Senior research fellow Dr Ian Philips and his team recommended that governments incentivise electrically assisted bike use to improve mobility in low income and non-urban areas. Replacing 20 per cent of car miles with electronically assisted bike travel could reduce annual carbon emissions by 4 to 8 million tonnes.
The International Medieval Congress, held annually at Leeds, is the biggest academic event of its kind in Europe. Last year the organisers turned to modern technology to bring the medievalists together online.
Hosted over five days by the Institute of Medieval Studies, around 3,000 attendees took part in over 250 academic sessions, as well as fringe events, including networking sessions, book launches, calligraphy demonstrations, manuscript workshops and even a virtual disco. Delegates were delighted by the opportunity for the medievalist community to meet without leaving their homes.
Opened in January 2020, the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre provides a base for exploring how new technologies could impact the future of work. Particularly relevant after the sudden global shift to remote working, the Centre brings together researchers and policymakers to examine the evolving nature of work. By exploring the impact of technology on employers, employees, jobseekers and governments, the researchers will help inform global policies and identify future essential skills.
An international research team has discovered a new pygmy seahorse species in Sodwana Bay in South Africa, the first of its kind found in African waters. At around 2.7cm, the seahorse is not much bigger than a thumbnail and its closest known relatives live over 8,000km away in Southeast Asia. Research fellow Dr Maarten De Brauwer said: “Being a part of the team that discovered this amazing creature
is definitely a career highlight.”
Boris Johnson’s positive Covid-19 test turned thoughts to times when previous British prime ministers fell ill. Kevin Theakston, Professor of British Government, explored how leaders such as Anthony Eden and Margaret Thatcher led the nation while unwell.
Kevin explained in Time magazine that Winston Churchill suffered a stroke in 1953, a fact kept secret from the nation: “His aides sent out memos in the name of the Prime Minister, when perhaps Churchill hadn’t even seen the text. They knew his thinking pretty well.”
Susan Bernal Lopez, Professor in Structural Materials, received the Rosenhain Medal from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining for her research into new cements and concretes. Concrete is one of the world’s most widely used materials and contributes to around 8 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Susan and her team aim to develop sustainable alternatives produced from wastes or by-products from industrial, mining and agricultural processes.
More than 2,000 new protostars have been identified in our galaxy thanks to PhD researcher Miguel Vioque and his team. They used artificial intelligence to sift through vast quantities of data collected by the Gaia space telescope on its mission to map the Milky Way, identifying 2,226 new, large, forming stars. Previously, only 100 examples of this type of star had been catalogued. Analysis of the new stars revealed in Miguel’s research will help inform understanding of massive star formation and the galaxy’s origins.
Research to better understand when and why plants stop flowering could have major implications for crop yields and food production.
Led by Leeds academic fellow Dr Tom Bennett, collaborative research with the University of Nottingham examined auxin production in fertilised fruits to identify the role it plays in blocking the growth of new flowers. This understanding could provide insight into better commercial management of plant flowering, which will help to improve crop yields.
A new study, widely reported in the press, shows how spreading volcanic rock dust boosts a soil’s ability to draw carbon from the air. Adding crushed basalt to farmland could remove more CO2 than the total global emissions from aviation and shipping.
“In many agricultural regions, crushed rock is routinely used to improve soil pH,” said Steve Banwart, Professor of Integrated Soil, Agriculture and Water Research. “Adapting this to use basalt dust could capture vast amounts of CO2.”
Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have raised the global sea level by 1.8cm since the 1990s – and are matching worst-case climate-warming scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
According to a study led by research fellow Dr Tom Slater in collaboration with colleagues in Denmark, if these rates continue, the melting ice sheets are expected to raise sea levels by a further 17cm by the end of the century, exposing millions more people to annual coastal flooding.
“Although we anticipated the ice sheets would lose increasing amounts of ice in response to the warming of the oceans and atmosphere, the rate at which they are melting has accelerated faster than we could have imagined,” said Tom.
“The melting is overtaking the climate models we use to guide us, and we are in danger of being unprepared for the risks posed by sea level rise.”
Comments Off on Helping students to meet their challenges
Run jointly by our Counselling and Wellbeing and Sport and Physical Activity services, our Lifestyle and Wellbeing Programme offers a range of interventions for students facing issues such as anxiety, low self-esteem and lack of confidence.
Through concentrating on physical wellbeing, self-care, nutrition, exercise and sleep, the programme is proven to enhance mood, reduce isolation and, for many students, improve academic performance.
Support from the Footsteps Fund enabled 81 students to feel the benefit of this innovative programme during the past year.
Each year, the Footsteps Fund supports Leeds societies to enhance their activities and improve their service to students. Among last year’s grants was a gift to the Caving Society to enable more adventurous students to take part in expeditions underground, such as at the spectacular Gaping Gill in the Yorkshire Dales.
The cost of equipment has long been a barrier to new members joining the society. The purchase of safety harnesses, ropes, helmets and oversuits has helped make these experiences accessible to students from all backgrounds.
Renowned antique dealer John Victor Bedford bequeathed his collection of rare books, manuscripts and objects to the University. Now a financial gift from his Trustees is enabling us to make the most of this remarkable archive. The John Evan Bedford Library of Furniture History is a unique collection covering all aspects of the English home – interiors, furnishings, drapery, lighting, plasterwork, architecture and gardens – from the 17th century onwards.
A gift from the John Victor Bedford Will Trust is enabling us to remodel and expand the Special Collections area of the Brotherton Library, creating flexible new areas for teaching and research, and allowing more items from our collections to be placed on display.
To learn more about the impact of legacies at the University of Leeds click here.
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Almost a decade after graduating, Myles Harman is back at university studying for a Masters degree in classics with the support of a Footsteps Fund scholarship.
It fulfils a long-held ambition: “Although I never stopped being interested in history and classics, I thought that the financial barriers and tuition fees would preclude me from going any further,” said Myles, who hopes to progress to a PhD. “For years I gave up on the idea of academia, but now I am getting to do what I love.”
Launched last spring, our 2020 Student Support Fund is helping students who were hit financially by the Covid-19 pandemic. From those who were left desperately short of funds when their term-time employment ended to others who were stranded abroad, hundreds of students have benefited from grants to address the crisis in their lives.
This was possible thanks to the incredible generosity of almost 500 alumni and other supporters, whose gifts helped us to reach our target of £150,000 in a matter of weeks.
For more about the Student Support Fund click here.
Over the past ten years, your gifts have provided scholarships for more than 1,400 students to study for their undergraduate degrees at Leeds. This incredible generosity is changing lives for students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in Britain.
A poem written by Cultural Fellow Zaffar Kunial on his first day in the University has been published in the cricketing almanack Wisden. Recalling the deeds of legends such as Grace, Bradman and Richards, Oval Time is one of several of Zaffar’s works that celebrate his passion for the game.
Cultural Fellowships, funded by our donors, enable talented artists from a range of disciplines to develop their craft at Leeds. During his Fellowship, Zaffar has also created a series of poems about the Brontë sisters, works about the Yorkshire countryside and a poem inspired by self-isolation.
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Over the past year, more than 1,200 alumni have volunteered their time to support the University’s mission.
Alumni volunteers represent Leeds at recruitment fairs around the world, playing an important role in inspiring prospective students to come to Leeds. For the past three years, Andrew Kasanga (MSc Environmental Engineering and Project Management 2016) has volunteered at the British Council Study UK Fair in Ghana: “I know from my own time in Leeds that the University has superb opportunities for its students,” said Andrew. “I am delighted to share my experiences with potential students.”
Individual mentoring helps students develop attributes that will be critical to their future career. Our Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme helps build students’ leadership, networking and communication skills. Through one-to-one meetings – held online during the Covid-19 pandemic – mentors help students to recognise their strengths and address their weaknesses as they prepare for their working lives.
Established professionals are also helping recent graduates by sharing contacts and creating personal development opportunities, such as Insight Days, which give small groups of students the opportunity to visit an alum’s workplace to gain first-hand experience of what working there would be like. In addition, workshops enable recent graduates to meet alumni from their chosen field of employment and develop their network with others in the sector.
For more about our volunteering programmes click here.
There’s an enormous change on Woodhouse Lane now that construction of the 15,700 square metre Sir William Henry Bragg Building nears completion. It will house exceptional research labs and other specialised facilities for the School of Computing and the School of Physics and Astronomy. With direct links to the Chemistry and Engineering buildings, the building will form part of our new integrated campus of engineering and physical sciences. The building’s name is a fitting tribute to the 1915 Nobel prize-winning Leeds professor, Sir William Henry Bragg. To this day, his fundamental work in X-ray crystallography has sweeping applications – from drug development to astronomy.
Read a previous Leeds magazine feature about William Bragg here.
Leeds will become home to a new National Poetry Centre backed by Leeds City Council, the University, and poet laureate and Leeds Professor of Poetry Simon Armitage. The centre, planned to be ready for 2023, will raise the international profile of UK poets and provide a headquarters for collaboration and performance in poetry.
Our commitment to becoming a globally leading digital university is reflected in the new role of a Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Digital Transformation, which Prof Neil Morris is holding on an interim basis.
With a brief covering student education, research and the operations of the University, Neil is leading on work to harness the potential of digital technology to enhance research, learning and educational experiences – and to improve ways of working through digitisation and automation.
For students, this means traditional face-to-face and library learning is increasingly enhanced, although not replaced, by an array of digital resources and online learning. Digital technology offers the advantage of enabling students to interact with learners globally through online learning platforms. It opens opportunities for lifelong and professional education from Leeds for students throughout the world.
We will harness new and emerging technologies for research and education, allowing more people around the globe to access remote study at Leeds – and by doing so, reduce inequality and ensure our education has a still greater impact on society worldwide.
Six members of the University community were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. OBEs went to Prof Sheena Radford for research in molecular biology, Prof Cath Noakes (Mathematical Engineering 1996; PhD Mechanical Engineering 2001) for services to the Covid-19 response and Prof Jason Lowe for services to climate science.
MBEs went to Leeds alumni Olivia Strong (Politics and Sociology 2015), the founder of the Run for Heroes campaign, and Francis Rainsford (Textile Management 1974), the British Honorary Consul in Peru.
Former University Pro-Chancellor Dame Linda Pollard (Honorary LLD 2013), Chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, was made a Dame for services to healthcare and the community.
As a result of a Leeds magazine story, a major new teaching building on Lyddon Terrace will be named after Esther Simpson (French and German 1924; Dip Education 1925; Hon LLD 1989). Esther worked tirelessly to save intellectuals fleeing persecution during the Second World War and in the following decades. The Esther Simpson Building, situated near Leeds University Business School and School of Law buildings, is part of a multimillion-pound development of facilities for these disciplines. It will include trading rooms, technology-rich flexible teaching areas and behavioural laboratories.
Read a previous Leeds magazine feature about Esther Simpson here.
Out of uncertainty, stress and demotivation emerged a painting by a young Leeds artist that won The Arts Society’s national Isolation Artwork Competition.
Fine art student Abigail McGourlay’s self-portrait, Brewing, sees her drinking a cup of tea in the bath: two things she found comforting during the first national lockdown.
The pandemic changed not only the ways the University teaches students like Abigail, but also our approach to the safety and wellbeing of more than 32,000 students and postgraduate researchers. Academic personal tutors and other staff have stayed in touch with students, both digitally and in person. Information points across campus have offered students in-person help with general issues, while online professional counselling and wellbeing appointments have been available for greater needs. Careers fairs also moved online.
University accommodation staff have proven critical at this time of loneliness. Self-isolating students have received emergency food and cleaning supplies – and even bedding for arriving international students – while a contactless laundry service has been available to all.
For spiritual needs, faith leaders have held online services and drop-ins, as well as providing some in-person support. Private prayer locations have remained open.
The University has also launched a Student Ideas Fund, which encourages students to be collaborators in improving the student experience and learning at Leeds.
Meanwhile, LUU has provided practical and financial support. Its support groups, clubs and societies have helped students cope and connect. Fruity nightclub went online to remind students that, even when meeting face to face is more difficult, there are stills ways to have fun and socialise.
The University art collection has acquired a work by internationally acclaimed conceptual artist Sutapa Biswas (Fine Art 1985), the University’s first South Asian fine art student. Sutapa worked with images projected onto her own naked body to create the work, called Synapse 1. The resulting hand-printed photographs explore her experiences as an Indian artist in a postcolonial world.
Jonta Saragih (MA Global Development and Gender 2017) is gradually changing the narrative of LGBTIQ people in Indonesia. As Program Manager for Rights, Inclusion and Diversity at a human rights organisation, Jonta raises awareness of LGBTIQ issues with religious leaders and politicians. He has opened discussion about diversity with more than 500 religious leaders and 1,000 theological students. Jonta has been interviewed by a range of media outlets and has sensitised many Indonesian journalists to challenges faced by people in this community. His work also involves creating safe spaces for dialogue on gender and sexuality and strengthening the resilience of LGBTIQ people in Indonesia.
Growing up between Leeds and Zimbabwe, playwright and poet Zodwa Nyoni (MA Writing for Performance and Publication 2013) felt like an outsider in both cultures.
Now, Zodwa explores themes of identity, home and migration in her writing. Critics praised Zodwa’s monologue Nine Lives, recently performed at London’s Bridge Theatre, for bringing compassion and humour to a story about a man trying to build a new life in Leeds after escaping homophobia in Zimbabwe.
Zodwa came to Leeds as a child when her father, Dr Abraham Nyoni (Textiles Science and Engineering 1995; PhD Design 2004), studied at the University. She has been Writer in Residence at the Leeds Playhouse and has written plays for the Young Vic, BBC Radio 3 and Hull City of Culture. She also dedicates time to helping new writers find their voice in the arts.
Zodwa is currently commissioned by the Royal Exchange Theatre and Kiln Theatre and is developing films with BBC Films and the BFI.
For 15 years, he has influenced global politicians and spoken out about the wellbeing of people worldwide. This summer, Angel Gurría (MA Development Economics 1974; Hon LLD 2010) will step down as Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD brings governments together to address the world’s biggest problems and supplies them with economic expertise, data and analysis. While leading the OECD, Angel has supported a growing need for internationally comparable data on tax evasion, climate change and artificial intelligence.
2020 was a busy year for Amanda Blanc (MBA 1999). In July, she became Group CEO at Aviva, the international savings, retirement and insurance company. She also advised on trade negotiations as a member of the UK’s Financial Services Trade Advisory Group and led a government commissioned review into flood insurance in Doncaster following the flooding of November 2019. Through all this work, she’s maintained her ongoing role as Independent Chair of the Welsh Professional Rugby Board.
Virgin radio presenter Rich Williams (Politics 2004) welled up that night in Leeds last July. He’d just watched his team reach the Premier League after waiting 16 long years. Rich, a presenter for Leeds United TV and former pitch announcer for the club, has subsequently spoken about Leeds United in the international press. He has hosted sports matches in stadiums across Europe for tournaments including the Rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup and the Champions League.
Early January brought the voice of Sian Eleri (Broadcast Journalism 2017) across UK airwaves when she took over the Chillest Show on BBC Radio 1. Sian previously presented on BBC Radio Cymru after honing her skills at Leeds Student Radio, where her soothing music selection was similar to what she now plays in her new Sunday night slot.
Like many couples who met at Leeds, Dominic and Nikki Holland (both Textile Management 1988) married and raised a family. Dominic became an award winning comedian and author while Nikki became a successful photographer. As Dominic describes in his book Eclipsed, their achievements suddenly paled when their eldest son, actor Tom Holland, became Spider-Man. Together the family runs a charity called The Brothers Trust. Dominic’s latest book, Takes on Life, was published in December.
The International Society for Rock Mechanics gave Dr Junlong Shang (PhD Earth and Environment 2016) the prestigious 2020 Rocha Medal for his PhD research, which has implications in the mining and nuclear waste industries. The society rewarded Junlong’s work looking at how, over millions of years, tiny fractures can develop into fully open fractures as rock weathers. He determined the tensile strength of the fractures at stages in the process. Junlong’s study will support geotechnical investigations for slope stability. He is now Lecturer in Engineering Geology and Geotechnics at the University of Glasgow.
To those in the know, Olivia von Halle’s (Textile and Fashion Management 2007) take on luxury loungewear has made her the doyenne of decadent dressing. Her directional approach to down-dressing translates into luxurious silks, rich screen-printing and glamour. Olivia puts sustainable development at the heart of her business strategy and aims to positively impact both people and planet. Her brand is sold in such stores as Harrods, Browns Fashion and net-a-porter.com. Bella Hadid, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and Oprah Winfrey are among Olivia von Halle clientele. “I was a nightmare student and changed degrees every year until a kind Spanish professor pointed me towards the fashion department,” said Olivia. “I have a lot to thank him for!”
Caroline Abel (Economic Studies 1999) won an ‘Oscar of the African banking community’ for her work as Governor of the Central Bank of Seychelles. The African Banker Awards named her central bank governor of the year. Since 2012 Caroline has guided the Seychellois economy, which has tourism as 30 per cent of its gross domestic product. The committee praised Caroline for developing transparency and guidance to markets, supporting digitisation and collaborating across ministries to provide stability for her country’s economy.
He’s flown British fighter jets, looked for dinosaurs using Nasa technology, ascended various peaks across five continents and earned a world record by circumnavigating the globe in a London taxi. This year, Matt Prior (Aviation Technology with Pilot Studies 2006) is enjoying being a new father, advising tech startups, flying commercially and running expedition companies AdventureX and 101 Meridian. Matt lives in Hong Kong and is a former Director of the Hong Kong chapter of the Explorers Club.
Ray Pope (Popular and World Musics 2007) is Head of Creative Talent Acquisition at Universal Music UK and its subsidiaries.
As a member of the Creative Differences project for the creative industries, Ray explored the experiences of people with specific facets of neurodiversity such as autistic spectrum disorder, dyslexia and Tourette syndrome. They produced a guide that gives first-person insight into ways to increase recruitment and career development for people who think differently. Ray sits on the UK Music Diversity Taskforce, which works with the music business, government and other stakeholders to boost inclusion and diversity across the industry. She is a classically trained musician and lover of soul music, R&B and gospel.