On 15 January, Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian White hosted the annual Vice-Chancellor’s Research Day, where 11 early career researchers from across the University had the opportunity to showcase their work with a ten minute presentation followed by five minutes of questioning.

The session, held on campus in the Council Chamber, was once again chaired by Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) Jonathan Knight and was attended by an audience of academic peers.

Professor Ian White, Vice-Chancellor said: “I was delighted to have this opportunity to meet more of our early career researchers and hear about their projects. They are such an important part of our community and it is so refreshing to see the genuine enthusiasm they have for their research and the energy that they bring to it. As we develop our strategy for 2021 and beyond, we should be inspired by the breadth and dynamism of research at our University.”

Professor Jonathan Knight, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) said “The extraordinary programme of research represented at this event from across the University promised a great afternoon of talks, and the speakers did not disappoint. The diversity of expertise and the range of topics being presented by this emerging generation of intellectual leaders provided entertainment for everyone present, food for thought, and confidence in the future development of our institution. What an encouraging way to start 2020!”

Microscale mechanics in engineering: big impact from small length scales

Dr Alexander Lunt is a materials engineer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who specialises in the field of microscale experimental mechanics. He works closely with industry to develop the advanced microscopy and diffraction-based techniques that are required to enhance structural performance in state-of-the-art engineering applications. Additive manufacture, composites and other advanced materials have revolutionised the performance of modern engineering structures. To optimise these approaches, an improved understanding of the mechanics of these materials at the micro-to-nanoscale, is required. In his presentation Alexander explains the cutting-edge methods and applications currently being investigated by his team. Download the research presentation

Building an in silico toxicity prediction tool

Dr Matthew Grayson, joined the University as a Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry in 2018, after working as a researcher at Cambridge and UCLA. His research focusses on finding rapid, ethical and cost-effective alternatives to animal testing, which has historically dominated chemical safety assessments. Matthew’s presentation highlights the computational models built by his research group to understand why toxic compounds are harmful. He goes on to explain how predictions can then be made about the safety of new chemicals, which helps to reduce the need for animal-based testing. Download the research presentation

Selective reporting in scientific publications: The role of rivalry in head-to-head clinical studies

Dr Rossella Salandra is a lecturer in the School of Management. Her research focuses on science policy, evaluation of scientific research, and working practices of academic scientists. At present, she is exploring the selective reporting of research findings in clinical research. In her presentation Rossella discusses her finding that the likelihood of selectively reporting drugs’ side effects is higher when the investigated drugs are rivals. By revealing conditions likely to trigger a “dark side” in publication, the research provides counterintuitive insights at the interplay between competition and science. Download the research presentation

Probing the early universe with gamma-ray bursts

Dr Patricia Schady is a lecturer at the Department of Physics in the Astrophysics group. Previously she worked at the Max Plank Institute (MPE) in Munich where she set up her own group. She has a PhD in Astrophysics from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL). Long gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are incredibly energetic events that can be seen out to the farthest reaches of the Universe. In this presentation Patricia focuses on how their undeniable link to massive stars makes them powerful probes of the interstellar properties and chemical composition of very distant galaxies. Download the research presentation

The code in between

Dr Emma Denham is a senior lecturer in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry. Her research focuses on understanding how bacteria see their world and the responses they implement to survive. In her presentation Emma discusses the responses bacteria have to changes in their environment. The correct response to that environment can often be a life or death decision. However, fine tuning of the response often provides a bacterial cell with a fitness advantage over its neighbour. So-called non-coding RNAs allow this fine tuning. Download the research presentation

The psychology of ineffective altruism

Dr Sam Johnson is a Marketing lecturer in the School of Management. Sam received his PhD in Psychology from Yale and worked as a post-doctoral researcher at UCL in Behavioral Economics. Sam studies how individuals’ thoughts and choices scale up to create emergent market outcomes. In this presentation Sam explains that charities receive billions annually, but rarely solve global problems. Why not? Partly because social incentives reward looking good, not doing good. Sam’s research demonstrates experimentally that donors face poor reputational incentives: We admire altruists because of their sacrifices, not their effectiveness, and we praise ineffective donations that signal emotional involvement. Download the research presentation

From hope to hate: the rise of the Bolsonaro phenomenon in Brazil

Dr Rosana Pinheiro Machado is an Assistant Professor of International Development in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences. She recently launched “Amanhã Vai Ser Maior” (Planeta, 2019), a best-selling book on Brazil’s conservatism and social movements. Rosana’s presentation discusses how the very citizens that exemplified Brazil's rise as a global democratic power came to support the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. She draws on a longitudinal ethnography (2009-2019) in the largest favela (slum) of Porto Alegre to shed light on the conservative subjectivity that has emerged amongst the poor. Download the research presentation

Assessing infrastructure from space

Dr Giorgia Giardina is a Lecturer at the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, working on infrastructure resilience. Previously she was a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge. She has a PhD in structural mechanics from the Delft University of Technology. Giorgia’s work explores the potential of satellite monitoring to address major challenges in the civil engineering field, including ageing of infrastructure assets, their vulnerability to anthropogenic and natural hazards and the risks induced by the interaction between new underground infrastructure and the built environment. Download the research presentation

The long term impact of growing up with Developmental Language Disorder

Dr Michelle St Clair is a Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at the University. Previously, she was a Research Associate at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester. She has a PhD in Psychology from the University of York. Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is a common but relatively unknown developmental disorder associated with negative long term outcomes. In her presentation, Michelle discusses two recent papers that provide insight into both the early risk factors as well as the development pathway for increased emotional difficulties across development in individuals with DLD. Download the research presentation

Infection detection at point-of-care

Dr Hannah Leese was appointed as Prize Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering in July 2018. Hannah completed her PhD at Bath in 2013, and before returning to Bath, worked at Imperial College London and the University of Manchester. There is a continued need to develop culture-independent, rapid and accurate point-of-care infection diagnostics to tackle antimicrobial resistance. In her research Hannah aims to optimise early diagnosis and therefore targeted treatments by developing minimally invasive conductive sensors that monitor specific biomarkers present in microbially infected patients. Download the research presentation

Unequal academic mobilities: ‘Early career researchers’ and Brexit

Dr Aline Courtois is a lecturer in the Department of Education. Previously she was a research fellow of the National University of Ireland, and a postdoctoral researcher in the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) at the UCL Institute of Education. Her research focuses on elite education; higher education; student and academic mobility and employment precarity. Her presentation draws on her recent work with CGHE partners on the impact of Brexit on European higher education, focusing specifically on internationally mobile non-permanent academics. Looking at the intersection of academic mobility and academic precarity, it shows how the intersecting issues of non-citizenship and employment insecurity can in effect block rather than encourage mobility. Download the research presentation