from left: Bodo Winter, Curt Von Keyserlingk and Fabian Spill
From left: Dr Bodo Winter, Dr Curt Von Keyserlingk and Dr Fabian Spill

Three University of Birmingham researchers are joining the latest wave of Future Leaders Fellows, announced today by Science Minister Amanda Solloway.

The Fellows, based at UK Universities and Businesses have each received a share of £109 million via UK Research and Innovation’s flagship scheme, designed to tackle major research challenges and establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across the UK.

The three Future Leaders Fellows from Birmingham are:

Bodo Winter, Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Linguistics, College of Arts and Law

Dr Winter’s Fellowship looks at how numerical information is communicated across different communicative channels, ranging all the way from graphs and data visualizations to linguistic phrases such as “tiny number” and “rising prices.” The project even looks at the manual gestures that speakers produce when people talk numbers, and how gestures can subconsciously bias how people make decisions based on data. Dr Winter will assemble an interdisciplinary team that uses novel techniques from natural language processing and computer vision to analyze numerical language at a so far unprecedented scale.

Dr Winter says: “Numbers lie at the heart of modern life, and these days more than ever, it is crucial that numerical information is accurately understood by decision makers, as well as the general public. The Future Leader Fellowship enables me to bring together a team of researchers who think about numerical communication in a broader sense, beyond disciplinary boundaries. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities, including new collaborations with industry partners, to look at how we can improve the communication of numerical information.”

Fabian Spill, Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Dr Spill is investigating the mechanical features which characterise many diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. For example, cancer cells generate mechanical forces to move through the body during the deadly process of metastasis. The goal of Dr Spill’s research is to gain a better understanding of the interplay of such mechanical disease signatures with widely studied molecular signatures.

Dr Spill says: “The interdisciplinary scope of the FLF and the long-term funding will provide me with a unique opportunity to develop an integrative approach combining mathematical models with experiments, and fundamental science with a translational perspective.”

Curt von Keyserlingk, Birmingham Fellow, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Dr von Keyserlingk is researching how quantum mechanics — which describes the world at small scales — gives rise to the properties of everyday (and more exotic) materials. This project will enable him to investigate transport in strongly correlated systems, as well as out-of-equilibrium phases like time crystals. 

Dr von Keyserlingk says: “I'm really honoured to receive this fellowship. I'm excited too because the FLF will enable me to tackle some difficult but worthwhile problems, and set up an excellent new group in Birmingham!”  

Announcing the successful fellows at today’s Future Leaders Conference, 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.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with freedom and support to drive forward transformative new ideas and the opportunity to learn from peers right across the country.

"The fellows announced today illustrate how the UK continues to support and attract talented researchers and innovators across every discipline to our universities and businesses, with the potential to deliver change that can be felt across society and the economy."

UKRI’s initiative aims to support the creation of a new cohort of research and innovation leaders who will have links across different sectors and disciplines. Awardees will each receive between £400,000 and £1.5 million over an initial four years. The grant supports challenging and novel projects, and the development of the fellow’s career. The funding can also used to support team members, their development, and pay for equipment and other needs.

UKRI is committed to increasing diversity on its fellowship programmes. It is today publishing diversity data on application and award rates for the Future Leaders Fellowships.

Notes to editors:

  • For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348: email:
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The Future Leaders Fellowships scheme, which is run by UK Research and Innovation, will recognise up to 550 individuals with a total investment of £900 million committed over 3 years. The scheme helps universities and businesses in the UK recruit, develop and retain the world’s best researchers and innovators, regardless of their background. They can apply for up to £1.5 million to support the research and innovation leaders of the future, keeping the UK at the cutting edge of innovation. Each fellowship will last four to seven years.
  • Round six of the Future Leaders Fellowships is currently open to applications.