University of Nottingham researchers receive prestigious fellowships

Thursday, 15 October 2020
Experts in hearing and cancer imaging from the University of Nottingham have been awarded a total of £2.4m as part of the UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships scheme.

Dr Lauren V Hadley from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Dr George Gordon from the Faculty of Engineering, have both been awarded a fellowship which will see them receive grants of up to £1.2milllion (each) over an initial four year period to carry out their own research projects.

The Future Leaders Fellowships scheme is designed to establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across the UK.

Announcing the successful fellows at today’s Future Leaders Conference (15 October), Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “We are committed to building back better through research and innovation, and supporting our science superstars in every corner of the UK.

By backing these inspirational Future Leaders Fellows, we will ensure that their brilliant ideas can be transferred straight from the lab into vital everyday products and services that will help to change all our lives for the better.”
Science Minister Amanda Solloway

Dr Lauren V Hadley - Hearing Sciences

Dr Lauren V Hadley, a Senior Research Fellow in the Hearing Sciences department, has been awarded a grant of £1.2m over four years to look at how we converse with other people so successfully, and why hearing impairment makes it so much harder.

Dr Hadley says: “Conversation is fundamental for developing social attachments, and if the ability to converse with others breaks down, it can be devastating. People with hearing impairment often find conversation challenging, finding it difficult to follow, but very little is known about how to support conversation for people that struggle.

Dr Lauren V Hadley

“To interact smoothly, people must make mental predictions about each other's contributions. These predictions are what allow us to respond quickly and appropriately when a partner finishes – they keep us on the front foot and reduce long gaps in conversation. Yet people with hearing impairment show reduced use of prediction when listening to speech even though they could particularly benefit from that extra help.”

The objective of Lauren’s fellowship is therefore to understand how people make predictions during interaction, in order to identify how to provide support and make conversation easier for people with hearing impairment.

“As the population is ageing, more and more people are experiencing hearing loss, which results in feelings of loneliness and social isolation. My work focuses on understanding how people make predictions about their conversation partner’s speech, and the way the process differs for people with hearing loss, to find new ways to support people through novel hearing technology.

EEG - hearing research

“I’ve always looked forward to leading my own research group, and the Future Leaders Fellowship will give me the time and support to build my own lab to address cutting-edge research questions. Hearing loss affects the vast majority of older adults, and this fellowship gives me the opportunity to work with world-leading hearing science researchers at the University of Nottingham and collaborate with partners in the hearing aid industry to find new ways to help,” adds Dr Hadley.

Graham Naylor, Professor of Hearing Sciences, and Dr Hadley’s line manager, said: “I am extremely pleased to be hosting Lauren’s FLF work at our hearing Sciences lab in Glasgow. It represents a strengthening of our profile and a diversification of our portfolio into adjacent but highly relevant research topics. I am confident that her work will significantly influence our thinking over the next few years. The award to Lauren is well-deserved recognition of the originality and potential impact of her ideas, her ability to engage leading scientists in them, and the quality of her research to date.”

Dr George Gordon -  Optics and Photonics

Dr George Gordon, Assistant Professor in the Optics and Photonics Research Group, will look at the detection of cancers in hard-to-reach areas, thanks to a £1.2m grant.

Cancers that occur deep within the body, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancers, are difficult to detect and treat due to their inaccessibility via natural orifices. This typically makes them more deadly. 

Dr Gordon’s research will address this problem by shrinking state-of-the-art microscopes to the size of a hair so they can fit inside a needle and take images deep inside the body, creating ultra-thin endoscopes.

Dr George Gordon

Dr Gordon says: “The endoscopes I will develop transport light in and out of the body via hair-thin pieces of glass called optical fibres. However, to perform advanced microscopic imaging, which is needed to reliably detect cancer, I will develop a radically new approach that uses nanotechnology to recreate the components of an optical microscope on the tip of these hair-thin fibres.I will work closely with clinical collaborators at the Gastrointestinal and Liver Disorder Theme of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (Prof. Guru Aithal) to apply this technology to pancreatic cancer, and with an advanced endoscope development team at the University of Arizona (Prof. Jennifer Barton) to apply it to ovarian cancer.  Further, through my commercial partner YouCare Tech, who develop ultra-thin endoscopes for the urinary tract, I hope to accelerate this new technology towards commercial application in healthcare.”

This UKRI Future Leader’s Fellowship offers me an unprecedented opportunity to kick-start my lab and build a multidisciplinary team to develop this exciting new technology over several years. I hope that in years to come this will start to be used by clinicians looking at ovarian and pancreatic cancers and will pick up some early cases that can be treated."
Dr Gordon

Professor Sam Kingman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering, said: “We are immensely proud that George has been awarded such a prestigious fellowship from UKRI. We believe that his ideas have the potential to deliver significant impact in hard to reach and treat cancers and this funding coupled with the excellence of his academic and industrial partners will accelerate the development of a whole new class of treatment”

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Phone: 0115 748 4417

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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