Headshot of Professor Dame Jessica Corner outside Trent Building

July 30, 2021, by Rob Ounsworth

Our gradual and careful approach for research as restrictions are lifted

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

We are reviewing our research activities following the lifting of Covid restrictions by the government. This will be a careful and gradual approach, ensuring your wellbeing remains our first priority.

We continue to work very closely with public health officials, and our estates and health and safety teams are liaising with colleagues in schools and faculties, with the aim to be back at full capacity by the start of the 2021-22 academic session.

While we are all looking forward to further scaling up of research, many of you remain understandably cautious.

Our planning for a gradual return to ‘normal’ working will be coordinated at school and faculty level by assistant pro-vice-chancellors for research and knowledge exchange. This measured approach will ensure your safety and our advances towards recovery are not put at risk.

Key measures and recommendations remain in place. Please see our safety on campus guidance – this is under review but is important to remain aware and follow guidance on hygiene, regular testing and working safely together.

We are also mindful that postgraduate research students and early career researchers have experienced a particularly stressful and challenging 18 months. As well as interrupted studies, many will have missed working with peers and mentors. Their needs will be prioritised as we step up capacity.

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

Working on campus

The university strongly encourages and recommends that researchers, technicians and all colleagues working together in laboratories and other enclosed research facilities continue to wear face coverings. Although this is no longer mandatory, face coverings protect us and offer reassurance to colleagues. Face coverings may be reintroduced should there be local outbreaks or a rise in cases.

Hand sanitisers will be available and enhanced cleaning regimes will be maintained. Please also continue to pay close attention to ventilation.

Risk and equality assessments are being updated. We will work to ensure that colleagues, such as the clinically vulnerable, do not feel negatively impacted as restrictions are eased and that reasonable adjustments are made.

Public Health England says extra controls are not required at this time but officials have the mandate to reintroduce these as necessary.

We want researchers to feel safe and ensure that your concerns can be raised in a positive, supportive and inclusive environment. Please discuss any concerns with your colleagues and line manager and continue to adapt projects wherever possible to overcome the current challenges.

Campus signage on social distancing and one-way systems will begin to be replaced with safety messaging reflecting these changes over the summer.

Covid-19 testing

All staff, including postgraduate research students, spending any time on campus are strongly encouraged to continue taking asymptomatic testing at least once a week through the Asymptomatic Testing Service. If you have Covid symptoms, isolate immediately, notify the university and book an NHS confirmatory swab test.

See more information on our Coronavirus webpages.

Extraordinary together – join our research fellows

I am delighted to announce recruitment for the 2022 cohort of Nottingham Research and Anne McLaren Fellowships is open.

Our prestigious fellowship schemes have so far recruited more than 80 exceptional fellows, with many now transitioned to permanent academic positions. This diverse and gender-balanced group have secured (as PIs) £17.4m in research awards and 161 outputs internally assessed as 4*  for REF.

I am delighted by such successes and by the contribution of our fellows to the university and their collegiate approach to research.

Dr Dan Booth became a Nottingham Research Fellow in 2019 and here he outlines how his fellowship allowed him to establish a team at the Biodiscovery Institute, where his research into the link between cell defects and diseases such as cancer has been awarded several prestigious grants.

Find out more about our fellowships and how to apply

Research strategy consultation

Work continues with the development of our five-year strategic delivery plan for research, which is to be published at the end of December. Thank you for all your contributions so far. The next step is a university-wide consultation on the white paper, expected to run for four weeks from September. Colleagues will be encouraged to comment as we set out more detail on our direction towards a high-performing, inclusive research ecosystem.

Reflections of UKRI chief

Sir John Kingman has reflected on his three years as chair of UKRI as he steps down from this important role. In a speech hosted by our national academies, Sir John covered his experiences in setting up the organisation in 2016, dealing with the challenges posed by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the global pandemic, and the opportunities presented by the Government’s focus on R&D and ambitions for the UK to become a scientific superpower.  A transcript of his speech is available and highly recommended as a thought-provoking and informative read.

Knowledge Engaged podcasts

The Institute for Policy and Engagement’s new podcast, Knowledge Engaged, has been launched, with new episodes released weekly. Through short conversations with leading Nottingham academics, the podcast explores our important research on issues including mental health, EDI, COVID-19 testing, LGBT+ and youth, data protection and sustainability. Find the podcast on Spotify and Spreaker, and follow the Institute on Twitter for updates on new episodes.

Research and Innovation – training and support

Researchers are invited to a new site created by Research and Innovation, which includes information on engagement and partnerships, training, research operations, IP commercialisation and the Researcher Academy. The site is designed around the research lifecycle and you can find information and guidance on every stage of your project, from planning your research strategy, to funding and support, developing and submitting proposals and managing projects.

This site will replace Research and Innovation’s REGS and RGS workspaces, so please make sure to update any links and bookmarks. If you have feedback, notice anything missing or have suggestions for improvement please complete our site feedback form.

£3.8m bid to ease despair of eating disorders

Dr Heike Bartel from the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, in collaboration with researchers from Kings College London and the Universities of Edinburgh and others, has been awarded £3.8m to explore how personal narratives of illness and recovery can be used to transform the way eating disorders are understood and treated in adolescents. The award is part of a £24m investment by UK Research and Innovation that seeks to improve the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents in the UK.


Unlocking the potential of ocean renewable fuels

Professor Gavin Walker, along with co-investigators Dr Robin Irons, Professor David Grant and Dr Jon Mckechnie — all from Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering — have been awarded nearly £2m as part of a project to investigate the potential to harness offshore wind and marine renewable energy for conversion to hydrogen and zero carbon fuels.

Ocean-REFuel is a five-year project led by the University of Strathclyde, which also involves the Universities of Nottingham and Cardiff, Newcastle University and Imperial College London.

£1.2m award to develop biomarker sensing platform

Dr Serhiy Korposh of the Faculty of Engineering has received an award of more than £1.2m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop a disruptive sensing platform based on measuring optical changes in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and to apply this to challenges in healthcare. This multidisciplinary team includes scientists from Chemical Engineering, our Optics and Photonics group and Nottingham University Hospital Trust, together with partners from the University of Manchester and Brunel University.

Real-time detection of chemical biomarkers that are excreted from the body in breath, blood, urine, sweat and saliva can identify and monitor diseases and the presence of drugs in the body.

Exploiting MOF’s potential to detect such biomarkers could improve survival rates in intensive care. The team will initially develop a sensing platform for the anaesthetic propofol in the breath, with the potential to extend to biomarkers for diseases such as lung cancer and diabetes.

Building climate resilience in Belize

Geography’s Professor Sarah Metcalfe and Dr Franziska Schrodt have been awarded a £500,000 Leverhulme Trust Research Programme Grant to better understand resilience to extreme climate events in Belize. Their work, with the University of Liverpool and Kings College London, will help Belize respond to such challenges as hurricanes.

Cobot Maker Space opens

The Smart Products Beacon has completed its Cobot Maker Space in the Geospatial Building, Jubilee Campus.

This exciting facility is a hub for human-robot interaction research and engagement with stakeholders. The official opening takes place on Wednesday 8 September, with an open house invitation for 10.30am-12.30pm and 2-4pm. Please feel free to come along to explore the space, meet the robots and see demos. For further details or to find out how to get involved, please contact info@cobotmakerspace.org.

Researcher Academy praised for supporting PGR students during lockdown

The Researcher Academy’s commitment to communicate with and support postgraduate research students during a challenging year has been recognised at the Education Network Awards and Staff Oscars 2021. Students’ Union Postgraduate Officer Abdi Ahmed presented an award of thanks to Professor Lucy Donaldson, Assistant Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Researcher Academy and Researcher Career Development, head of the Researcher Academy Dr Jane Wellens and myself as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange.

We offer our sincere thanks to Abdi for this honour, and express our gratitude for the extraordinary dedication of Abdi and his colleagues in supporting our PGR community during the pandemic as he stands down from his role as SU Postgraduate Officer after two years.

British Academy honour

Professor of Criminal Jurisprudence Paul Roberts has been made a Fellow of the British Academy in recognition of his outstanding contribution to his field. Paul is renowned worldwide for his publications on criminal justice, criminology, forensic evidence, criminal law and legal theory.

President of Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Professor of Social Pharmacy Claire Anderson has been elected president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Claire’s research focuses on improving patient and public through designing and evaluating pharmacy practice and health service models and exploring patient’s experiences of using medicines.

Russia award

Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff and all involved the YouTube phenomenon the Periodic Table of Videos have been awarded a special diploma for Outstanding Achievements in Popularisation of Science from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Registrar at the Academy of Medical Sciences

I am meanwhile deeply honoured to be announced as Registrar at the Academy of Medical Sciences, overseeing the academy’s fellowship election, which recognises individuals who make exceptional contributions to the medical sciences, either in the form of original discovery or of sustained contributions to scholarship. In the current global health crisis, the academy’s vital role as an independent champion of medical science is needed now more than ever.

Thank you and best wishes


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









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