Research Staff Excellence Awards 2023

Many congratulations to the researchers whose outstanding achievements, impact and successes in their research have led to a Research Staff Excellence Award.

Research Staff of the Year

Dr Sophie Saxton – Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health.

Sophie is a vascular psychologist investigating the potential for targeting immune cells residing in perivascular fat to treat obesity-related cardiovascular diseases. Sophie won her award due to particular achievements which include award of a British Heart Foundation project grant for which she is principal investigator and the named postdoc; and being incredibly supportive of others – devising, organising and hosting the ‘Early Career Cardiovascular Scientist’s Symposium’.

Dr Anyssa Navrer-Agasson – Faculty of Science and Engineering

Research associate in the Physics and Astronomy Department since 2019. Anyssa works in several neutrino experiments, looking for signs of new physics and developing the next generation of liquid argon neutrino detectors. 

Anyssa won the award because she is leading the testing of the DUNE wire planes; the largest international neutrino collaboration in the world, with over 1400 scientists. Anyssa developed the testing protocol with a new testing device and has been leading the testing campaigns with a team of 10 scientists of all levels.

Also leading a new effort to study solar neutrinos at DUNE with new innovative technologies, playing a major role in coordinating the effort of a new international group from 5 countries.


Dr Jonathan Carson-Lewis – Faculty of Humanities

Jonathan Lewis is a Research Fellow in Bioethics and Medical Law based in the Department of Law and the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy (CSEP). Award for being “insanely productive” publishing 15 journal articles, book chapters, and short responses on a range of issues in bioethics and experimental philosophy; collaborating with researchers in Oxford and across Europe, and became the Editor in Chief of the journal Clinical Ethics

Dr Upasak Das- Faculty of Humanities (highly commended)

Upasak is currently working as a Presidential Fellow (Academic) in Economics of Poverty Reduction. He is also a research affiliate at the Centre for Social Norms and Behavioural Dynamics where he works as a post-doctoral fellow. His primary current work revolves around measuring the social networks relevant to and the social drivers behind behaviour related to sanitation and open defecation in India. Apart from this, Upasak is also interested in issues concerning social protection programmes, education, social norms, trust and diversity, health and political economy. Details of his work can be found at

The last 12 months have been particularly prolific for Upasak with a total of seven papers in some of the most prestigious journals in development economics; had secured more than £110,000 in research funding from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the International Economic Association, with additional applications under review.




Best Outstanding Output by Research Staff

Dr Azadeh Abravan – Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

As a passionate physicist in healthcare, my awarded research delves into the first comprehensive examination of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the field of radiation oncology in Europe, highlighting its shortcomings and, in turn, improving our understanding of DEI to nurture a brighter future for patients and healthcare professionals.

Output “Qualitative Study on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Within Radiation Oncology in Europe” — Reveals conflicts between personal and organisational values in radiation oncology, significant implications for fostering inclusivity and engagement in radiation oncology departments.

Dr Abdulghani Ismail – Faculty of Science and Engineering

Dr Ismail began his career as a Doctor of Pharmacy and later earned a PhD in Microsystems from Sorbonne University. He subsequently held two research associate positions: one at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA Grenoble) and another at the University of Oxford. In February 2020, he joined the laboratory of Prof. Radha Boya in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester. His current research focuses on the development of nanofluidic memristors using 2D nanochannels for neuromorphic computing.

Article, “Long-term memory and synapse-like dynamics in two-dimensional nanofluidic channels”. This article was spotlighted in Science perspective, affirming its pivotal contribution to the development of next-generation neuromorphic devices.

Dr Louise Black – Faculty of Humanities

Louise research focuses on the quality and improvements to large-scale estimation of adolescent mental health.

Output “Measuring general mental health in early-mid adolescence: A systematic meta-review of content and psychometrics” provides a significant and much needed step towards monitoring and improving adolescent mental health.

Best Outstanding Contribution to Research Impact

Dr Mahdi Saleh and Dr Zixin Wang – Faculty of Science and Engineering

Dr Zixin Wang has a background in Materials Science and Dr Mahdi Saleh has a background in Electrical and Computer Engineering. They both took up postdoc positions in the same research group working on various research projects relating to non-invasive bioelectronics.

Developing wearable biosensors for health and fitness monitoring applications, enables real-time, continuous monitoring of a wide range of physiological parameters.



Dr Jonny Ritson – Faculty of Humanities

Jonny Ritson is a research fellow who works on the carbon balance of peatland restoration projects both in UKRI funded projects and in consultancy work for think tanks and restoration delivery organisations.

 Co-I on the BBSRC Greenhouse Gas Reduction – Peat project: delivering large-scale interventions at the GGR demonstrator site. Secured funding for a series of spin-out projects, including a large project on peatland management and greenhouse gas flux for Wigan Council 

Best Outstanding Contribution to the Research Staff Environment

Dr Aram Dermenjian – Faculty of Science and Engineering

As a Heilbronn Research Fellow in Mathematics, Aram looks at various ways to order discrete geometric objects and the relationships between these orders.

Great advocate for equality, diversity and inclusion in mathematics, and as a mentor for the Maths Mentoring Scheme for Women and Minority Gender Students, which aims to bridge the gender gap in higher level mathematics. Passionate about increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in maths, and was lead organiser for the Queer and Trans Mathematicians in Combinatorics conference

Dr Cat Evans – Faculty of Humanities

Developed a sense of community in areas where there are smaller numbers of postdocs without a strong sense of research-staff community. For example serving as the Humanities Research Staff rep on the University’s Research Staff Strategy Group and developing a series of writing retreats for focussed time and lunches to bring postdocs together.



Research Staff Successes and Achievements

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