Celebrate Our Staff – February 2023

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

The headshots of the six people of Celebrate Our Staff in February 2023: Bethan Bide, Nick Warren, Faye Blinkhorne, Mike Howroyd, Karen Spilsbury and Ted Killan

Featured this month:

TV collaboration for audiology expert

headshot of Dr Ted Killan on a white background

Dr Ted Killan has contributed to a new children’s TV series about hearing the world around us. 

The Sound Collector tells the story of a hard-of-hearing human-like creature, who enjoys collecting sounds from the world around him.

Currently being broadcast on ITV channels, the programme is narrated by Keira Knightley and places a character with hearing aids at the centre of a story for young children.

As an audiologist, Dr Killan helped to create soundscapes that realistically reflect hearing loss and listening through hearing devices.

He was also able to help the show’s writers ensure their scripts were inclusive of hard-of-hearing and deafness cultures.

Dr Killan said: “They were seeking, and I was able to provide, expert advice on soundscapes as heard through hearing devices, as well as an understanding of how the stories would be perceived by deaf children and their families.

“This involved viewing edits of show episodes and providing feedback on the sound balance and language used in the scripts. It has been a great experience being able to observe the creative process that has resulted in such a beautiful production, that positively raises awareness of hearing and deafness.”

During the show, viewers hear the world from the perspective of The Sound Collector himself and the three levels of hearing he has through his hearing devices.

Those watching are encouraged to focus on the changes in sound, and it’s hoped the programme will positively raise awareness of hearing and deafness.

You can take a look at the trailer for The Sound Collector or watch the episodes on ITVX.

Major exhibition for design academic

Dr Bethan Bide standing in an old marble building at the University of Leeds

Dr Bethan Bide is collaborating on a major new exhibition at the Museum of London. 

‘Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners Shaped Global Style’ uncovers the major contribution of Jewish designers in making London an iconic fashion city.

Fashion historian Dr Bide, from the School of Design, is collaborating with the Museum of London’s Fashion Curator, Dr Lucie Whitmore, on the project. The exhibition launches in October and will run until April 2024. 

It’s the culmination of three years of research by Dr Bide and Dr Whitmore and is also the first major exhibition in two decades centred on the museum’s extensive Dress & Textile collection.

Dr Bide said: “People might know some of the big stories about some of the Jewish people who’ve influenced British fashion – people like Michael Marks of Marks and Spencer here in Leeds, Montague Burton of the menswear chain Burton’s.

“But actually, there were enormous numbers of Jewish people who revolutionised British fashion during the 20th century and their names have been forgotten – what we want to do is tell their stories.”

From East End tailors to the couture salons of the West End, the exhibition tells the overlooked story of Jewish designers, makers and retailers responsible for some of the most recognisable looks of the 20th century. 

Visitors will also be able to step into the world of a 1960s Carnaby Street shopping boutique and a traditional East End tailoring workshop, as well as see textiles, oral histories, objects and photographs.

Read more about Dr Bide’s collaboration and the Fashion City exhibition.

Medal for chemical engineering researcher

Dr Nick Warren headshot, Dr Warren is wearing a blue lab coat and is in front of a grey background

Dr Nick Warren has been awarded the 2022 Macro Group UK Young Researchers Medal for his work in polymer synthesis.

The prize is awarded annually to a UK-based scientist with up to 12 years of experience since completing their PhD, whose contributions to polymer science show outstanding promise for the future.

Dr Warren said: “I am really delighted with the award and believe it will help me contribute to the strategic direction of polymer science in the UK. 

“This will bring huge benefits to the University of Leeds, which is looking to establish a centre of excellence in the exploitation of digital technologies for chemical discovery and development.”

Polymer synthesis has been a long-standing interest for Dr Warren, whose current projects focus on using artificial intelligence to create more economical and less energy-intensive methods of manufacturing a new generation of sustainable polymers – chemical units made up of molecules that are essential to everyday life.

Dr Warren added: “Since my PhD, I’ve been fascinated by the huge array of materials that can be made simply by making small changes in the structure of polymer molecules. This has led me to exploring more and more avenues for designing polymers for specific applications. 

“Initially, this involved using advanced chemistries, but I recently noted that relatively few groups are exploiting digital technologies for accelerating research and development in polymer science.”

These new research opportunities include the potential development of new materials and the optimisation of existing, tiny nanomaterials for use in drug delivery and electronics.

Read more about Dr Warren’s award.

Senior role for healthcare professor

Professor Karen Spilsbury in front of a grey background

Professor Karen Spilsbury has been announced as a Senior Investigator for National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

Professor Spilsbury, from the School of Healthcare, has been appointed for her work as a nurse leading research that addresses questions that matter for the care of older people.

Currently the Academic Director for NICHE-Leeds, a partnership between care providers and the local authority with University scientists, Professor Spilsbury is one of 56 Senior Investigators appointed this year.

Senior Investigators are among the most prominent and prestigious researchers funded by the NIHR. They come from diverse professional backgrounds in social care, nursing and midwifery, and public health, and include allied health professionals, pharmacists, clinical scientists and methodologists.

Commenting on her appointment, Professor Spilsbury said: “Our work addresses vital areas of interest for those receiving health and social care, and those responsible for organising, commissioning, regulating and providing services. 

“We have done a lot to build a relevant evidence base for care homes but there’s still lots to do. This recognition by the NIHR is an opportunity to further develop and translate research for the benefit older people and to enhance the quality of care, life and work of those living and working in care homes.”

Senior Investigators are outstanding leaders of patient and people-based research within the NIHR research community. They also receive an award of £20,000 per year of appointment to fund activities that support their research.

Read more about the NIHR’s Senior Investigators and the 2023 appointments.

Research facility strikes gold

A man and a woman talking in a science lab

The PIXC Research Facility in the Faculty of Biological Sciences has achieved a significant milestone by being the first lab to earn the prestigious Gold LEAF accreditation. 

The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) was developed by University College London and is now the most widely used Green Labs Certification programme globally, with more than 1,600 labs registered worldwide. LEAF assesses sustainability and efficiency in various areas, such as energy use, waste management, equipment management, procurement and more.

The PIXC Facility, which previously held bronze and silver accreditation in 2021 and 2022 respectively, works primarily on protein expression and purification, protein folding, interactions and characterisation, as well as x-ray crystallography. 

As a core research facility, researchers from across the University use the lab, with most users coming from the Faculty of Biological Sciences (FBS) and the Faculty of Medicine and Health (FMH).

PIXC’s achievement with LEAF has the potential to showcase lab sustainability to other areas of the University, and it aligns with our Climate Plan. Support is available to anyone working in a lab at the University to achieve LEAF certification, including technical staff, lab management, PhDs and post-docs.

Faye Blinkhorne, a Research Technician in PIXC and Staff Sustainability Architect, said: “We’re over the moon to be the first lab in the University to achieve the Gold LEAF award. It feels great to be recognised for our sustainability efforts, and hopefully this is the first of many Golds across the University!”

To learn more about LEAF or ways to make your lab more sustainable, visit the Sustainable Labs Resource Hub.

Read more about the lab’s accreditation.

Hedgehog Friendly status for campus

A hedgehog house made out of wood

Leeds has been awarded the coveted Gold Hedgehog Friendly Campus status. 

The accolade is part of a nationwide campaign launched by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

The Gold Hedgehog Friendly Campus status is a recognition of the University’s outstanding efforts to make the campus environment more hospitable for hedgehogs and other wildlife. 

The University’s Sustainability Services team has collaborated with the Grounds & Gardens team, Residential Services, Student Sustainability Architects, volunteers and partners to provide a safe space for hedgehogs on campus.

As well as monitoring hedgehog populations, work has included installing hedgehog-friendly fencing, creating safe passages and habitats, reducing pesticide use, and raising awareness among students and staff about the importance of hedgehog conservation.

The achievement is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the team and the wider University community, and demonstrates our commitment to creating a sustainable and environmentally-friendly campus that supports biodiversity and wildlife conservation.

Mike Howroyd, Sustainability Projects Officer leading on biodiversity, said: “Achieving the gold standard of the Hedgehog Friendly Campus scheme is a great celebration of the collective knowledge of the teams involved in the project and is a small but vital step in supporting our wider biodiversity programmes across the University.”

“We’re particularly proud of our staff and students who’ve actively supported our efforts to create a hedgehog-friendly campus. By getting involved in events, volunteering and supporting conservation efforts, they’ve helped to make the campus a safer and more welcoming place for hedgehogs and other wildlife.”

Sustainability Services is encouraging all members of the University community to continue supporting its efforts to create a sustainable and hedgehog-friendly campus. If you’d like to get involved, visit the biodiversity webpage of the Sustainability website to see what activities are currently underway. 

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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