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Durham University

Research & business

Academics rewarded for world-changing research

(6 August 2018)

Durham University researchers were rewarded for their world-changing research at the University’s inaugural Impact and Engagement Awards.

The University celebrated outstanding research that has delivered impact beyond academia by influencing cultural beliefs, building communities and changing the way we live our lives. 

The awards were opened by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, and presented by Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Claire Warwick. Over 45 applications were received from the Faculties of  Arts and Humanities, Science and Social Sciences and Health.

University award winners

The judging panel, which was made up of University academics and representatives from external organisations, reviewed applications relating to a diverse range of research activities, from an interactive exhibition on the formation of the universe to changing the way parents are advised to put their babies to bed.

The highest accolade, the University Award, was presented to two winners.

Dr Abir Hamdar, from the School of Modern Languages and Culture, was presented with the award for a play she wrote and co-produced, titled 'I am waiting for you'.

The play is based on interviews with Arab cancer patients and in consultation with oncologists at the cancer institute of the American University of Beirut Medical Centre and is part of a broader ambition to raise cultural awareness of talking about cancer in the Middle East.

Professor Bob Holdsworth and his team from the Department of Earth Sciences were also presented with the University Award for work undertaken by the structural geology research group.

The group’s research has been essential in improving industry understanding of fractured basement reservoirs - rock structures which are fractured through earthquakes and other forces. Their hard and brittle nature enables the cracks in the rocks to accumulate oil.

Professor Holdsworth’s team worked closely with Durham University spin-out company Geospatial Research Limited which has created 30 new highly skilled jobs in the North East of England and provided consultancy services to over 40 companies worldwide since 2006.

Faculty winners

In addition to the University Award winners, one project from each of the three Faculties received a Faculty Award.

For the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Department of History’s Dr Giles Gasper received the award for his work on the Ordered Universe Project, which examines the work of English thinker Robert Grosseteste. 

Dr Claire Horwell from the Department of Earth Sciences received the Science Faculty Award for her work in preparing communities for volcanic eruptions.

Dr Les Graham from the University’s Business School picked up the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health award for his research on the importance of ethical leadership in policing.

Alice Alunni, who has carried out extensive research into Libyan organisations and social relations, received the Early Career Researcher Award. Alice’s work has influenced British Council and UK government policies.

Global impact

Speaking about the awards, Professor Claire Warwick, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Durham University, said:

“The Impact and Engagement Awards were a great opportunity to see how Durham University’s research has a positive impact across the globe, reaching far beyond the academic environment.

“Our research expertise enables us to successfully build partnerships through a range of activities, from local businesses working with students and academics through to strategic partnerships with organisations including Northumbrian Water, IBM and Procter and Gamble.

“We are immensely proud of our achievements and continue to strive to ensure our research brings even greater benefits to communities in the North East of England, nationally and internationally.”

A full list of researchers shortlisted for the Impact and Engagement Awards is as follows:

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

  • University Award winner – Dr Abir Hamdar – School of Modern Languages and Cultures – Performing Cancer in the Arab World
  • Faculty Award winner – Dr Giles Gasper – Department of History – The Ordered Universe Project
  • Professor Christopher Cook – Department of Theology and Religion – Psychiatry and spirituality
  • Professor Simon James – Department of English Studies – Time machines: the past, the future and how stories take us there
  • Dr James Weeks – Department of Music – ‘A Venetian Sky over Gateshead’: A North East public participates in contemporary music

Faculty of Science

  • University Award Winner - Professor Bob Holdsworth, Dr Jonathan Imber, Dr Richard Jones and Professor Ken McCaffrey – Department of Earth Sciences – Fractured basement reservoirs
  • Faculty Award winner – Dr Claire Horwell – Preparing for volcanic eruptions: protecting public health
  • Professor Carlton Baugh and team – Department of Physics – Galaxy Makers
  • Professor Toby Breckon – Department of Computer Science – Autonomous activity sensing (in infrared video imagery)
  • Dr Alison Lane – Department of Psychology – Durham reading and exploration app (DREX)

Faculty of Social Sciences and Health

  • Faculty Award winner - Dr Les Graham – Durham University Business School – Wellbeing, integrity and service behaviour in policing
  • Professor Helen Ball – Department of Anthropology – An infant sleep information service for parents and health professionals
  • Professor Robin Coningham – Department of Archaeology – Resilience within the rubble
  • Dr Vanessa Kind and Dr Taha Rajab – School of Education – Transforming pedagogy of STEM subjects
  • Professor Peter Tymms – School of Education – Improving the education of children across the world

Early career researcher

  • Early Career Researcher Award winner – Alice Alunni – School of Government and International Affairs – Research to inform UK policy communities, private sector and international policy fora on Libya and the Middle East
  • Dr Joanna Allan – School of Modern Languages and Cultures – Powering conflict, fuelling resistance
  • Miles Wilson – Department of Earth Sciences – The human-induced earthquake database

Find out more

  • If you would like to join Durham University, we’ll be recruiting academic staff later this year in our Annual Recruitment Campaign. Please register your interest and we will contact you when vacancies are advertised.


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