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Research Strategy Office


2020 Vice Chancellor's Award winners and runners up

2020 Vice Chancellor's Awards for Research Impact and Engagement

"These awards celebrate research that best demonstrate social, cultural and economic impact through engagement. From advances in healthcare and industrial processes, to rapid responses to the global pandemic; from cultural activities that recognise diversity in our societies, to new knowledge that improves teaching and increases social mobility."

Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice Chancellor, University of Cambridge


Established Academic Award


Dr Duncan Astle

MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, School of Clinical Medicine 

Breaking barriers to learning in the classroom

Between 14-30% of children and adolescents worldwide experience cognitive and behavioural barriers to learning that vary widely in scope and impact (Department for Education, 2019; National Centre for Education Statistics, 2019). There is a growing appetite for robust evidence that can equip teachers in helping young people overcome these barriers. For the past 8 years, in partnership with children’s charities, local education authorities, academy chains, and local schools, I have undertaken an extensive engagement programme to provide front-line professionals with a robust evidence base to help them make impactful changes in young people’s learning.

Runners up

Dr Joseph Webster

Faculty of Divinity, School of Arts and Humanities

Sectarianism in Scotland and the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act

Sectarianism is frequently referred to as “Scotland’s shame”. More than this, sectarianism in Scotland is inextricably linked, in the media and in popular discourse, to the violent football hooliganism of ‘Old Firm’ grudge matches between ‘Catholic’ Celtic FC and ‘Protestant’ Rangers FC. But as Webster’s research, public policy, and media engagement demonstrates, the social reality of sectarianism remains badly misunderstood by politicians and citizens alike. Based on long-term ethnography conducted among republican and loyalist football fans in Glasgow, Webster’s research was pivotal in repealing Scotland’s Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, and in redirecting anti-sectarian government funding toward early-years education interventions.

Professor Peter Hutchinson and Professor David Menon

Clinical Neurosciences / Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine

Reshaping the treatment of traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) arising from transport accidents, assaults, falls and sport is the commonest cause of death under the age of 40 in high-income countries. Both the pattern of brain damage and the eventual outcome are highly variable between patients, making it extremely difficult to link particular characteristics of a TBI to optimum treatment and improved outcomes. Our research strategies, which include monitoring and advanced imaging of patients and clinical trials, have made a major contribution to the management and health outcomes of patients with TBI, and also resulted in changes in policy, clinical practice/training and public understanding.


Early Career Researcher Award


Dr Chioma Achi

Department of Veterinary Medicine, School of Biological Sciences

Strengthening participation of poultry farmers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance

My project is about leaving no one behind and engaging farmers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. The World Health Organisation estimates 10million deaths from Antimicrobial-Resistance (AMR) by year 2050. While interacting with farmers in Nigeria during my fieldwork, I gathered that awareness around resistance to antimicrobials and its impact on animal and human health was low; this was evident in number of resistant bacteria that I got from my lab analysis. Burdened by the fact that the world is running out of effective antibiotics and the knowledge that AMR is no respecter of geographical boundaries, I knew inaction was no option. This led me to organising a statewide engagement-program on AMR bringing together stakeholders in Nigeria.

Runners up

Emma Soneson

Department of Psychiatry, School of Clinical Medicine

Public health approaches to identifying and responding to mental health difficulties in children and young people

Emma Soneson is a PhD student whose research focuses on how we can better identify and respond to mental health difficulties in children and young people. Though early in her career, she has demonstrated a strong commitment to engagement and impact through partnering with key stakeholders to improve her research, widely communicating her findings to members of the public, and consulting on matters of policy and practice. The breadth of her activities is truly impressive, ranging from the creation of a school staff advisory group to blog posts and public presentations, to discussions with NHS practitioners and Home Office policymakers.

Dr Naures Atto

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies/Middle Eastern Studies, School of Arts and Humanities

Endangered Middle Eastern Cultures and their Vulnerability in Migration Contexts

Dr Naures Atto works with Assyrians and Yazidis in the Western diasporas and those remaining in the Middle East whose presence and cultures have been seriously endangered with the rise of ISIS and other extremist groups in the last decades. Dr Atto’s projects show how community and individual participation in research, its interpretation and its use can be highly impactful for the survival of these groups and their cultures, both in the Middle East and in the diaspora. Her work has impacted directly on how these groups view, discuss, and preserve their cultural identities, including their vernacular language, Surayt.

Dr Nicki Kindersley

Faculty of History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Militarised political economies in South Sudan

Working in partnership with South Sudanese universities, and via years of field interviews and engagement with local communities, I have built new understandings of migrant and military labour markets in the region, entwining academic publication, policy engagement and public education and debate. The project provides critical insight into fundamental shifts in military recruitment, thus informing humanitarian policy-making at a critical time in regional peace-building. The research has shifted diplomatic and development policy for the UK Government and other donors; expanded local research capacity; and created space within the South Sudanese political sphere for debate on labour rights and good governance.

Professional Services Award


Dr Rosalyn Wade

Museum of Zoology, School of Biological Sciences

Learning and Public Programme of the Museum of Zoology: blending contemporary zoological research with active and online learning experiences for public audiences

Roz Wade leads the learning and public programme of the Museum of Zoology, showcasing the Museum, and research and activities from the Department of Zoology and Cambridge Conservation Initiative through events, workshops, and collaborative projects. The lockdown and closure of the Museum necessitated a new way of working. Roz was the driving force behind the reimagined online public programme. She designed and released a new blog only 3 weeks after lockdown and developed an innovative online festival (Zoology Live!) to engage audiences with the Museum and the natural world, providing new platforms for researchers to engage audiences with their work.


Collaboration Award 


Dr Michael Weekes and Dr Steven Baker

Cambridge Institute for Medical Research / Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, School of Clinical Medicine

A comprehensive COVID-19 screening programme for Cambridge University Hospitals healthcare workers, Cambridge University staff and students

Mike Weekes and Stephen Baker collaborated to establish a comprehensive rapid turn-around COVID-19 testing platform. This setup was developed quickly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as insufficient national capacity existed to test Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) staff. Of >1,000 staff members screened at work during April 2020, 3% tested positive for COVID-19, triggering the immediate isolation of staff and screening of their contacts, limiting viral transmission around CUH. Baker/Weekes expanded their screening programme, preventing CUH becoming a ‘hub’ of COVID-19 transmission, making CUH a safe working environment and enabling testing of symptomatic staff and students from Cambridge University.

Runner up

Dr Victoria Avery, Dr Melissa Calaresu and Dr Miranda Stearn

Fitzwilliam Museum, Applied Arts, Faculty of History, Fitzwilliam Museum, Learning and Engagement

Non-School Institution, School of Humanities and Social Sciences 

Feast & Fast: The Art of Food in Europe, 1500–1800 Research Project 

Feast & Fast is the latest interdisciplinary, research-led, public-facing collaboration between Victoria Avery and Melissa Calaresu, together with various local community partners. The exhibition celebrates the production, preparation, and presentation of food, its consumption or rejection, its ideologies and identities. Feast & Fast considers extreme eating alongside everyday experiences, demonstrating how contemporary concerns about food are not a modern phenomenon. The compelling and complex, local and global, story of food in early modern Europe is told through over 300 exhibits, mostly from Cambridge University and College collections, newly researched, re-contextualised, and returned to the public domain.


Online and Remote Engagement Award


Dr Michael Ramage and the Happy Shield Team

Department of Architecture, School of Arts and Humanities

The HappyShield 

The HappyShield project has developed, tested, and disseminated novel open-source medical face shield designed in response to the severe personal protective equipment shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, focussing in particular on production in Low and Middle Income Countries. Responding to the diverse needs and manufacturing capabilities of LMIC contexts, and to enable rapid co-creation by a global team of specialists, the project has been digital, online, and open-source from inception. The HappyShield project is bringing together a growing community of DIY makers, established manufacturers, medical professionals, and academics to tackle an urgent global challenge through collaborative design. 

Runner up

Centre for Geopolitics

Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Centre for Geopolitics Coronavirus Response

COVID-19 prompted the Centre to reconnect with policymakers and a wider audience beyond the traditional confines of face-to-face events in Cambridge. In response, we launched a series of virtual panel discussions and a new ‘Conversations’ website. The aim of both was to deepen public understanding of the historical context of geopolitical challenges rising from the pandemic, to enable debate on future governance needs in specific issue areas, and to inform policy and decision-making at multiple levels of government. We engaged journalists, policymakers, research institutes, and an audience from over 100 countries and territories.  Our conversations were quoted by the UK Foreign Secretary in parliamentary debate and used in articles in major newspapers.