Celebrate Our Staff – February 2022

Here we celebrate our colleagues’ achievements across the University during February.  

Professor Nick Plant and Dr Amanda Maycock received the award from Prince Charles and Princess Anne

Professor Nick Plant and Dr Amanda Maycock receive the Queen's Anniversary Prize from Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

Featured this month: 

Global research at Leeds recognised by top honour 

Leeds has been awarded the country’s most prestigious higher education honour. 

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes recognise excellence, innovation and the impact of research on society. 

The accolade was presented to Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Professor Nick Plant, and Dr Amanda Maycock, Associate Professor in Climate Dynamics, by Prince Charles and Princess Anne during a special ceremony on Thursday 17 February. 

The UK’s highest accolade for universities and colleges, the prize has been awarded to Leeds for ground-breaking work, including forecasting extreme weather events, conserving tropical forests and improving climate-related health issues. 

Leeds’ collaborative research and education programmes are also helping to develop a new generation of climate experts to help tackle environmental issues faced by the Global South. 

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, said: “Our research in tropical climate examines the issues from many different angles – climate science, engineering, social sciences and policy-making. 

“By working alongside institutions around the world and empowering communities on the ground, we are putting in the hands of those who need it most the knowledge to prepare for the future, while building their capacity to face the emergent challenges of tomorrow. 

“This work is exemplary of our strategy, which sets out a vision for a University which is led by its values and harnesses the expertise, creativity and collaborative potential of all its people to help shape a more equitable and sustainable world.” 

Awarded every two years since 1994, the Queen's Anniversary Prizes celebrate excellence, innovation and public benefit in further and higher education. 

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Natural Sciences programmes accredited 

The Society for Natural Sciences logo: a blue, red and green hexagon on a white background.The Society for Natural Sciences has accredited the programmes 

Our Natural Sciences programmes have achieved accreditation from the Society for Natural Sciences.  

The programmes were recognised as offering outstanding quality interdisciplinary science education. They were also noted for providing students with excellent learning opportunities and skills development, to help prepare them for future careers in research, education, business or industry.  

Dr Paul Beales, Programme Manager for Natural Sciences, said: “Leeds has always been at the forefront of interdisciplinary research and having the Natural Sciences programmes accredited by the Society amplifies our commitment to continuous quality assurance and enhancement, and to deliver an outstanding education and exceptional student experience.” 

Leeds has an active research environment, which enables us to offer exciting courses taught by experts who are leaders in their field.  

Our Natural Sciences programmes prepare students to take on the big scientific questions and challenges that our society and industries will face in the future. 

They aim to enable scientists of the future to create innovative solutions by bringing together the ideas and methodologies of different scientific disciplines. 

Read the full story 

New chair of British Association for Islamic Studies 

Dr Fozia Bora pictured in the Brotherton Library.BRAIS’ new chair, Dr Fozia Bora, pictured in the Brotherton Library 

Dr Fozia Bora, Associate Professor in Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, has become the new Chair of the British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS).  

Founded in 2014, BRAIS is a learned society and professional organisation focused on enhancing research and teaching about Islam in UK higher education.  

Dr Bora said: “It’s a great honour to contribute as the new Chair of BRAIS, whose priorities include active support for researchers and teachers engaged in decolonising Islamic Studies, and championing inclusive pedagogy in the field.  

“Having the Chair of BRAIS based at Leeds will help to increase the visibility of Islamic Studies across the University.  

“I’m excited to work with my colleagues, both in BRAIS and at Leeds, to support a virtuous circle of innovative and rigorous research, teaching, community engagement and the co-creation of new knowledge in Islamic Studies, as connected strands of activity that inform, inspire and strengthen each other.” 

Based in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, Dr Bora has worked at Leeds since September 2012. She’s an expert in medieval Muslim history, specifically focusing on Arabic texts in the sixth to ninth Islamic centuries. 

Top honour for engineer pioneering medical robots 

Pietro Valdastri standing with a machine used in his work.Professor Pietro Valdastri with a medical capsule robot 

Pietro Valdastri – Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and Director of the STORM Lab – has been made a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).   

Fellowships are given to a limited shortlist of members who’ve made significant contributions to engineering, science and technology.   

Professor Valdastri said: “I am immensely proud to have been elevated to IEEE Fellow. It is a recognition of the work that my team and I have done to advance our understanding and knowledge in the field of medical capsule robots.”   

Professor Valdastri’s research focuses on medical capsule robots – tiny devices that are inserted into the human body through natural orifices or small incisions to perform endoscopy and surgery in a minimally invasive way.  

One of the projects he leads is the development of a capsule system that would revolutionise colonoscopy examinations, making them less painful for patients and easier for healthcare professionals to carry out.  

Professor Valdastri said: “Research in surgical robotics and robotic endoscopy is really my passion, and this important recognition means that what I have done in the past 15-20 years has had a tangible impact on other researchers and on society as a whole.”   

The technology has the potential to widen accessibility to endoscopic screening, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in healthcare settings across the world.  

Professor Valdastri added: “My ultimate dream is to see the platforms we have developed in my lab to improve the quality of life for patients. This goes beyond any formal recognition, and I am so glad to see it happening.” 

Read the full story  

High five for funding award success 

Dr Haili Ma pictured in the Brotherton Library.Additional funding for UK-China performance projects has been secured 

Dr Haili Ma is celebrating securing a fifth consecutive Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) UK-China Creative Industries-themed funding award. 

The awards have all come since Dr Ma joined the School of Performance and Cultural Industries in 2018.  

The successful project was Song of the Female Textile Workers, past, present and the future (2022-2023). 

It will be led by Dr Ma and takes forward a mixed reality Shanghai all-female Yue Opera (Shanghai Yueju), produced in 2020, to further explore UK-China community commonality and audience connectivity. 

Dr Ma said: “I am delighted to receive the latest series of UKRI awards.  

“I want to thank my collaborators across UK and China for their trust in my vision and leadership, and their full commitment in developing the projects.” 

The work utilises the textile heritage sites across Shanghai and Leeds – both major textile-turned-creative hubs – to link audiences from both communities. 

Working in partnership with Shanghai Textile Museum, Shanghai Yue Opera House, Leeds Industrial Museum, stage@leeds and two Yorkshire-based digital companies – HUMAN and Megaverse – Dr Ma will lead her team to gather community stories, songs, poetry and music on the theme of female textile workers. 

This will be passed on to Shanghai Yue Opera House, which will commission an in-house composer to produce a new piece of all-female Yue Opera to celebrate UK-China community commonality, as well as the 50th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between the UK and China. 

Read the full story 

Agricultural research collaboration 

Two researchers compare notes in a field surrounded by pigs.Leeds will be collaborating with a number of institutions 

Teams from 16 universities – including Leeds – are working together to agree joint agricultural research priorities. 

This process will also see them working with farmers and others who have a stake in the industry’s future. 

The universities, which offer courses in agriculture and carry out agricultural research, recently came together to form the Agricultural Universities Council (AUC), which will engage with all four Governments in the UK in its ongoing work. 

The Council’s first project will be to map existing agricultural research capacity across the UK for the first time in a decade, and work with farmers, as well as environmental, welfare and community groups, food businesses and other stakeholders, to shape future research priorities. 

Professor Steve Banwart, Director of the Global Food and Environment Institute (GFEI) at Leeds, said: “AUC members and partners are well-placed to strengthen the strategic position of UK agriculture. 

“If we work together, there is no challenge for UK agriculture that we cannot overcome, and we will be a strong partner for successful agriculture transitions around the world.” 

The GFEI leads our participation in the AUC. In addition to the expertise provided by GFEI, the University Research Farm will be a key research strength for the AUC.  

The farm is also a commercial business that works with academic and industry partners to address modern agricultural challenges.   

Read more 

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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