Catch-up with the latest news and insights on education in the UK.


London-Liverpool alliance awarded £1.9 million to accelerate solutions to combat infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance
Jul 2021

The RVC and its partners in The Bloomsbury SET programme will bring together academic and commercial sectors to respond to One Health challenges

The Bloomsbury SET – a knowledge exchange programme led by The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) – has been awarded further funding from Research England, totalling £1.9 million. Beginning in July 2021, the year-long project will help commercialise research into infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance.

Building on the current work of The Bloomsbury SET, this new programme, entitled ‘The Bloomsbury SET: A London-Liverpool alliance to accelerate solutions to infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance’, retains three of the four original collaborating institutions.

Joining the RVC, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and SOAS University of London, is a new partner, the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON), led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The programme also works closely with the London International Development Centre (LIDC), a consortium of seven Colleges of the University of London shaping the future of international development.

iiCON brings together public and private partners in a £170 million programme born out of the Liverpool City Region. The consortium builds on the North West’s UK-leading capability in infectious diseases R&D. It has been established to fast-track the discovery and development of new antimicrobial products and treatments to reduce the global burden of disease caused by infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

With infectious diseases and AMR now a high priority for global public health, there is an urgent need for both academic and commercial sectors to work together more effectively to prepare and respond to existing and emerging challenges

In response to these critical threats, The Bloomsbury SET’s new Impact Connector programme will work with businesses to deliver products including vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics that will benefit both animals and humans. Aiming to transform the support for commercialisation of research across the partner institutions, it will build a collaborative culture across geographically-dispersed sites, creating the potential for strong synergies to arise from linking the key investments by Research England.

Impact Connector will target colleagues across the consortium who are at an early stage in their commercialisation journey, aiming to develop a pipeline of skilled innovators and support the most competitive ideas to progress to higher Technology Readiness Levels. Throughout the 12-month period, the programme of activities will accelerate partnerships, skills training and product development, including:

  • A programme with bespoke workshops, peer-to-peer learning, and business mentoring to support product development.
  • A skills programme for academics and other university staff to develop their understanding of the concepts required to commercialise academic research and work with strategic partners.
  • A series of events and activities to support connections between academics and appropriate commercial partners.

As part of this process, The Bloomsbury SET will provide small grants to nurture new collaborations and knowledge ecosystems, support the best technologies to move closer to market, and thus help safeguard global health.

Professor Richard Bomphrey, Interim Vice-Principal for Research at the RVC, said:

"There has never been a better time to bring together an outstanding interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial consortium to take on the globally important and pressing issues of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance. The Bloomsbury SET Impact Connector programme will support innovators as they take promising therapeutics from the laboratory to communities worldwide."

Professor Janet Hemingway CBE, Director of iiCON, said:

“Joint innovation and collaboration is critical if we’re to revitalise and innovate the anti-infectives pipeline and combat the growing global threat of AMR. iiCON is delighted to be joining the Bloomsbury SET’s Liverpool London Alliance and we look forward to working in partnership to support industry and expedite the discovery and development of innovative new treatments and products to reduce the global burden of infectious diseases.”

Dr Hannah Whiteman, Head of Strategic Research at LSHTM, said:

“The Bloomsbury SET Impact Connector programme represents an excellent opportunity to build further links with our regional KE partners at RVC and SOAS, and strengthen our national network through a new partnership with the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON). The programme will empower our innovators across career stages with training, funding, and opportunities to forge new external industrial networks and advance their technologies closer to delivering societal and economic impact.”

Dr Ying Chen, Head of Research & Knowledge Exchange at SOAS said:

“SOAS has been a Bloomsbury SET partner since 2018 and we have seen some fruitful interdisciplinary collaborations. This additional year's award will allow us to harvest the connections we have already established and generate more opportunities for collaboration. We look forward to collaborating with the RVC, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON)."

New report reveals the harsh reality of life for the UK’s migrant communities
Jul 2021

A new report produced by Queen Mary University of London and the Racial Justice Network has revealed that a toxic combination of government policy, Brexit and the pandemic have had a devastating impact on migrant communities particularly accessing life saving medical treatment, mental health services and food.

The report, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, contradicts much of the current media coverage of immigration in the UK. It comes at a time when MPs have voted to support a new immigration bill that makes arriving in the UK without permission a criminal offence.

The report shows that migrant communities are grappling with, and still enduring systemic racism, the hostile environment, border controls, poverty, fear and suspicion of authorities and were left to their own devices during recent lockdowns.

Mental health crisis 

The pandemic has brought to the surface existing social, economic and health inequalities. The findings also show that migrants’ mental health has been severely impacted during the pandemic, with many feeling triggered and desperate, as they are unable to work or study while their claim is being processed. It has been reported that up to a dozen asylum seekers have taken their own lives in the UK over recent months, and as the report highlights, GPs have also been denying vaccines to undocumented people.

According to the report, actions taken by authorities do not address the inequality and inequity brought on by hostile environment policies, the new Immigration Plan, the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, the Domestic Abuse Bill in conjunction with Brexit.

Based on interviews with refugees and asylum seekers, the report provides vivid accounts of the lives of people from marginalised communities. It also documents how easy it is to fall through the cracks of the system and become deportable.

Scare tactics 

Many respondents revealed the practical difficulties of living on the periphery of society, with many local shops not accepting the Aspen card, a card used to buy essentials, meaning that many were unable to buy necessities. Others said that they were so poor that they could not afford PPE or sanitary products.

The report also showed that the words ‘Home Office’ were used as a ‘way of scaring people into not asking questions’ in outsourced accommodation and there is prevalent racism which has prevented many from being able to access medical help when they were ill with Covid-19.

The report makes a number of recommendations including giving immigrants and those with precarious status in England voting rights like in Scotland and Wales. The authors argue that this will ensure that migrant communities are represented when it comes to policy development. The report also recommends that people working for government authorities and institutions should be given training so that they understand the barriers faced by marginalised communities. It is argued that at present, racism and xenophobia is embedded in the current system.

Listening to experiences 

Penny Wangari-Jones, Director at the Racial Justice Network said: “This report comes from listening and acting upon community concerns. It highlights resilience, resourcefulness of marginalised communities but also the manufactured structural barriers and inequality that made the situation much worse during the pandemic. The authorities, decision and policy makers as well as the general public should take heed.”

Tesfalem Yemane, Eritrean community and doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds said: “The effects of colonial legacies will continue to exist and thrive under the hostile environment policies and we need resist those by coming together and then showing our solidarity to our fellow migrants.”

Laura Loyola-Hernández, University of Leeds, trustee at the Racial Justice Network added: “The Covid-19 pandemic surfaced and shone a light to health, socio-economic and other inequalities on a regional, national and global scale. It is clear that with or without local or national support from authorities, migrant communities stuck between a rock and a hard place, have come together to build a sense of solidarity and mutual support before, during and after the pandemic.”  

Prepping for Uni’ Course co-designed by students launched by Ulster University’s School Outreach Academy
Jul 2021

Professor Malachy Ó Néill, Provost of Ulster University Magee and Trans-jurisdictional Education Officer James Wray present St Cecilia’s pupils with Ulster University Hoodies as a ‘thank you’ for co-designing the course. Included in photo Staff from left to right Eimear McLaughlin, Martine Mulherne Principal of St Cecilia’s, James Wray Trans- jurisdictional Educational Officer, Orla Morris , Jeannie McLaughlin, Malachy Ó Néill, Provost of Ulster University’s Magee campus Bernadette Ó Mianáin Head of Sixth Form, & Shanna McCallion

St Cecilia’s College, in conjunction with Ulster University’s School Outreach Academy have helped to co-design a new innovative ‘Prepping for Uni’ Course. St Cecilia’s pupils took part in a focus group sharing their insights on how best to support Year 13 & 14 pupils across to Higher Education, harnessing expectations, motivations, readiness and vision of what University Life may be like for new students.

The course gives students practical information and tips on the application process, as well preparing students for the independence that comes with university life. The course will widen access, in supporting the education decisions of those who are less likely to progress or apply to university. The project was part of wider collaboration and engagement by Ulster University with all schools in the Foyle Learning Community and Donegal.

Malachy Ó Néill Provost of the Magee Campus said:

“This is just another example of how we are committed to working with the principals of the schools in the Foyle Learning Community, providing opportunities for the young people of the city region and supporting teachers. I hope that the course helps the young people of the entire region with their transition to university life. Anyone thinking of going to university should consider their options at Ulster University. Magee campus is a great place to learn, with consistently sector-leading returns in terms of student satisfaction. There are a wide variety of courses available to choose from with new options this year, including Paramedic Science. This will be further boosted by new course options in Health Sciences and related professions from 2022. Local students can be assured of a world-class education in state-of-the-art facilities that continue to develop at Magee.”

Lorraine Lavery-Bowen, School Partnerships Manager – Widening Access at Ulster University said:

“The course is aimed to support students who are anxious about qualification outcomes and the processes for gaining university entry. We could never have expected the changes that we are now living with. The increase in eLearning since the outbreak of COVID-19 and move to remote learning has mirrored the need within schools for support to be provided in a digital format. The recent launch of the Ulster University Schools Outreach Academy will allow us to offer a full online approach to school engagement and service delivery. We were delighted to work with Year 13 pupils from St Cecilia’s, who were able to give us real and honest insights on their expectations around university selections. With so many decisions to be made by our Year 13 & 14's we hope this resource will support informed decision making.”

Martine Mulhern Principal of St Cecilia’s College said:

“Our 6th year girls were really delighted to have the opportunity to meet with staff from Ulster University. They discussed ways in which schools and the University could work in partnership to make the transition from school to university much smoother. They are hopeful that the students following behind them will benefit from this partnership.”

‘Virtual’ ceremonies celebrate the Class of 2021
Jul 2021

A host of virtual ceremonies are taking place today and tomorrow (22nd and 23rd of July) to mark the successes of the University of Bedfordshire’s students.

Family and friends will cheer on remotely as those who have completed their degrees pull on their glad rags, raise a toast and congratulate each other on their respective achievements. Each ceremony will give deserved recognition and celebration to students across the University’s four faculties.

On Thursday, graduands will become graduates for the Faculty of Creative Arts, Technology and Science, the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Education and Sport. On Friday, ceremonies are held for the Business School and further Education and Sport students.

As in 2020, the University has put safety first in the face of Covid-19 and the Class of 21 are graduating virtually, with hopes to hold in-person events when large-scale events are safer for those attending.

For everybody graduating Professor Rebecca Bunting, Vice Chancellor, has a special message:

“Looking back to your first days at the University I’m sure you will recognise how much you have changed since then, not just in terms of your knowledge and skills but personally too. You have grown and developed, and now you are ready for the next steps. Be ambitious and bold, achieve remarkable things in your lives, make a difference in all you do.

“My very best wishes to you all for a happy and fulfilling life. Many congratulations and welcome to the community of graduates of the University of Bedfordshire.”

Seven students graduating this week shared their thoughts on joining this community; from the obstacles provided by the pandemic to the sky-high aspirations that come with being on the cusp of graduation, it has been an incredible journey for everybody.

As well as reading out graduating students’ names and awarding 27 faculty prizes across the two days of celebrations, the ceremonies are to be filled with well-wishes from the University’s community including Heads of Departments, members of Bedfordshire’s Board of Governors and local VIPs.

One such figure is Helen Nellis, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, who shared this message: “You are all extraordinary people, having shown your resilience and commitment to facing forward during the most challenging time that we have faced as a world in our lifetime.

“Though undoubtedly it has been the hardest of times, you have proved that you can battle against adversity and come though stronger, with a deeper understanding of yourself and of your fellow human beings.

“My sincere congratulations to you all. Make each day count and make a difference!”

Honorary degree recipients such as the musicians James Bay, Tom Grennan and The Shires have also sent video messages congratulating students, while Radio 1 DJ and Media Performance and Radio alumnus Melvin Odoom shared the following heartfelt advice.

University of Aberdeen spinout success
Jul 2021

The University of Aberdeen has been ranked 10th in the UK for life sciences spinouts by business analyst organisation Beauhurst.

Beauhurst ranked all UK universities according to the number of successful spinouts and the University of Aberdeen came in at joint 10th place with 11 successful active spinouts in life sciences.    

In the analysis, over 1,500 spinouts from academic institutions in the UK were identified and verified, almost a third of which were found to be operating within the life sciences sector. Of these, 62 have gone on to providing an exit to their shareholders, and 77 have folded, leaving 286 active, private, and ambitious life sciences spinouts.  

Beauhurst credit the University of Aberdeen with being known for producing spinout companies across a variety of sectors, ‘representing the diverse range of research it supports’. The independent data analysts also acknowledge the Impact and Knowledge Exchange Team within Research and Innovation, highlighting the help it provides inventors to assess the exploitation routes for University IP, either by licensing, collaborative developments with industry, or spinout company formation. The team offers support at each stage of the spinout process.  

Elizabeth Rattray, Director of Research and Innovation at the University said: “We are delighted to be ranked 10th place in Beauhurst’s table. The University has an excellent reputation for producing and nurturing innovative spinouts and this is a credit to the Research and Innovation team who support these businesses to branch out into industry.   

“This success provides an excellent foundation to build on, with the aim of increasing the number of spin-outs and starts ups to support our region’s economy.  The new BioHub, currently under construction at the Foresterhill Campus through Opportunity North East, NHS Grampian and the Aberdeen Region City Deal is further support for growing the Life science sector within our region.”  

Two of the most successful life sciences companies within the University’s portfolio named by Beauhurst include TauRx Pharmaceuticals and NovaBiotics.  TauRx Pharmaceuticals is a leading pharma company in the field of research in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically, Alzheimer’s. As part of its clinical research, it is currently running a phase three clinical trial to confirm its drug’s role in slowing down the disease. NovaBiotics is a leading clinical-stage biotechnology company, focused on designing and developing treatments for medically unmet diseases in the inflammation, infection, and respiratory space. This year, it was named as one of Scotland’s top ten biotech companies to watch out for in Labiotech. 

Bradford eye experts collaborate with gaming giant
Jul 2021

The School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University are collaborating with MSI, looking at the digital eye strain of gamers using two different MSI monitors.

The study involves asking participants to play a video game on the different screens on different days with vision checks taking place before and after they play. These checks include an assessment of vision, low contrast clarity, the ability to focus at near tasks, a scan of the back and front of the eye and an assessment of the quality and quantity of tears.

“I think it’s important that we investigate screen use, and new technologies such as curved screens” says Dr Ghorbani Mojarrad, Lecturer in Optometry and lead on the study. “What will be interesting is whether people’s preference will correlate with the effects on eye health, and whether the shape of a screen can reduce the impact of prolonged screen time.”

The results from the study will be released in September 2021, with Dr Ghorbani Mojarrad hoping they inspire further research in this area. “After the covid-19 pandemic we know screen use has increased by 61% with more people gaming and working from home and screen use in the future only likely to increase. The ability to use technology to try and avoid or reduce symptoms of any eye problems would be amazing.”

New research shows cryptographic vulnerabilities on popular messaging platform, Telegram
Jul 2021

Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London are part of a team who have completed a substantial security analysis of the encryption protocol used by the popular messaging platform, Telegram, with over half a billion monthly active users.

Cryptography is the science protecting information from eavesdropping or tampering. We use it every day when we browse the web, make a bank transaction or chat on WhatsApp or Telegram. Cryptographers secure computer and information technology systems by creating and studying, for example, algorithms for encryption or for digital signatures.

As a result of their work, the researchers found several cryptographic weaknesses in the protocol that ranged from technically trivial and easy to exploit, to more advanced.

The team included Chair of Information Security and Director of the Cryptography Group, Professor Martin Albrecht and PhD researcher, Lenka Mareková, from the Information Security Group (ISG) at Royal Holloway, along with Professor Kenneth G. Paterson and Dr Igors Stepanovs, from the Applied Cryptography Group at ETH Zurich.

Talking about the findings, Professor Martin Albrecht, said: “The results from our analysis show that for most users, the immediate risk is low, but these vulnerabilities highlight that prior to our work, Telegram fell short of the cryptographic guarantees given by other deployed cryptographic protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS).”

TLS is a cryptographic protocol designed to provide communications security over a computer network and is widely used in applications such as web browsing, instant messaging and email.

He added: “Our work was motivated by other research we have recently done in the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway, which examined the use of technology by participants in large-scale protests such as those seen in 2019/2020 in Hong Kong. Our findings were that protesters critically relied on Telegram to coordinate their activities, but that Telegram had not received a security check from cryptographers.”

Telegram uses its bespoke ‘MTProto’ protocol to secure communication between its users and its servers as a replacement for the industry standard TLS protocol.

By default, Telegram only offers a basic level of protection by encrypting traffic between clients and servers. In contrast, end-to-end encryption, which would protect communication also from the prying eyes of Telegram employees or anyone who breaks into Telegram's servers, is only optional and not available for group chats. Since prior research indicated that many users in higher risk environments rely on these group chats, the research team focussed their efforts on the use of MTProto to secure communication between Telegram clients and servers.

For more information on the vulnerabilities that were discovered

However, the results also show that Telegram’s MTProto can provide security comparable to TLS after the changes suggested by the research team were adopted and if special care is taken when implementing the protocol. The Telegram developers have told the research team that they have adopted these changes.

This good news comes with significant caveats:

  1. Cryptographic protocols like MTProto are built from cryptographic building blocks such as hash functions, block ciphers and public-key encryption. In a formal security analysis, the security of the protocol is reduced to the security of its building blocks. This is no different to arguing that a car is road safe if its tires, brakes and indicator lights are fully functional. In the case of Telegram, the security requirements on the building blocks are unusual and because of this, these requirements have not been studied in previous research. Other cryptographic protocols such as TLS do not have to rely on these special assumptions.
  2. The researchers only studied three official Telegram clients and no third-party clients. However, some of these third-party clients have substantial user bases. Here, the brittleness of the MTProto protocol is a cause for concern if the developers of these third-party clients are likely to make mistakes in implementing the protocol in a way that avoids, e.g. the timing leaks mentioned above. Alternative design choices for MTProto would have made the task significantly easier for the developers.

New research suggests infectious viruses and bacteria carry memories
Jul 2021

A new study has revealed that viruses and bacteria may carry memories of infections they’ve created in the past, and can use these memories to their advantage.

By exploring transmission patterns of infections, researchers found that pathogens that remember the sex of hosts they had infected can make their current host sicker. In doing so, they improve their own transmission.

This new research, resulting from an international collaboration among Royal Holloway, University of London (UK), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France) and The University of Western Ontario (Canada), indicates that complex patterns of infection virulence in measles, chickenpox and polio - which have previously defied medical explanation - may be clarified by considering the effect of natural selection acting on pathogens that can remember their past.

Led by Dr Francisco Úbeda, Reader in the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, the work applies its findings to understand the medical puzzle of why in many childhood diseases (in particular measles, chickenpox and polio) infections from the opposite sex were more likely to cause extreme reactions or death than infections from a member of the same sex. In principle, there is no reason why such patterns could not be observed in other infectious diseases.

Their research focused on the establishment of epigenetic memories, which are transient marks on genes themselves. While these marks do not alter the DNA, they alter the way in which DNA is expressed. Their research shows that epigenetic memories of the sex of the previous host are favoured when they give pathogens clues about the sex of the host they are currently infecting, or the sex of the host they will be infecting in the future.

This research, with the support of more empirical work, opens the possibility of using epigenetic therapies to make pathogens express their least aggressive behaviour by tampering with their memories. The work, published in Nature Communications, predicts the outcome of helping pathogens forget their past.

Dr Francisco Úbeda of Royal Holloway said: “It has been observed that boys in developing countries are less likely to survive measles when they acquire their infection from a girl. Similarly, girls are less likely to survive these infections when they acquire their infection from a boy.

“Given that humans form a key part of a microbe’s environment, it is possible that the chain of infection – from one person to another – establishes a memory that changes the expression of microbial DNA in a way that could ultimately make us sicker. Given that our sex can affect the way in which our immune system functions, it makes sense that sex is an environmental variable that microbes may wish to track.”

Hallam joins research network to explore how robots can support frail elderly
Jul 2021

Sheffield Hallam University has joined a new research network exploring how healthcare robots could support people living with frailty in the community

The EMERGENCE network aims to bring healthcare robotics out of the lab and into the real-world, exploring how they can support people to better manage the conditions that result from frailty themselves and, by providing information and data to healthcare practitioners, enable more timely interventions.

The project, which has received a £700,000 NetworkPlus grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, brings together researchers from Sheffield Hallam University’s department of computing and the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, University of the West of England Bristol, The University of Sheffield, Heriot Watt University and the University of Hertfordshire.

Each university will collaborate with their regional Academic Health Science Networks, care commissioning groups, Integrated Care Systems, hospital trusts, as well as residential and community care providers and local authority councils.

In addition to their healthcare partners, the network also has on board robotic companies such as Consequential, Cyberselves, and PAL Robotics and Skills for Care UK, the strategic body for workforce development in adult social care in England, who will advise on understanding future skills development requirements.

Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly, from the University of West England Bristol, who is leading the network said: “Healthcare robots are increasingly recognised as solutions in helping people improve independent living, by having the ability to offer physical assistance as well as supporting complex self-management and healthcare tasks when integrated with patient data.

“The network’s goal will be to galvanise patient-focused healthcare robotics research and knowledge exchange, ensuring increased uptake by facilitating health and social care, industrial and academic experts to come together in solving real-world challenges of supporting people with frailty, knowledge which can be extended to other patient groups.

Alessandro Di Nuovo, professor of machine intelligence at Sheffield Hallam University, who is leading the co-creation of robotics solutions said: “We will nurture co-designed research to help lead to novel technologies capable of transforming how frailty is managed in the community. Up to 10 funded feasibility pilot studies will drive co-designed, high quality research that will lead to technologies capable of transforming community health and care.

The pandemic’s mental toll: new survey finds one in five suffer from Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome
Jul 2021

The study shows that many people still find it difficult to disengage from the Covid-19 threats which may make returning to daily life difficult as restrictions ease

Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome is still causing many people to struggle with reintegrating into daily life, even with most Covid-19 restrictions in England expected to lift from July 19, according to new research led by LSBU.

The new UK-wide survey of 975 people, conducted in late June, found:

  • 40% strongly reported avoiding touching things in public spaces because of a fear of the virus;
  • 30% strongly reported avoiding public transport because of a fear of contracting the virus;
  • 23% strongly reported avoiding going out to public places because of a fear of the virus;
  • 25% strongly reported paying close attention to others displaying possible symptoms of the virus;
  • One in five people scored highly on Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome scale.

Loss of a family member due to Covid-19 was predictive of higher levels of Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome. Age, gender, and vaccination status were not found to be predictors.

Professor Marcantonio Spada from LSBU’s Centre for Addictive Behaviours and Professor Ana Nikčević from Kingston University first identified the concept of Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome in April 2020. Their research found that people were developing a particular set of behaviours as a result of their fear of the virus, and they conducted the current study in collaboration with Professor Ian Albery from LSBU’s Centre for Addictive Behaviours Research.

Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome consists of forms of coping such as a constant attention to threat, worry, avoidance and excessive checking, that can keep people locked into a state of continuous anxiety and fear of contracting the virus.

Professor Marcantonio Spada, Professor of Addictive Behaviours and Mental Health at LSBU, said, “Our data indicates that after one month of re-opening of society many people are still struggling with aspects of Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome, a similar figure to what we previously observed during full lockdown. This means that there are still many people who find it difficult to disengage from the Covid-19 threats which may make return to normal daily living harder as restrictions ease.

“Our new findings show how vital it is that people affected by ‘Covid-19 Anxiety Syndrome’ receive support. Mapping out how we will do this will become a priority for mental health service providers.”

Prestigious award to fund research into human health and disease
Jul 2021

Researcher, Dr Christopher Stewart, has received the prestigious Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowship to help further his important work into human health and disease.

Dr Stewart, who is a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellow in the Translational and Clinical Research Institute at Newcastle University, will receive £1,136,115 to support his research for five years into microbiome and host responses in human health and disease.

Stem cell development

With the Lister Prize fund, he will engineer and test new models systems that incorporate stem cell derived “mini guts” from across the life course, with a particular focus on those from babies born prematurely. Understanding more about the interaction between diet, microbe, and host will be critical for developing new and effective therapies for preterm infants.

Dr Stewart said: “I am incredibly grateful and could not be happier to have been awarded the 2021 Lister Institute Research Prize.

“At this stage of my career to receive such a prestigious award in recognition of my research means so much to me. It is ultimately a reflection of all the many individuals who have supported and encouraged me over the years.

“I am excited to interact the other Lister Institute Research Prize Fellows past and present, which will provide an invaluable network for me as I continue to build my research group.

“I am also delighted the funds will provide support to employ technical assistance in my lab and greatly help to drive forward novel and exciting elements of work, allowing me to build upon my researched focused on reducing disease in preterm infants.”

Lister Institute Research Prize Fellowship

The Fellowships are one-off awards which help to support and nurture future leaders in biomedical research. These awards are for those in the early stages of their career.

Dr Stewart was part of a rigorous application process which placed him in competition with many young career researchers from across the country. Up to seven prizes are given each year following a written application process and subsequent interview with members of the Lister Institute’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

Professor John Iredale, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee, who leads the task of deciding who wins the Lister Institute Research Prize, said: “Despite all of the challenges that the current pandemic has made to our young researchers, we had a large number of extremely high-quality applications.”

Jul 2021

A PhD student from Swansea University Medical School has won the Swansea University Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Kristen Hawkins, studying a PhD in Neuroscience, fought off competition from across the University with her presentation "Brain Wars" on her research into combatting Multiple sclerosis.

Established by the University of Queensland in 2008, 3MT is an international competition held at over 200 universities worldwide.

Open to PhD students, the competition challenges participants to present their research in just three minutes and in the form of a single static PowerPoint slide that can be understood by an audience, who, although intelligent, have no background in the research area.

Swansea University is one of around 70 UK-based institutions that now form part of this global network, encouraging postgraduate research students to promote their research and enthusiasm for their chosen topic to reach non-specialist audiences.

3MT is designed to showcase, to various audiences, the excellent quality and diversity of research undertaken by postgraduate research students at Swansea University and its relevancy and impact upon the world.

Speaking about her success in the competition so far, Kristen said: "The 3MT experience has been great. Three minutes isn't very long, which makes you really think about which aspects of your work are most relevant and appealing to a wider audience."

Professor Gert Aarts Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor, Postgraduate Research, said: "This year's entrants were particularly impressive and more than overcame the challenge of presenting virtually.

"In a tough field, Kristen's passionate and engaging presentation on her research shone through, and I'm delighted she'll be representing Swansea on the national stage."

Kristen will now progress to the 3MT UK quarter-finals and will be in with the chance of presenting in the 3MT UK online Final in September, hosted by Vitae, the global leader in researcher development.