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Early Career Researchers

Philanthropy Awards make new engineering and medical research possible

Pioneering molecular geneticist, Noreen Murray CBE (1935-2011), left a legacy donation to the University which has been used to grant two out of four special awards to early career researchers for exceptional projects. Lady Murray was an honorary graduate of the University, and her generosity made the biomedical projects below possible.

We're also immensely grateful to another (anonymous) donor who graduated from engineering at Warwick and funded the other Philanthropy Awards.

  1. Better storage:  
    Matthew GibsonDr Matthew Gibson, Chemistry, is working on a new 'antifreeze' based on polar fish glycoproteins to improve blood and organ storage and transplant success. He says, “In a ten year period, organ demand increased by 25% in the UK alone, while organ donation remained static, leaving us with a chronic shortage of biological materials. Better storage of human tissues could address this bio-banking crisis."
  2. Better concrete:
    Dr Stana Zivanovic, Engineering, is developing an eco-friendly concrete using a mixture of concrete and recycled plastic fibres. This will be a reinforced concrete which is stronger, more flexible and more resistant to cracking than the traditional mix, and will reduce waste plastic exports enormously.
  3. Better antibiotics:
    Dr Emma Denham and Dr Chrystala Constantinidou, Warwick Medical School, are examining the behaviour of specific bacteria. They’re finding out what makes bacteria grow, and by working out the particular ‘meeting’ points, developing new antibiotics to prevent bacterial growth and the spread of disease.
  4. Weiso GuoBetter planning:
    Dr Weisi Guo, Engineering, is tracking sunlight exposure across the world: sunlight allows us to convert vitamin D, an essential requirement for good health, but it’s hard to get the right balance as too much can lead to skin cancer, and too little leads to complications like rickets. The data will inform city planning and medical research.

Read more about the Philanthropy Awards 2014

Humanities scholarships from the Wolfson Foundation

Thanks to your donations, even more scholarships have been awarded this year, including the Transatlantic Fellowship Programme enabling doctoral students from varying disciplines to visit the US to undertake research.

We’ve also been able to create a fourth postgraduate scholarship in Humanities to supplement the three prestigious scholarships generously funded by the Wolfson Foundation.

New fields in humanities

“My name’s Emilie Taylor Brown, and I’m one of the Wolfson Foundation scholarship recipients at the University of Warwick. Thanks to their funding, I’ve been able to take on a PhD in one of the newest, emerging fields between the humanities and the sciences.

My research explores parasitology and its dialogue with British literary culture in the period 1885 to 1935. I’m especially interested in the way that parasitic disease can impact our cultural understanding of British Imperialism, and the way that parasitologists were reimagined by the public in fiction, poetry and satire.

That might be a little hard to understand straightaway! To explain a bit further - we’ve had parasitic diseases throughout history, but the first concerted effort to study them in an empirical way only began in the nineteenth century, when the British Empire began expanding hugely. People were travelling to the tropics and contracting tropical diseases, and these were preventing colonisation and affecting commercial trade. We quickly realised that we needed institutions which studied parasitology, as it was tied in with the success of the British Empire.

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the London School of Tropical Medicine were founded in 1898 and 1899, and they were the first institutions in the world to be dedicated to research and training in tropical medicine. This was really important for the doctors going out to colonies and coming up against diseases they had never heard of and didn’t know what to do with as they were trained in English pathologies. It was a time when medicine and science began turning into professions with research specialisms.

One of the key leaders in the field was a man called Ronald Ross, who proved that mosquitos carried malaria in 1897, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1902.

Ross is the protagonist of my PhD in many ways, as he really kick-started the institutionalisation of parasitology, but he was also a poet and playwright and was friends with writers like H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conon Doyle, H. Rider Hygard. It’s been fascinating to look at all these connections and how they influenced each other; Hygard writes imperialistic romance, Doyle writes detection fiction, and in the public consciousness, a parasitologist combined both of these things, exploring and deducing the new world.

Another reason Ross is so interesting is he’s not a glamorised figure in history; he was quite narcissistic, and he stored and catalogued everything he did – every letter, every receipt, and every scientific quarrel are stored in the London School of Tropical Medicine – which is a researcher’s dream come true!

Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to spend three months exploring these archives in London. I’ve also been able to attend big international conferences, which have been important for networking and for getting the critical responses to my papers which are so vital for research.

The scholarship was really significant in my choice to come to Warwick as it’s the best one I’ve ever come across. I’m really pleased to be funded by a body like the Wolfson Foundation, who appreciate interdisciplinary and new emerging fields like the medical humanities; and financially, I know that my PhD’s never going to suffer because I can’t afford to do something.

I love my research, and I would like to say ‘Thank you’ to the Wolfson Foundation for this opportunity: I truly hope they continue to fund top researchers at top universities. Thank you.”

Emilie Taylor Brown
PhD and Wolfson Scholarship Beneficiary

Bringing lost theatre to life

“My PhD researches French Holocaust Theatre, focusing on the works of authors such as Charlotte Delbo and Liliane Atlan, who either experienced life in the camps personally and wrote about their experiences, or were moved to write about it afterwards. It’s a very niche area of research, but a fascinating one: I first grew interested in it during my undergraduate dissertation on Primo Levi and Holocaust Testimony, which led me to my MA dissertation on contemporary French Holocaust novels before being awarded a Wolfson Scholarship for my PhD.

I’m only in the first year of the PhD now, but over the next few years I really hope that my research highlights the importance of this genre and these particular works of theatre, which are often overlooked. As an actor and director, I’d also love to be able to bring some of these stories to life on the stage one day too.

I’m very grateful for the scholarship because it makes it so much easier for me to focus on my studies. Many of my friends have had to take on second or third jobs, and a PhD is a full-time job in itself, so it has helped tremendously. Thank you!”

Joshua Green
PhD and Wolfson Scholarship Beneficiary

Starting research early on

Your donations have also helped many students with the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS).

Last year the projects covered a huge number of topics from, “A Sweet Pill For Cancer: Can We Target Glucose Transporters?”, to “You Are What You Tweet”. Students say:

  • “This has been one of the most valuable learning experiences of my academic career and I really enjoyed it; it has given me a much clearer idea of what I want from my future career.”
  • “I am now a confident young scientist! Spending time in the lab has shown me that I have the drive, academic discipline and dedication to do what I want.”

Thank you for making these early research opportunities available! Read more about URSS

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