Jessica Corner

February 26, 2021, by Rob Ounsworth

Gradual but significant steps towards national recovery

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

England now has roadmap for the gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions. As the days grow longer and spring is on its way, we can also look forward to the prospect of more colleagues returning to campus and seeing more of friends and loved ones.

For now, and for the coming weeks, the advice for researchers remains the same – continue to work on campus if it cannot reasonably be done from home. All other researchers should remain working from home where possible, in line with government guidance.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long has set out what the Prime Minister’s announcement means for our university and for postgraduate research students.

Our world-class innovation continues

Receiving the vaccine at Cripps Medical Centre

Chatting with the trial’s PI, Professor David Turner

As we review our recovery and prepare for further guidance from the government after Easter, our research continues to make progress on many fronts. I was delighted to be invited to participate in a crucially important new trial of different vaccine combinations in Nottingham, which is one of eight centres researching alternating doses and intervals of approved vaccines for Covid-19. It was a privilege to observe this world-first trial in action ‘from the inside’.

In Italy, we are establishing a research base that will strengthen our alliances with Europe’s aerospace leaders and our position at the forefront of revolution in green air travel.

Regular Covid-19 testing

A reminder that all staff and students should take asymptomatic Covid-19 tests at least once a week. These tests are highly accurate and can tell if you are in the early stages of infection, whether or not you are showing symptoms. By taking part in regular testing, our community shows our campuses and facilities are Covid-secure and enables them to be kept open. Find out where to take a test.

UKRI and support for PhD students

Andy Long has written to our postgraduate research students following UKRI’s announcement of further action to support PhD students whose studies are being affected by Covid-19.  In an open letter to doctoral students, UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser acknowledged the strain they are under. Her comments echo the concern we all feel.

We welcome UKRI’s announcement but resources remain stretched and we are committed to ensuring our support remains fair, inclusive and goes to those who need it most.

PGRs and their supervisors are encouraged to comment on these proposals, and we welcome such continuing conversations on how the university can best support its postgraduate research community.

Please use this form to give your views. Your thoughts and suggestions will help inform our university’s response. Following its consultation, UKRI will provide further guidance in early spring.

A further contribution of £11m in block funding will be made available to English universities via Research England. The University of Nottingham’s share will support our PGR communities, including those not funded by UKRI studentships.

We have also received additional funding from the government’s Office for Students to support all students in hardship and crisis. This funding is available to PGRs, including those who are self-funded or have support from an external sponsor. Please find out more here.

Research supply chains

Due to unprecedented global demand, researchers are facing shortages or increased costs on key items such as single use disposable gloves, pipette tips and biobins, while others report instances of excessive charges on imported lab supplies following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Head of Procurement Rosalie Parkin and her colleagues are working hard to address these issues and offer guidance. By consolidating purchasing and increasing order volume, we are increasing leverage with suppliers, while re-visiting technical specs and exploring different purchase options may also offer solutions. We are also feeding into relevant Government departments on these issues.

A team is meanwhile reviewing the impact of the trade deal on the university. Any queries on imports can be sent to

Please note: gloves must provide suitable protection against the hazards being handled. Some stocks of slightly lower grade gloves are available in the marketplace and may be suitable for some activities. Such gloves need to be risk assessed. Information on selection of gloves can be found here.

For advice, please contact H& Where colleagues are experiencing issues with supply via our approved suppliers on SciQuest, please contact  or, who will review alternative non-contracted sources.

The situation is both challenging and frustrating. Thank you for your patience. We are working hard to overcome these issues and will update you on progress and solutions.

Innovative public engagement

I am delighted to share with you innovative examples of knowledge exchange and public engagement. Professor of Health Humanities Paul Crawford, with support from Dr Sachiyo ito-Jaeger and Dr Elvira Perez Vallejos, collaborated with Aardman – the creators of Wallace and Gromit – on a series of animated films exploring the mental wellbeing of young people. The films have reached wide audiences on social media and further insights are available at What’s Up with Everyone?.

The School of Sociology and Social Policy has welcomed LUNG Theatre’s Artistic Directors Matt Woodhead, and  Helen Monks as honorary research fellows. Matt and Helen’s award-winning play Trojan Horse was inspired by Professor John Holmwood’s research into the alleged Islamification of schools in Birmingham, and they are now collaborating with Principal Research Fellow Dr Philippa Tomczak on a production about prisons and the justice system.

Academic lead for public engagement

Professor Susan Anderson meanwhile joins the Institute of Policy and Public Engagement as its academic lead for public engagement. Susan, Chair of the Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity, is a passionate advocate for outreach. She outlines her vision for this new role here.

Technicians, our unsung heroes

Technicians play a vital role in research, not least in the recovery of on-campus activities during lockdown.

As a partner in Midlands Innovation Talent, we are delighted to support the largest ever survey of technical staff across the UK in higher education and research. Take part here – please note, the survey has been extended until 7 March.

This week, a virtual roadshow highlighted how technicians at Nottingham are working with colleagues from the Midlands research-intensive universities to promote sharing of our world-class facilities. Nottingham’s Technicians Sustainability Working Group has meanwhile picked up an award from Enva in recognition of its efforts to promote recycling and sustainable practices in our labs and research facilities.

EPSRC Impact Roadshow

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is placing impact as a core consideration of its grant application process. Midlands Innovation has invited EPSRC’s Head of Economic Impact Dr Glenn Goodall and Senior Impact Manager Dr Michelle Lascelles to discuss its new philosophy towards impact, plus give practical advice on how to include impact in your funding applications.

The webinar places place on Wednesday 31 March 2021, 10am – 12.30pm. Please register here.

And finally

Beady Eye, the newsletter of the Biodiscovery Institute (BDI), was launched during the first lockdown and this month reaches its 10th issue. Director Chris Denning, reflecting on a tough year for all of us, takes pride that the BDI has become a beacon of coronavirus research but admits he had a couple of personal wobbles during 2020. Like many of us, the kindness of colleagues, friends and loved ones pulled him through.

This week’s announcements herald gradual but significant steps towards national recovery. We can all take pride in how colleagues have supported each other over the past year and the resilience you have shown in continuing to deliver world-class research in extraordinary circumstances.

Thank you and best wishes

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

Posted in research