January 30, 2024, by Rob Ounsworth

My pledge for research at a challenging time for our university    

In my first update of the year, I’d like to share my sense of optimism for 2024, news of successes, opportunities and support for research at Nottingham – and reaffirm my commitment to our research community at a challenging time.

The higher education sector is facing unprecedented financial pressures and here at Nottingham we face additional challenges around our estate.

You can hear about these challenges and discuss the university’s response at a series of roadshows led by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Norman and Chief Financial Officer Margaret Monkton.

As Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, I remain passionate about supporting you in the delivery of excellent research. Our university plays a pivotal role in addressing global challenges and driving local economic growth. That mission will not stop and in 2024 we will be further working with researchers  and and research-focused professional service colleagues to improve your experience and enhance our research culture and infrastructure.

OBE for brain imaging pioneer

We started 2024 with fabulous news – the award of an OBE to Professor Matt Brookes in the New Year Honours. Matt’s pioneering work in the development and commercialisation of the world’s first wearable brain scanner is an inspiration. Congratulations to Matt’s team at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre, who all can be proud of this honour.

EU Strategy Group

The UK’s association to Horizon Europe is hugely significant. A new EU Strategy Group will help secure opportunities for our academics to further collaborate with European partners, win funding from the European Research Council and host post-docs under the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships.

We enjoyed success with more than 30 projects while the UK’s association was in doubt but post-Brexit uncertainty has undoubtedly impacted the confidence and knowledge base of our academics around European funding. The EU Strategy Group will support faculties in engaging with Horizon Europe and map what’s needed to strengthen our European funding portfolio, as well as benchmarking the university’s performance.

PhD student is a three-minute wonder

Diret Bitrus Tang’an, a Faculty of Engineering PhD student, has beaten global competition to be named the People’s Choice winner at the Universitas21 Global Three Minute Thesis (U21 3MT®) competition.

The competition brings doctoral students from around the world together to present a three-minute version of their thesis online. Diret Bitrus Tang’an’s presentation Hope for The Environment: Microwave Heating explained how microwave heating can be used to help clean petroleum contamination from the Niger delta.

Watch Diret’s winning presentation

Shedding light on the dark side of the digital workplace

Congratulations to Elizabeth Marsh, a PhD student in the School of Psychology, who has reached a landmark of 100 Google Scholar citations in less than 18 months for a research paper she co-authored exploring the dark side of the digital workplace.

The study, co-authored with Elvira Perez Vallejos, Professor of Mental Health and Digital Technology of the School of Medicine and Computer Science, and Dr Alexa  Spence of the School of Psychology, was published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour in March 2022.

The digital workplace and its dark side: an integrative review has quickly garnered more than 100 citations in Google Scholar, which searches academic publishers, professional societies and pre-print archives to measure the reach and influence of scholarly publications.

Google Scholar is one of several tools for counting citations of academic articles and more information regarding their use can be found in university guidance on responsible use of metrics.

A new Research Intelligence service from University of Nottingham Libraries supports researchers to build peer reputation and raise awareness of their work. To get in the touch with the new service contact: library-researchsupport@nottingham.ac.uk

US partnership to support development of tissue-on-chip technology

Dr Kevin Webb, of the Faculty of Engineering’s Optics and Phototonics Research Group, will be working with colleagues at the University of Rochester, United States, over the next five years to support the creation of drug development tools related to central nervous system disorders, fibrosis, and musculoskeletal autoimmune disease.

Rochester, in partnership with Duke University, secured a $7.5m grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a national centre focused on using tissue-on-chip technology to develop drugs more rapidly and reduce the need for animal trials.

Dr Webb’s research is in applied optics and electrophysiology of transport across tissue barriers in living things and his lab will deliver high-content, non-invasive multimodal imaging systems as a partner in the project.

His work on growing blood-retinal barriers with Alex Foss, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Honorary Professor at the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust and on blood-lung barrier models with Anne McLaren Senior Research Fellow Dr Rachel Clifford of the School of Medicine, inside the same devices as funded on the Rochester grant, is further progressing the goal of reducing animal usage in drug development.

Research publication by Project Period team

The team behind Project Period, the initiative that provides free pads and tampons to students and staff at the University of Nottingham, have had paper published in Perspectives in Public Health. It examines the project’s innovative response to period poverty – a lack of access to sanitary products – and how this is becoming a growing issue across low-income households in the UK.

Project Period started in February 2020, when the Biodiscovery Institute’s Professor Chris Denning and a team of volunteers conducted a small pilot study of stocking free pads and tampons in six bathrooms across the university. Now the scheme has distributed millions of products across all seven UK campus sites.

The paper, authored by Professor Holly Blake of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, PhD student Kavita Raniga of the School of Medicine, Mehmet Yildirim of the School of Heath Sciences and Chris Denning is a significant contribution to debate on helping reduce the mental burden and physical side effects of periods.

Research Leadership Programmes

A reminder that the Researcher Academy’s Research Leadership Programmes are open for applications, with a deadline of 16 February 2024. These are part of a suite of research-focused training and development programmes.

Researchfish: get ready to report

The 2024 submissions window for Researchfish – an external, online platform that allows researchers to report to funders on the outcomes and impact of their research – opens on Monday 5 February.

Demonstrating the range and depth of our partnerships with funders remains key to our vision for research. I would like to thank colleagues for their continuing support and recognition that Researchfish provides an essential platform to demonstrate how investment in our world-class research links to impact that changes lives. The submission window closes at 4pm on Thursday 14 March 2024.

Tri-Campus Awards: celebrating our research community 

The annual Tri-Campus Awards recognise and celebrate colleagues who have made exceptional contributions to our researcher community.

You’re invited to be part of this celebration by submitting your nominations and ensuring that our researchers, supervisors, technicians, and administrative colleagues feel the appreciation they truly deserve. Finalists will be invited to the Researcher Academy Tri-Campus awards ceremony taking place on University Park in May.

Submit your nomination by 12 noon on Monday 11 March

Policy Impact and Public Engagement Awards – deadline extended

The deadline for the Policy Impact and Public Engagement Awards has been extended until February 16. If you know someone who is doing great work on policy impact or public engagement, or have been doing work yourself that you think deserves recognition, please nominate yourself or a colleague.

With my very best wishes thanks for your support

Professor Tom Rodden
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange




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