Celebrate Our Staff – April 2021

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

Professors Iyiola Solanke and Louise Bryant are the University’s inaugural Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

New Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. April 2021

New Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 

Two more key appointments have been announced to lead the development of our strategy for equality and inclusion.  

Professors Iyiola Solanke and Louise Bryant are the inaugural Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). 

Working in partnership with the Interim Head of EDI, Shelagh Prosser, and fellow leadership team members, Louise Banahene and Linda Mortimer Pine, the new Deans will be instrumental in driving forward our vision to create an inclusive environment that attracts, develops and retains the best staff and students from all backgrounds, and from across the world, supporting them to achieve their ambitions and, in so doing, contributing to our institutional strategic aims. 

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, said: “Equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our University mission, and I want to see Leeds become a place where everyone, regardless of their background, feels like they belong and can achieve their full potential. It’s only by doing this that we can ensure excellence across our research, education and societal impact. 

“Louise and Iyiola are fantastic colleagues and I’m delighted they will now provide academic leadership for the EDI agenda across the University. I’m looking forward to working closely with them and Shelagh to develop a bespoke EDI strategy, in line with the University’s academic strategy and its key elements of culture, community and impact.” 

Having launched our Equality and Inclusion Framework 2020-25, one of the team’s main tasks will be to draw on the superb commitment and work already underway across the University to develop a new EDI strategy, which will feed in to everything we do at Leeds. 

See For Staff for full details 


New Head of School appointments in Arts Humanities and Cultures  

Profile pictures of Professors Kristyn Gorton and Hazel Hutchison. Uploaded April 2021.Professors Kristyn Gordon and Hazel Hutchison will join us in August 

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures has appointed two new Heads of Schools.   

Professor Kristyn Gorton joins Leeds from the University of York as the new Head of the School of Media and Communication and Professor of Film and Television.   

Her research interests are in the concepts of emotion and affect, feminist theory, the construction of resilience on screen, and the history of British television.   

She said “I am pleased to be taking up the role of Head of School in the University of Leeds.   

“Media and Communication is a very strong School with an excellent International reputation. I look forward to building on the School’s strengths and working with students and colleagues in the School, the Faculty and across the University.”  

Professor Hazel Hutchison has been appointed as the new Head of the School of English, and joins us from the University of Aberdeen.    

She is a specialist in American Literature, with particular interests in the writing of the First World War and the work of Henry James.  

She said: “I am delighted to be coming to the School of English as Head of School. I am looking forward to joining so many talented teachers, writers and researchers, and to spending time getting to know both colleagues and students.    

“This is an exciting time to be part of the University of Leeds as it looks ahead, and as we work together to shape learning and have creative impact for the future.”  

Professor Andrew Thorpe, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, said: “In Kristyn and Hazel, we have secured outstanding leaders to work with colleagues to help the Schools emerge from the pandemic and to take them forward.    

“They have the experience, knowledge and skills to enable them to succeed in developing high-quality disciplinary and inter-disciplinary activity in a truly inclusive manner, and I am very much looking forward to working with them.   

“Considerable thanks are due to both Professor Bethany Klein and Professor Andrew Warnes, who have done such a good job as Interim Heads of their respective schools in a particularly demanding year.”  

Professor Gorton and Professor Hutchison will take up their posts on 1 August 2021. 


Contribution to Biochemistry education recognised 

A profile image of Dave Lewis. Uploaded April 2021The Biochemical Society has recognised Dr Dave Lewis 

Dr Dave Lewis has received a Teaching Excellence Award as part of The Biochemical Society Awards 2022 

It recognises his outstanding contribution to Biochemistry education, as well as his commitment to supporting both students and colleagues. 

Besides his work as the Faculty of Biological Sciences’ ethics champion – through which he uses debates to engage students and encourage them to consider multiple view points on topical issues – he also introduced the concept of the capstone project into the Faculty’s programmes.  

This involves students delivering interactive science workshops in schools, creating professional education resources or writing commercial reports as alternatives to traditional undergraduate final year research projects. 

Dr Lewis freely shared these ideas and resources with colleagues as far afield as Australia and the USA as the Covid pandemic posed the problem of delivering Bioscience education remotely with reduced access to facilities.  

He said: “I'm extremely honoured to receive this prestigious award.  

“It recognises the sector-leading work we are doing within the Faculty to prepare our students for an increasingly challenging 21st Century workplace. 

“It’s been a collaborative team effort – I owe a huge debt of thanks to everybody (students, colleagues, external partners) that have contributed.  

“It’s only the start of the journey, though. We need to build on what we have started by encouraging others from across Higher Education to come on board and work collaboratively to fully realise the transformative potential of student capstone projects.“ 

Read the full story 


HEE Innovation Voucher competition success 

Profile images o Ryan Mathew and Dr Wudak. Uploaded April 2021.Ryan Mathew and Dr Wudak are behind the competition-winning test 

A ‘Mini-brain’ benchtop test has been selected as the winning emerging medical technology in the Health Enterprise East (HEE) Innovation Voucher competition.  

The test was created by Ryan Mathew and Dr Heiko Wudak (both School of Medicine). 

It is based on generating miniature models of patient tumours using stem cell-derived brain organoids and patient specific tumour cells.  

By observing their invasion into healthy brain tissue, it is hoped that the technique will allow clinicians to optimise treatment for each individual patient. The ‘Mini-brain’ will use machine learning algorithms to identify patterns around the interaction between healthy and tumorous cells. 

A design engineering and development consultancy will work with Mr Mathew, Dr Wurdak and their team to develop and progress their idea through the Innovation Voucher, designed to reward and support the most novel ideas in MedTech innovation.  

The programme will consist of ideation workshops, developing requirements specifications and producing concept drawings which will be the foundation of an ongoing development programme. 

Mr Mathew said: “Having the opportunity to work with such skilled engineers to further develop and automate the ‘Mini-brain’ concept is fantastic.  

“Our long-term aim for the product is for it to be used in the NHS as a benchtop device, and with the support of HEE and eg technology, we are moving a step closer to achieving this ambition.” 


Book prize for Professor of American History  

A profile image of Professor Kate Dossett. Uploaded April 2021.Professor Dossett’s book has garnered praise from the BAAS 

Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal, by Professor Kate Dossett (School of History) has won the British Association for American Studies' 2021 book prize. 

The award was announced during their annual conference in April. 

Her book explores Black theatrical performances and the communities that created them during the 1930s. 

It highlights the radical politics networks of actors, writers, critics and audiences in the face of endemic racism in the United States.  

The judges praised it as “an exemplary work of interdisciplinary American Studies,” and noted the combination of archival research and critical reading that helped uncover the intersection of work, resources and representation in Black theatre at the time. 

Professor Dossett said: “I’m deeply honoured to be the recipient of the BAAS Book prize for 2021.  

“I hope the award for Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal will help promote the radical work of theatre makers of colour, past and present.  

“The ambition and creativity of Black theatre makers in times of crisis has produced a rich and radical heritage that needs to be better known and celebrated.” 

Find out more about the significance of Professor Dossett’s work for Black theatre history and contemporary Black theatre makers at the Black Perspectives Roundtable, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society. 


Alumni praise Step Challenge success  

A selection of images taken by participants of the LUBS alumni step challenge. Uploaded April 2021.Some of the images shared by those taking part 

Colleagues from Sport and Physical Activity and Leeds University Business School (LUBS) have been praised by alumni who participated in a recent global step challenge. 

44 participants from 18 countries collectively accumulated 3,147,711 steps over seven days – the equivalent of walking from Leeds to Zurich.  

In their feedback, they thanked the team for providing the chance to meet fellow alum and motivate one another. They also enjoyed the fact it offered a way to learn about other places, with a number of those taking part sharing pictures from their walks.  

Kate Petty, the Physical Activity and Wellbeing Officer who helped organise the challenge, said: “Myself and the Get Out, Get Active (GOGA) team have been hosting virtual physical activity challenges the last 12 months to encourage staff and students to get active.  

“It was great to engage a different audience and host a step challenge for Business School alumni. We really enjoyed seeing alumni connecting, sharing photos from around the world and reminiscing about their days in Leeds”. 

Olivia Blythman, Alumni Relations Manager in the Leeds University Business School, added: “Inspired by taking part in a GOGA staff step challenge, I was delighted to collaborate with Kate Petty and the GOGA team to organise a similar event for Business School alumni.  

It’s a great way for us to engage with our alumni globally in an authentic way and keep active! Engagement and feedback from our alumni has been fantastic and we look forward to planning another step challenge in the autumn”. 

Read the full story 


Excellence award for Women Make Horror  

A profile picture of Dr Alison Peirse. Uploaded April 2021.The winning book by Dr Alison Peirse explores women’s roles in horror culture 

Dr Alison Peirse (School of Media and Communication) has been awarded Best Edited Collection for Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre in the British Associations of Film, Television and Screen Studies’ annual excellence awards. 

The judges praised Women Make Horror, remarking that it was “[a] refreshing, welcome and innovative study of women’s under-appreciated roles in horror culture, which really chimes with the zeitgeist.  

“It features a fascinating mix of films, filmmakers and topics and will undoubtedly have considerable impact on future scholarship”. 

Women Make Horror explores narrative and experimental cinema, along with short, anthology, and feature filmmaking. 

It also offers case studies of North American, Latin American, European, East Asian, and Australian filmmakers, films, and festivals.  

The overall aim of the book is to transform how we think about women filmmakers and genre. 

Dr Peirse said: “I'm absolutely made-up to have won this award. It is recognition of the importance of doing work in this, the most disreputable of film genres, and of having feminist voices contributing to the disciplinary debates”. 

The work stems from her academic research is in genre film and television, with a particular interest in exploring women’s creative contributions to genre, as well as story development and creative process within media industries.  

Her research expertise relate to essay filmmaking, ethnographic methodologies, feminist oral histories and practice as research methods. 

Read the full story 


Teaching Excellence award for Psychology doctoral student 

A profile picture of Madeleine Pownall. Uploaded April 2021.Madeleine Pownall has been recognised by the American Psychological Association  

Madeleine Pownall (School of Psychology) has received the Wilbert J. McKeachie Teaching Award from the American Psychological Association’s Society for the Teaching of Psychology.  

She is the first person based outside of the USA to receive the honour, which recognises teaching excellence for doctoral students who are currently teaching Psychology. 

The winner receives a cash prize and a plaque which will be presented during the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s Annual Conference on Teaching, held in Kentucky in October.  

Ms Pownall received the award on account of her inspiring teaching practice, excellence in pedagogical research, and commitment to student support. 

She said: "I feel so honoured to have won this Teaching Excellence Award. I hugely enjoy the teaching aspect of my role in the School of Psychology I’m thrilled to have been recognised by such a prestigious organisation.  

As part of the award, she will be joining international colleagues at the Annual Conference on Teaching in October in Kentucky. 

She added: “I can’t wait to meet more psychology educators and continue improving my teaching practice.  

“Thank you to my colleagues in the School of Psychology and the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence for their support”. 


International Award for Biodiversity Living Lab Programme  

A shot of a flower blooming in the Sustainability Garden on campus. Uploaded April 2021.Our Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Programme has received international recognition  

The Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Programme, part of the Leeds Living Lab, has received the Partnerships for Progress Award at the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) Awards 2021. 

The programme seeks to understand how urban landscapes can be used innovatively to find solutions to problems and aid decision making for campus development.  

The award recognises how this programme brings together an interdisciplinary group of staff and students to collaborate in addressing global issues at a local scale.  

Thom Cooper, Sustainability Manager at Leeds, said: “Winning this award is fantastic recognition for our collaborative approach to addressing sustainability at the University.  

“I’m particularly pleased that a project which has been driven so enthusiastically by our students, in collaboration with both academic and operational colleagues, has been so impactful”. 

At Leeds, an interdisciplinary partnership was created between the Sustainability Service and the faculties of Environment and Biological Sciences, as well as employing student ambassadors to train volunteers. 

Throughout 2019, their work informed campus developments, such as access works on St. George’s Field, where data was used to protect and enhance key habitats. Increased staff engagement has also enabled regular species reports to provide ongoing insight into progress. 

Going forward, the plan is to integrate the Leeds Living Lab further into our sustainable research and teaching, to support our ambition to become an exemplar of urban biodiversity, and to work collaboratively with our internal and external community to address local and global sustainability challenges. 

The programme is completely transferable to any urban site, and has already started to receive international recognition from University partners abroad. 

Read the full story 


Get in touch! 

We know there are lots of great things happening to support the work of the University – and we want to hear about them! 

Please follow the staff Twitter account to see the latest updates and copy in our @UniLeedsStaff handle when posting success stories, so we can share them with colleagues. 

You can also contact Internal Communications directly 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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