Celebrate Our Staff – July 2023

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

Niamh Forde, Emily Halsall and Tom Pickering, Kersten Hall, David Sebag Montefiore, Jill Dickinson, Piers Forster, Dennis McGonagle with representatives of the Nachman Prize

Featured this month:

New collection shines light on pracademics

Dr Jill Dickinson

Dr Jill Dickinson is the co-editor of a new collection that aims to develop understanding around career transitions between professional practice and academia.

Professional Development for Practitioners in Academia: Pracademia’ explores practitioners’ partial or full moves into academia to teach and research their field.

Dr Dickinson, a pracademic herself who formerly worked as a solicitor, wanted to create a resource she felt she could have benefitted from when making the switch to university life.

She said: “When I made the career transition from practice into academia, I quickly found I had assembled quite a ‘to do’ list, including studying for a teaching qualification, completing a doctorate, publishing research and gaining professional recognition, alongside teaching and administrative responsibilities.

“I hope this collection provides thought-provoking insights for others who are either considering a similar career move, or who have already made the transition and are working out where’s best to start!”

The collection contains insights from a range of fields, including business, engineering, healthcare and law.

It mixes approaches – with chapters theoretically-, empirically- and reflection-based – to enrich the understanding of the contributions pracademics can make to Higher Education, as well as setting out some of the challenges they may face along the way.

Dr Dickinson and her co-editor, former colleague Teri-Lisa Griffiths of Sheffield Hallam University, co-published research with Andrew Fowler – also of Sheffield Hallam – in 2020 on the link between academia and professional practice.

They also co-founded the Pracademia Network in collaboration with Advance HE Connect.

Teri-Lee Griffiths, a former youth worker who’s now a senior lecturer in Criminology, was recently featured along with the collection in a Washington Post article on pracademics.

Dr Dickinson’s next project, with Teesside University’s Professor Sam Elkington, seeks to support the development of new thinking to inform future decision-making policy and practice around campus design.

International prize for arthritis researcher

Professor Dennis McGonagle

Professor Dennis McGonagle (left) with Nachmann Prize Board's chair and the Lord Mayor of Wiesbaden

Professor Dennis McGonagle is the winner of a major international medical award.

Professor McGonagle, from the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine (LIRMM), won the Carol Nachman Prize for his pioneering research into the understanding and classification of inflammatory arthritis.

The award is one of the highest medical accolades in Germany promoting clinical, therapeutic and experimental research work in the field of rheumatology.

The board that awards the prize is made up of renowned experts in rheumatology and representatives of the city of Wiesbaden, where Professor McGonagle received his honour from the city’s Lord Mayor.

Professor McGonagle said: “It’s great the clinical differences between different types of joint inflammation – first proposed by John Moll and Verna Wright at Leeds 50 years ago and developed by our team of rheumatologists, radiologists and immunologists – has been recognised with this most prestigious rheumatology award. Thanks on behalf of the whole team for this recognition.”

His team combined microanatomy – with the late Professor Mike Benjamin of Cardiff University – with imaging, immunology and histology (examining muscle and tissue using microscopes) to define major types of joint inflammation.

Inflammation can be divided into either rheumatoid-like (where the joint cavity is the primary site of the immune attack) or non-rheumatoid-like (when ligaments and tendon attachments are the main site of attack with overspill into the joint).

This knowledge culminated in the modern classification of immune diseases beyond rheumatology.

Specifically, he showed how immune-related arthritis localises to ligament and tendon insertions, which are the sites of high stress and microscopic damage, and how that damage may turn the immune response on itself. This has formed the basis for modern scanning used to better diagnose these conditions. 

Professor McGonagle has worked at LIRMM for more than 25 years, and his team has also studied the link between the immune system and joint regeneration or repair. 

FD team win marketing prize

Emily Halsall and Tom Pickering at the CUBO Awards

Emily Halsall and Tom Pickering

The Facilities Directorate Marketing, Sales and Communications team celebrating after winning the Best Marketing Campaign Award at the 2023 CUBO awards.

The team were awarded their prize at the CUBO conference on 6 July for their campaign to attract new members to The Edge. As the national body for campus and commercial services professionals in Higher and Further Education, the CUBO awards are recognised throughout the sector.

Finding that membership at the University’s gym and health club had declined following the pandemic, the team undertook extensive research to find out why and on how to encourage people back.

Led by Tom Pickering, Sales and Marketing Manager, and Emily Halsall, Marketing Officer, the team created detailed personas to understand what the diverse student membership population were looking for and their preferences for communication.

A key takeaway was that they wanted to hear more about the experiences of their peers and less from the University, and this formed the basis of their marketing campaign.

Feedback has been very positive for both the campaign and the services on offer, and there are now almost as many people using The Edge as there were pre-pandemic.

Ann Allen, Director of Campus Innovation and Development, said: “These are tough times for many people, including our students, and we work hard to offer great value for money in all of our commercial services, including The Edge, which had a major upgrade just a few months ago.

“Working closely with students, the Sport and Physical Activity team consistently reviews membership packages to make sure they are meeting their needs.

“The marketing team’s imaginative and strategic approach to sales includes a full and sympathetic understanding of this external context. I send them my very warm congratulations for this well-deserved achievement.”

Medal for pregnancy professor

Professor Niamh Short standing between Professor Pete Hansen and Professor Norah Spears

Professor Niamh Forde (centre) with Professor Pete Hansen of the University of Florida (left) and Professor Norah Spears of the University of Edinburgh (right)

Professor Niamh Forde has been announced as the inaugural recipient of the RV Short Medal and lecture in recognition of her work in the field of reproductive science.

A world leader in her specialist area of uterine biology, Professor Forde’s research has helped define the molecular choreography of early pregnancy.

The global medal is awarded by the UK’s Society for Reproduction and Fertility, Australasia’s Society for Reproductive Biology, and the North American Society for the Study of Reproduction.

Professor Forde, from the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine, said: “I feel really honoured and humbled to receive this award – but it’s in recognition of the fantastic work of my group here at Leeds, and my colleagues and collaborators far and wide.

“I hope to use this as a platform to promote how important work into reproduction and fertility is and how this affects life course health for humans and food production species, as well as conservation of species.

“Moving forward, an important research area for my group will be understanding how climate change will affect these.”

She will be presented with the Medal and deliver the lecture later in the year.

Professor Forde was part of a team made up of researchers from the University of Leeds and the University of Nottingham that this month received £2 million in funding from the Wellcome Trust to investigate the effects of exposure to elevated temperatures during early pregnancy on a child’s health.

It’s already known that heat stress increases the risk of pregnancy loss but researchers will now investigate the impact it can have on the long-term health of the child once they are born.

Professor Forster becomes chair of climate committee

Professor Piers Forster

Professor Piers Forster has been appointed as interim Chair of the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC).

Professor Forster, from the School of Earth and Environment and Director of the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures, was appointed to the role in June by the UK Government and the Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The CCC is an independent statutory body tasked with advising the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets. The committee reports to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for, and adapting to, the impacts of climate change.

Professor Forster said: “The Climate Change Committee’s evidence base advice has been instrumental in the UK setting the world’s first Net Zero target in legislation. As I take over, the cross-party support for climate action is under threat and the UK has lost its clear leadership position.

“It’s more important than ever to articulate the practical and cost-effective steps necessary to transition to net zero and evidence how it benefits people across our society.”

Professor Forster has served on the committee since December 2018. He takes over from Lord Deben – former Environment Secretary John Gummer – who had served in the role for 10 years.

Paying tribute to his predecessor, Professor Forster added: “I’m very proud to take on this role and follow Lord Deben, who has been such an inspirational leader and friend. He taught us so much about the role of evidence and how best to use it to affect change.”

Professor Forster will stay in post until a permanent replacement is appointed.

The Priestley Centre has recently transitioned to become one of the University’s four Futures Institutes – expanding its remit to span research, innovation, collaboration on postgraduate education and knowledge exchange.   

Leeds celebrates 75 years of the NHS

Dr Kersten Hall and Professor David Sebag Montefiore

Dr Kersten Hall and Professor David Sebag Montefiore

Leeds colleagues honoured the 75th anniversary of the NHS on 5 July by describing what the much-loved institution meant to them.

It was also a moment to look back on the impact the University community has had on the NHS and healthcare in the UK. 

Leeds scientists played an important role in the development of radiotherapy treatment for cancer. The treatment has its roots in x-ray crystallography, which was discovered by former Leeds academic and Nobel Prize winner William Bragg and his son Lawrence.

Professor David Sebag Montefiore, Academic Clinical Oncologist at Leeds and an honorary Clinical Oncologist at Leeds Cancer Centre, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, has been treating cancer patients in the NHS for 40 years.

He said: “The NHS has been a very special part of my life. For me, it’s all about people. Looking after patients, and their families, and working as teams, with dedicated, outstanding staff, to make a difference for patients. It has also been fantastic to see the progress we’ve made through our research that’s transformed the lives of patients in Leeds, Yorkshire and beyond.” 

Today, colleagues are also leading trials that suggest radiotherapy can be just as effective at treating some types of cancer as surgery, which takes longer to recover from and can cause life-long side effects.

Also marking the occasion was science historian Dr Kersten Hall, Visiting Fellow in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, who also completed his PhD in molecular biology at Leeds in 1993.

Dr Hall, who has Type 1 diabetes, said: “What does the NHS mean to me? Two things. The sensor patch that I wear in my arm to measure my blood glucose, and the insulin pen I have to inject myself with about four times a day. Without the patch, life is difficult to manage. Without the pen, I’d be dead. That’s what the NHS means to me.” 

Watch our video celebrating 75 years of the NHS and read more about how Leeds marked the anniversary.

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 internalcomms@leeds.ac.uk 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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