and a brilliant portrayal of the hardship found in the lives of immigrant rural pioneers in the late 19th century.

Leaves of Grass was first published in 1855, and then revised and expanded throughout Whitman’s lifetime. It was ground-breaking in its subject matter and in its direct, unembellished style.

Both editions are part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library series.

Dedicated service results in honorary fellowship

Professor Sarah Underwood has been awarded honorary Fellowship of Enterprise Educators UK. December 2019Professor Sarah Underwood has been awarded an honorary Fellowship of Enterprise Educators UK

Professor Sarah Underwood has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK).

It is in recognition of her dedicated service and her contribution to the wider enterprise educator community.

Professor Underwood joined the board in 2013 and took over as treasurer. She was elected Vice-Chair in 2016 and took on the leadership of the organisation as Chair in 2017/18.

During her year as Chair, Sarah launched the new EEUK brand and website, established EEGlobal and led the development of the nationally-recognised EEUK Fellowship, now one of EEUK’s flagship programmes.

Professor Underwood, from the Management Division of LUBS, said: “This organisation is very close to my heart as the community that it is made up of has been a constant source of support and inspiration throughout my time as an Enterprise educator.

“I am thrilled to have been awarded this Fellowship and hope to continue to support EEUK in the future.”

Current Chair, Gareth Trainer (Assistant Director for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, Newcastle University), added: “I can’t say how pleased I am to have served with Sarah on the Board and witnessed directly the invaluable contributions she made – it was a real pleasure.”

Honorary Fellowships of Enterprise Educators UK are awarded, at the discretion of the Board, to former members of the Executive, who have made significant contributions to the development of EEUK.

Fellowship honour for Dr Suzanne Young

Dr Suzanne Young has secured a Fellowship from the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence. December 2019The Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence has awarded Dr Suzanne Young a Fellowship

Dr Suzanne Young has secured a Fellowship from the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) for a project called ‘Transitions through university: Exploring expectations and motivations of undergraduate students‘.

The study aims to provide an insight into what drives student decision-making when choosing an undergraduate course. It will also examine whether or not motivations change whilst students move through their degree.

Another aspect of the research will be ascertaining to what extent career aspirations are motivating factors for students.

Dr Young, from the School of Law at Leeds, said: “I am delighted to have received a LITE Fellowship to undertake research into student expectations, motivations and transitions.” 

Her hope is that the project will generate a better understanding of student motivations in order to feed into course marketing, curriculum design and employability strategies. 

Dr Young added: “The research is going to offer a real insight into student decision making before and during their studies, which aligns with the strategic educational priorities at the University.

“[The project] will provide greater awareness of what influences the choices students make and will ensure the higher education provision and student expectations are aligned more closely. I am grateful to LITE for recognising the value of the study and I am excited about the impact it will have at Leeds and in other institutions nationally.”

Read more about the project on the LITE website.

Prize to challenge artists and scientists

DARE Art Prize winner Anna Ridler, "drawing with sound"; this year’s applications are now openLast year's DARE Art Prize winner Anna Ridler, 'drawing with sound'

The £15,000 DARE Art Prizechallenging artists and scientists to collaborate on new approaches to the creative process – is open for applications.

Now in its third year, the prize is part of the ground-breaking DARE partnership between the University and Opera North – in association with the National Science and Media Museum and The Tetley.

It will be awarded to an innovative, ambitious, early-career artist, who is motivated by the opportunity to work in partnership with leading scientific researchers at Leeds.

Individual, independent artists working in any discipline are invited to apply for the latest DARE Art Prize by submitting a CV and a 500-word proposition that:

  • summarises the area of scientific interest, from astrophysics to climate change, microbiology to nutrition
  • evidences an ambition to create something new and the germ of an idea of what this might be; and
  • expresses a genuine wish to engage with academic researchers, expertise and resources at Leeds.

There are no restrictions on the form of the outcome: it could be any artform or channel, a performance, a poem, an interactive website or a song cycle, for example, but the project must be achievable within 12 months (ending in May 2021).

Applications should be sent in the form of a single PDF or Word document to dare@operanorth.co.uk before 12 noon on Thursday 30 January 2020.

Visit the DARE website or take a look at our news article for further information.

Please contact Internal Communications if you or one of your colleagues would like to appear in this monthly feature. This is open to all staff – professional and academic.

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