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The John D Matthews Postgraduate Award

A prize awarded annually to a postgraduate student in CCBS.

The Award

The John D Matthews Postgraduate Award for Medical Research is awarded annually to a postgraduate student in the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences. It is offered because of the generosity of Dr Kester Kong, an alumnus of the University's Medical School.


The Scholarship, which is a cash award of £750, is awarded to the MSc Research or PhD student  who has demonstrated the greatest academic excellence in Neurology during the previous academic year. There will be a new recipient each year.

The funds should be spent within a year to enhance the recipient's career, research or training. Suitable examples are conference travel, collaborative visits and educational courses. The awardee will be asked to provide a short summary and breakdown of how the funds have been spent.

The Primary Supervisor of all eligible students will be contacted by the CCBS Postgraduate Administrator to invite them to submit short nominations for the prize. We will not be able to accept nominations from those not invited to apply.

Selection criteria

Academic excellence will be judged on the basis of factors including, but not limited to:

  • the student having published his or her findings in a respected peer-reviewed journal
  • the student having been awarded a prize or other competitive award
  • the student having made a significant research discovery that is not yet ready to publish

The awardee will be selected by the Director of CCBS, Professor Colin Smith, during the Autumn of each year, and the prize will be awarded at the annual CCBS Away Day early the following year.

About John D Matthews

The late John Duncan Matthews graduated MBChB from the University of Edinburgh in 1945. He was a consultant physician at the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh from 1956 until 1986, and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. In the latter role, he was a mentor and inspiration to countless Edinburgh medical trainees, including the donor of the Award, Dr Kester Kong MBChB (Hons) 1986.

Previous recipients


2022-2023: Dr Charis Wong

Dr Charis Wong

Charis is a neurology registrar and clinical trial fellow interested in motor neuron disease (MND) and other neurodegenerative diseases. MND is an incurable, progressive, and fatal disease affecting up to 1 in 300 people during their lifetime. The MND-SMART trial (https://mnd-smart.org/) provides an efficient clinical trial platform to test a pipeline of drugs. In her project supervised by Professor Malcolm Macleod, Professor Siddharthan Chandran, and Professor Neil Carragher, Charis aims to develop systems using different types of data to inform and optimise how drugs are selected for MND-SMART. 

I am delighted to be awarded the John D Matthews Postgraduate Award. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from research teams spanning across disciplines that have made this project possible. These include the CAMARADES group, various teams within MND-SMART, the Edinburgh Neuroscience Drug Discovery group, Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neuron Disease Research and the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic . I plan to work on improving our current system by making it more efficient and comprehensive, and work on applying the system in other disease areas via colleagues in the ACORD group . I will use this award to work towards these goals. 

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2021-2022: Dr Maria Stavrou

Dr Maria Stavrou

Dr Maria Stavrou is a Rowling Scholar at the University of Edinburgh who subsequently secured a prestigious Medical Research Council Fellowship to undertake her PhD in laboratory research into motor neuron disease (MND) at the Chandran Lab, co-supervised by Professors Chandran and Hardingham. Maria graduated from University College London and completed her medical training in London and Cambridge. She is a neurology registrar and an aspiring clinician-scientist.

I’m honoured to have been nominated and awarded the John D Matthews Postgraduate Award.  During my PhD, I have been deeply privileged to receive excellent mentorship and to collaborate with talented scientists. 

In my PhD I use stem cell platforms and gene editing technologies to delve deeper into the role of specific cells called astrocytes in MND, which is a relentlessly progressive and invariably fatal neurodegenerative condition.  Astrocytes are named after their star-like shape and are important for the growth and survival of the nerve cells that are the building blocks of the brain.  These cells have been long neglected in the field, but over the last 15 years we’ve realised that they possess valuable secrets in the ongoing research for MND and other conditions such as MS and Alzheimer’s disease.  I hope that my studies will offer an important step in the translational pathway for a cure in MND. I will use the John D Matthews Award to support the next steps of my research training.



2020-2021: Dr Tom Moullaali and Dr Una Clancy (joint winners)

Dr Tom Moullaali

Tom is a neurology registrar and honorary clinical senior lecturer. His British Heart Foundation-funded PhD fellowship focussed on the association between blood pressure variability and the characteristics and outcomes of patients with stroke due to intracerebral haemorrhage.

I am delighted to share the John B Matthews Award 2021 with Una, with whom I’ve worked alongside for the past three years. I have been fortunate to collaborate with fantastic people from around the world to address uncertainties about blood pressure management after intracerebral haemorrhage. I am committed to improving the care of patients with intracerebral haemorrhage, and I will use my John D Matthews Award to support my next steps on this journey.


Dr Una Clancy

Una is a Chief Scientist Office clinical academic fellow in cerebral small vessel diseases (SVDs), co-ordinating the Mild Stroke Study 3 and recruiting to four other SVD studies in Prof Joanna Wardlaw’s SVD Research Group. Una is currently in the third year of her PhD, investigating neuropsychiatric symptom associations with small vessel disease.  

I am delighted to receive this award and honoured to share it with my colleague Tom. My work aims to advance early clinical detection of small vessel disease which is highly prevalent, under-recognised, and is a common cause of vascular dementia and stroke. I am looking forward to using the John D Matthews award to support this.



2019-2020: Dr Laura McWhirter

Laura McWhirter

Laura is a consultant psychiatrist and a clinical research fellow funded by Baillie Gifford. Her research aims to identify accurate diagnostic profiles for functional cognitive disorders, an important differential of prodromal dementia.

I am very pleased to receive the John D Matthews Award for 2020. My work aims to advance understanding of functional cognitive disorders, which are both common and under-recognised, and are an important differential diagnosis in the earliest stages of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. I plan to use the John D Matthews Award to support my research training with collaborative visits to other UK groups working in this area.


2018-2019: Dr Gashirai Mbizvo and Dr Gordon Blair (joint winners)

Dr Gashirai Mbizvo
Gashirai is a Clinical Research Fellow funded by Epilepsy Research UK and The Juliet Bergqvist Memorial Fund. His research project is a nationwide cohort and case-contral study using administrative healthcare date to identify and characterise epilepsy-related mortality.
Dr Gordon Blair

Gordon’s research uses advanced imaging techniques to study blood vessel dysfunction in patients with cerebral small vessel disease. This includes several clinical trials testing new treatments aiming to prevent small vessel disease associated strokes and dementia.  

Read more: Awards for PhD students at the CCBS Away Day 2019

2017-2018: Dr Ingrid Hoeritzauer

Ingrid Hoeritzauer

Ingrid is an ABN/Patrick Berthoud Charitable Trust Clinical Research Training Fellow.  Her research involves prospectively phenotyping patients presenting with the clinical symptoms of cauda equina syndrome.

Read more: Ingrid Hoeritzauer receives the John D Matthews award

2016–2017: Dr Yvonne Chun

Yvonne Chun

Yvonne is a CSO clinical academic fellow whose research focuses on therapies for anxiety disorder after stroke.

With the John D Matthews Award Yvonne was able to obtain further training in data science to enhance her research work on efficient clinical trial design. She also used the award to travel to Sweden to attend the Medical Informatics Europe Conference in 2018, where she was selected to present in front of an international audience, her PhD work on ‘Applying informatics to design an efficient clinical trial for stroke patients’. Yvonne learned about the latest applications of data science technologies, mobile health, and built links with international informatics experts.

I am grateful for the John D Matthews Award and will continue to advance my research in applying informatics in improving clinical trial design and stroke care.

Read more: Yvonne Chun receives the John D Matthews Award