Forty of the University’s most promising early career researchers have been awarded prestigious fellowships to develop their innovative work including thirteen from the College of Science & Engineering.
The Chancellor's Fellowships are a prestigious 5-year tenure track programme. They are designed to support early career researchers and innovators to develop their careers in a supportive, world-leading environment. The posts are partially funded through the Scottish Funding Council.
The University was committed to ensuring the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion informed the appointment process. Some 80 per cent of the new Chancellor’s Fellows are female and 19 per cent are from ethnic minority groups with 62% and 8% respectively within the College cohort. The successful applicants by School, were as follows:
School of Biological Sciences
Dr Beatriz Orosa Puente
Dr Puente's research investigates plants immune responses and how they can be enhanced to protect crops against disease. Plant diseases are the largest threat to crops, reducing yields by up to 40% and hindering food security as the world’s growing population places ever increasing demands on limited land. Current approaches to improve disease resistance in crops are often not environmentally sustainable or fail to provide long-lasting immunity to a wide variety of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Improving the plant’s own natural defences could alleviate disease-related losses and is a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternative. Dr Puente will explore ubiquitin’s role in barley crops, investigating how it regulates immune responses by changing the activities of plant immune proteins.
I am extremely excited about this opportunity to develop my research in the vibrant environment of the University of Edinburgh. Post-translational modifications are an untapped resource that can contribute to enhancing plant resistance against diseases. Through this line of research, I will contribute to meet the University’s goals, producing long-lasting benefits to our society and our planet.
Dr Joanna Sadler
Dr Sadler’s research develops new biotechnologies to degrade and up-cycle plastic waste into industrially valuable small molecules for the chemical, pharmaceutical, fragrance and flavours industries. In little over 100 years plastic waste has become one world’s most urgent environmental issues. Every year, 8 million tonnes of these fossil fuel derived materials escapes into oceans, posing a serious threat to marine ecosystems. Recent scientific advances are enabling new methods to tackle the plastic crisis, by treating post-consumer plastic as a resource rather than a waste product. Combining several disciplines including organic chemistry, biocatalysis and synthetic biology could help to meet the wider goal of transitioning to a circular economy for a more sustainable future.
Dr Sadler’s research spans the development of efficient and biocompatible plastic degradation processes, to constructing and optimising new chemo-enzymatic systems for up-cycling plastic.
I am absolutely delighted and honoured to have been award a Chancellor’s Fellowship. The University of Edinburgh fosters a rich and productive research environment and will be a fantastic place to establish my independent research career. This is a wonderful opportunity and I’m excited to see where the science goes over the next few years. This is such a young and exciting field – I think there’s huge potential to make a real difference.
School of Chemistry
Dr Claire Hobday
I'm delighted to be awarded the Chancellor's Fellowship within the School of Chemistry. This award will allow me to build on preliminary research, from my Christina Miller Research Fellowship, on understanding phase changes in materials for solid-state refrigeration and develop my long-term vision of the field. I'm really happy to have the opportunity to continue working with my fantastic Edinburgh Chemistry colleagues and look forward to meeting the cohort of Chancellor's Fellows from around the university.
Dr Toni Mey
I am thrilled that through having been awarded the Chancellor’s Fellowship within the School of Chemistry, I will be able to continue my research combining biomolecular modelling and AI to tackle challenges around antimicrobial resistance. The fellowship will give me the opportunity to contribute to the excellent research environment and work alongside wonderful colleagues in the School and the wider university.
School of Engineering
Dr Lucia Bandiera
Dr Lucia Bandiera is designing innovative and highly optimised multi-drug combinations to target chronic diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Effective patient-tailored medical treatments such as these are increasingly in need, due to the rise of chronic diseases.
The complexity of chronic diseases means no human expert can hope to tackle therapy design ‘by intuition’. Using methods from control engineering, to computer science and biology I will devise technologies that —starting from patients’ data— enable automation of the design and efficacy testing of novel therapies. The University of Edinburgh is such a stimulating environment. The Chancellor’s Fellowship is a great opportunity for me to contribute to both research and teaching here, and have an impact on people’s health. I am deeply grateful to my colleagues and loved ones, their support was essential to this achievement.
Dr Colin Robert
Dr Colin Robert is working on an innovative new advanced manufacturing technique which can be used to produce cheaper, higher-performing parts for the renewable energy industry.
Dr Robert aims to automate a manufacturing tool known as a tapeline, to produce a highly specialist composite material combining carbon fibre with a powder-based plastic known as 'epoxy'. This powder-based epoxy is an exciting alternative to more commonplace liquid-based epoxies, as it can be produced more quickly, cheaply, and ultimately results in higher-performing mechanical parts.
The composite material produced by Dr Robert's manufacturing process can be used in 'automated fibre placement' machines, which in turn are used to manufacture tidal turbine blades, parts used in hydrogen storage, and other components for renewable energy applications.
I'm delighted to have been given the opportunity to pursue my career at Edinburgh, as the University priority goal to tackle climate change is very much aligned with my personal ethos and vision for the future.
School of GeoSciences
Dr Pip Thornton
Dr Pip Thornton’s academic background is in cybersecurity, geography and English literature, and she joins the School of GeoSciences from a postdoctoral position in Creative Informatics at the Edinburgh College of Art. Her fellowship brings together innovative artistic methods with critical analysis of digital systems and platforms, unravelling and challenging the politics and ethics of existence in digital spaces.
She is currently working on two Human Data Interaction funded projects which explore the privacy issues of digital platforms. Spoken Word Data uses creative and technical intervention to investigate how voice data is exploited in systems of digital capitalism such as Google and Amazon, while Zoom Obscura has commissioned artists to explore ways of increasing our agency over the data produced by video-calling.
Dr Thornton is also working on a COVID Beacon project on reclaiming value in the post-pandemic and collaborates with landscape architects from Slough Borough Council to create a digital art and climate awareness layer to their successful Urban Tree Challenge initiative.
In addition to the research projects, she is developing a module on Narratives of Digital Capitalism for the new Edinburgh Futures Institute masters course.
I am really delighted to have been awarded this fellowship which enables me to carry on both the theoretical and artistic strands of my research. I’ve had quite an eclectic and trans-disciplinary academic past, but have always felt at home in Geography, so am very much looking forward to settling into GeoSciences at Edinburgh and to future collaborations and collegiality.
Dr Andrew Schurer
Andrew arrived at the School of GweoSciences in 2010 following a PhD in astrophysics at Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy and has been researching the causes of past climate change ever since.
He has a background in disentangling the causes of past climate change using the outputs from complex climate model simulations (some of which he has run himself) combined with statistical techniques. He is currently working with new observational products to investigate surface air temperatures over the last 250 years.
Andrew plans to extend this work to better understand natural variability, which is needed to improve the reliability of future climate projections. In particular, he is keen to investigate where the current generations of climate models are inconsistent with observed variability, as this would have potentially dangerous consequences for our future predictions of climate change, which are relied on by a vast number of countries, businesses and people throughout the world.
I’ve really loved my time at Edinburgh the School is an amazing place to carry out research, and the interdisciplinary nature of it is really inspiring. So, I’m delighted to be awarded this fellowship as it will allow me to carry on with my research here, and I look forward to both continuing my existing collaborations as well as building new ones in the future.
School of Informatics
Dr Michele Ciampi
Michele Ciampi graduated in Computer Science at the University of Salerno, where he also completed his PhD in the field of cryptography in 2018. His thesis on two-party cryptographic protocols earned the "Best PhD Thesis in Theoretical Computer Science Award 2018", from the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (Italian Chapter). After that, he moved to Edinburgh, where he worked as Research Associate at the Blockchain Technology Lab.
Michele's main area of research is provable security. During his Chancellor’s Fellowship, Michele will work on designing cryptographic protocols allowing multiple entities to jointly evaluate functions or statistics over sensitive data while preserving the secrecy of the data.
This Chancellor’s Fellowship represents for me an exciting and at the same time challenging opportunity to become an independent researcher.
Dr Andrea Weisse
Andrea's work in computational biology has led to foundational models of how bacterial cells grow and respond to their environment. During the Fellowship she will bring these methods to the study of antimicrobial resistance, one of the greatest threats to global health. She will focus on models that link molecular processes, drug mechanisms and microbial growth, to develop a next-generation platform for producing new hypotheses on the inner working of microbes. Andrea's joint appointment at SBS and SoI will place her in a uniquely privileged position to leverage on the world-class expertise at both schools.
The Fellowship highlights the importance that our University gives to multidisciplinary research aimed at solving global challenges.
School of Mathematics
Dr Sjoerd Beentjes
Sjoerd is a pure mathematician who received his PhD in algebraic geometry at the University of Edinburgh. In recent years, he has become interested in applications of pure mathematics and mathematical statistics to causal questions in population biomedicine and public health policy more generally.
During his Chancellor's Fellowship he aims to develop and apply techniques in Targeted Learning, a subfield of mathematical statistics, to identify genetic variants that causally lead to trait or disease, as well as identify the molecular mechanisms mediating this relationship. Such causal genetic support is crucial for efficient drug discovery because it doubles the success rate of drugs in clinical development.
Extracting precise answers to causal biological questions from large population-scale data requires a cross-disciplinary approach. Sjoerd will collaborate closely with mathematical statisticians as well as geneticists from Edinburgh's MRC Human Genetics Unit to address these questions.
School of Physics & Astronomy
Dr Cyrielle Opitom
Cyrielle obtained her PhD in Astronomy at the Université de Liège in Belgium in 2016 and then moved to Chile as a fellow at the European Southern Observatory. She came to Edinburgh in 2019 for the last year of her ESO (European Southern Observatory) fellowship.
Cyrielle studies small bodies of the solar system, and in particular comets. Her research focuses on using the latest astronomical instrumentation, including mainly spectroscopic techniques, to investigate the composition of comets and understand what it can teach us about the history of the solar system.
Dr Carlo Bruno
Carlo graduated from the Università Statale di Milano in Italy, and came to the Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics for his PhD in Nuclear Astrophysics, which he obtained in 2017. His thesis, carried out at the underground Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (Italy), was awarded the European Physical Society prize. Carlo's research now focuses on measuring nuclear reactions of key importance to understand the origin of the elements from the Big Bang to supernovae using heavy ion storage rings at FAIR (Germany). He has played a leading role in creating CARME (CRYRING Array for Reaction Measurements), an extreme vacuum chamber for use in international nuclear and atomic physics experiments.
The University’s Institute for Academic Development will also support researchers who applied, but narrowly missed out as they compete for other fellowship opportunities from UK, EU and other sources.
This will inform a development programme, due to be launched in the spring, which will help more early career researchers achieve success.
A new library of training resources is also being launched to help all research staff develop their careers and further their research ambitions.