Celebrate Our Staff – November 2022

Join us as we celebrate our colleagues’ achievements across the University from the past few weeks.   

Professor Melanie Bell’s book has been recognised with two awards

Professor Melanie Bell is pictured with her book, 'Movie Workers: The Women Who Made British Cinema'.

Featured this month:  

Acclaimed book uncovers women’s roles in British cinema

Melanie Bell, Professor of Film History in the School of Media and Communication, has won two awards for her book, ‘Movie Workers: The Women Who Made British Cinema’.

Published last year, the book is a groundbreaking examination of the unsung women whose work brought British filmmaking to the screen.

The British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS) gave its prestigious Award for Best Monograph to 'Movie Workers’, calling it “a staggering achievement that sets a new benchmark for media historiography.”

Professor Bell’s publication was also awarded the 2021 Richard Wall Memorial Award Special Jury Prize for an exemplary work in the field of recorded performance at the annual Theatre Library Association (TLA) Book Awards. They recognise outstanding scholarship in the fields of live and recorded/broadcast performance.

Responding to the book’s success, Professor Bell said: “I’m honoured to receive these awards for my research on women in British film.

“BAFTSS and the TLA collectively span a broad field of performance studies, from television to radio, film to theatre, and these awards shine a spotlight on the many women who worked behind-the-scenes in filmmaking. They also set a precedent to encourage young scholars to be ambitious and daring in pursuing their research goals.”

Read more about ‘Movie Workers: The Women Who Made British Cinema’

Faculty celebrates prestigious Athena SWAN Bronze award 

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures held a special celebration event to mark the award

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures held a special celebration event to mark the award

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (AHC) has been awarded a prestigious bronze award under the Athena SWAN charter.

The charter is a framework used around the world to support and transform gender equality within higher education. Initially established in 2005 to recognise efforts to support the career development of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), the charter is now a global standard for gender equality more broadly.

A team of more than 20 staff from the faculty worked on the Athena SWAN application during the course of the year, examining data to identify gendered inequalities, including student progression and achievements and research careers.

The application process prompted the team to ask key questions about how the faculty operates across its nine diverse schools, with 8,000 students and 1,000 staff.

Professor Kate Nash, Deputy Dean of AHC, said: “It’s really built huge momentum in the Faculty about gender inequalities and addressing equality more generally, taking an intersectional perspective.”

As part of the application, the team presented an action plan to address gender equality challenges, including women being underrepresented in promotions to Professor, Grade 10.

Professor Nash explained: “We’ve started a series of promotion workshops exclusively for women at Grade 9, encouraging them to talk about and connect with each other and think about what it means to be a professor. It’s been incredibly popular.

“We want to challenge often very masculine assumptions about being a professor. We want to support women to see themselves as professors and put themselves forward for promotion.”

The Athena SWAN panel, which judged the application, commended the faculty for its strong leadership and intersectional perspectives, as well as plans to expand student involvement.

Read more about the faculty’s achievement

Partnership prize for Bragg Centre 

Dr Andrew Lee at the IRIS Awards 

Dr Andrew Lee at the IRIS Awards 

Secondary students from UK schools could be the youngest people to construct artificial structures using DNA, thanks to a collaboration between the Bragg Centre for Materials Research at Leeds, the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) and the Henry Royce Institute.

DNA Origami is a research project that gives school pupils a chance to step away from their textbooks to experiment with DNA nanotechnology, an emerging field of science. The students design DNA nanostructures using dedicated software, then use pipettes to weave segments of DNA together to create nanoscale designs 700 times smaller than a single human hair.

The project, led by Dr Andrew Lee of the Bragg Centre for Materials Research, won the Outstanding Partner prize at the first-ever IRIS Awards.

In addition to the Centre’s own award, the DNA origami project was at the core of no less than three out of seven awards, demonstrating how innovative the project has been. The winners included students from Tapton School, who used their expertise learned through the DNA Origami project to design a nanoscale Tesla valve made from DNA.

Dr Lee said: “By going into schools and giving more young people a taste of materials science, I hope we can open their eyes to the possibilities of pursuing it at university.

“Our partner, IRIS, has a network of schools nationally, and helps us target schools in disadvantaged areas and under-represented groups.” 

Dr Jo Foster, Director of IRIS said: “We set out to provide authentic research projects in schools that give young people meaningful experience of science and what it means to be a scientist. The response from the science community, teachers and students has been amazing.” 

Read a special spotlight on DNA Origami, part of the Further Together campaign. 

Breaking barriers: Professor Lisa-Dionne Morris 

Professor Lisa-Dionne Morris is pictured with a grey background.

Professor Lisa-Dionne Morris is celebrating her promotion 

Acclaimed academic Professor Lisa-Dionne Morris is celebrating success after joining the 100 Black Women Professors Now! Programme. 

Lisa-Dionne, from the School of Mechanical Engineering, became the UK's 41st Black woman to be awarded a professorship after what she describes as a "once in a lifetime opportunity".  

The 100 Black Women Professors Now! programme launched in 2021, when only 35 of 22,000 professors in the UK were Black women. Professor Morris, a proud Yorkshirewoman of the African diaspora, recently took on the role of Professor of Public and Industry Understanding of Capability Driven Design, bringing the total to 41.  

She said: “I started to understand the lived situation and experience of a female of the African diaspora in a UK higher education institution. I wasn’t the only one facing barriers in my career progression to the professorial level. I knew I had to make time for this opportunity.”  

Run by the Women’s Higher Education Network (WHEN), the initiative supported Professor Morris to appreciate and communicate the value of her experience.  

Professor Morris said: “The old vision of the academic has its merits, but there is a new, different, exciting classification of the academic joining us. They may come from a different pathway, but their experience, expertise and professionalism are just as valuable in a university setting.”  

She continued: “I see the University of Leeds as a family. What you need in a family like ours is to be aware of cultural sensitivities, notice how people are feeling and ask if they’re alright. Having a strong principle of duty of care is so important.”  

Reflecting on the experience, she said: “You look around and you know in your heart it was all worth it. That was the sense of wellbeing I had when I found out I was going to be a professor.” 

Read more about Professor Morris’s experience

Professor to lead new Centre for Climate and Health Security 

Professor Lea Berrang Ford

Professor Berrang Ford will lead efforts to protect health in the context of a changing climate 

Professor Lea Berrang Ford has taken a secondment at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), to lead their new Centre for Climate and Health Security. 

Professor Berrang Ford said: "This role is an exciting opportunity to build national capacity to respond to the health impacts of climate change. There are substantial opportunities to improve and protect health while transitioning to net-zero, and I look forward to leading this new centre.” 

Under the leadership of its new head, the centre will offer scientific advice and support to ensure that the impacts of climate change are considered and embedded in the design and delivery of climate change policies across local and national government and with international partners. 

Using UKHSA’s links locally, nationally and internationally, the centre will increase awareness of the impacts of climate change on public health, build the evidence base and then mobilise it to inform policy development. 

Professor Berrang Ford added: “With last summer's heat waves and more frequent and intense flooding, we are all seeing the emerging implications of climate impacts on health.  

“The UKHSA’s new Centre for Climate and Health Security is an important and exciting initiative that will bring together evidence and expertise to inform policy on how we can prepare for future extreme events, protect health, and build health resilience to climate change in the UK.” 

Read more about Professor Berrang Ford’s new role

Teaching style a recipe for success for award-winning chemistry colleagues 

Dr Nimesh Mistry and Dr Stephen Gorman in a chemistry laboratory

Dr Nimesh Mistry (left), principal teaching fellow, and Dr Stephen Gorman (right), senior teaching fellow for practical chemistry, are part of the award-winning team

Colleagues in the School of Chemistry have been awarded a Horizons in Education prize by the Royal Society of Chemistry for an approach to teaching that helps students “think more like scientists”. 

Their approach has now been referenced at academic conferences and is being emulated at other universities in the UK and US. 
Instead of focusing strictly on methods and recipes, students are supported to develop their own procedures and experiments, enabling them to think about how molecules and substances are created. 
Dr Mistry said: “It was really exciting to see the experiments and workshops working by getting students to 'think like scientists' and applying their knowledge of organic chemistry in the way a researcher would do.” 
Knowledge learnt in lectures is applied in the laboratory, with students able to shape the different factors that affect how substances such as paracetamol form. This marked a change to the traditional approach of students copying methods in a similar fashion to following a recipe in a cookbook. 

Dr Gorman said: “To begin with, it takes the students out of their comfort zone because they’re not used to working like this. 

“They’ve probably come from A-level where everything is a cookbook, expository approach. Here, we start off with elements of that approach but then as we move through the levels, we introduce our approach. 

“At the end of it, we are seeing better students able to work to a better level, a level we as scientists would want to see as they leave us.” 

Read more about the Royal Society of Chemistry prize

£100,000 prize for ambitious geography research

Professor Ed Manley's ambitious project focuses on urban planning

Professor Ed Manley’s ambitious project focuses on urban planning 

Professor Ed Manley, Interim Head of the School of Geography, has been awarded a £100,000 Philip Leverhulme Prize for research into how humans navigate urban spaces. 

Professor Manley will use the funding for an ambitious project that seeks to help put humans at the core of policy analysis when it comes to urban planning.   

The research project will produce models that replicate how people learn and navigate through urban space, better reflecting human perception.  

The models have the potential to improve spatial planning and policy analysis in areas such as accessibility and air pollution.   

Professor Manley said the research will have “international and far-reaching significance”.  

He added: "I am delighted to be a recipient of the 2022 Leverhulme Prize, and truly grateful to the Trust for putting their faith in me and the risky research agenda I propose.   

“I hope the research can be a catalyst for changing how we think about space and distance in quantitative social science.   

“I look forward to continuing this research at Leeds – a world leader in spatial and urban data science – and I thank everyone in supporting me to reach this point.” 

Philip Leverhulme Prizes are awarded to researchers whose work has had international impact and whose future research career is ‘exceptionally promising’.   

This year’s 30 winners were chosen from more than 300 nominations, with five prizes on offer in archaeology, chemistry, economics, engineering, geography, and languages and literatures. 

Read more about Professor Manley’s Philip Leverhulme Prize

Double award for Digital Transformation project 

The Minerva upgrade project was recognised at the Association for Learning Technology Awards

The Minerva upgrade project was recognised at the Association for Learning Technology Awards 

A cross-University project team has won two prestigious awards as part of their work to upgrade the University’s virtual learning environment (VLE), Minerva.  

The Minerva Upgrade Project won the Award for Digital Transformation at the Association for Learning Technology Awards 2022, in addition to the Anthology Catalyst Award 2022 for ‘Leading Change’ awarded earlier this year. 

Judges praised the team’s efforts to deliver the most significant change to online teaching at Leeds since the Blackboard VLE was adopted in 2008, and the delivery of substantial improvements to service reliability, accessibility, functionality and security during this major internal transformation project.  

Dr Steven Montagu-Cairns, Academic Lead for the Minerva Migration Project said: “The successful implementation of the Minerva upgrade is a big step forward for the University in its ambition to be a leader in the field of digital education. I’m really pleased with the success of this project and how it demonstrates the University’s commitment to its Digital Transformation Strategy.” 

The Award for Digital Transformation was presented in partnership with Jisc (Joint Information Systems Committee).  

Heidi Fraser-Krauss, CEO of Jisc said: “The University of Leeds is a great example of how digital transformation can open a new world of resources and routes into learning. Jisc is proud to be helping the University realise its vision for improving learning, teaching and assessment through technology. Integrating digital transformation into the university’s core strategy provides a solid base for building and maintaining that momentum for the future”. 

Minerva Ultra Staff Guides are available at the Digital Education Systems Help website to help you make the most of the platform.    

High note for Professor of Music 

Professor Edward Venn pictured in the Brotherton Library.

Professor Edward Venn is celebrating acclaim for his book, and a new residence at Opera North 

Edward Venn, Professor of Music, has received an award from the Society for Music Theory, for a "superbly crafted book" on the music of one of the UK’s leading composers of the 21st Century. 

‘Thomas Adès Studies’, co-edited by Professor Venn and Professor Philip Stoecker of Hofstra University in New York, was awarded the Society’s Outstanding Multi-Author Collection prize at a ceremony in New Orleans. The book contains chapters by 13 authors in the UK and North America, analysing the work of the living British composer. 

The Society for Music Theory said the work would become "a major landmark" for studying Adès and would also “stimulate new analytical approaches to the music of other contemporary figures.” 

Professor Venn said: “During the pandemic we arranged for a series of online workshops for the contributing authors, through which we developed a genuine sense of shared purpose and a way of stimulating innovative and exciting cross-currents between chapters.” 

In addition to the award, Professor Venn has also recently been appointed as the academic in residence at Opera North. During his year at the company, he will bring together diverse voices from all areas of performing arts and academia for events and discussions on race, ethics and representation in Opera. 

A reimagining of Orpheus which mixes classical Indian and Western baroque music is the first performance he is getting involved with. Professor Venn added: “By working with academics from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and a range of practitioners – from Opera North and beyond – we are unpacking critical questions concerning the presentation of race in opera, to understand better how existing – and problematic – works from the repertoire might be approached and what new work, and new voices, can bring to the genre.” 

Read more about Professor Venn’s award and his Opera North residence

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 and Engagement 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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