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University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Tickell and Chancellor Lord Karan Bilimoria pose with the award winners.
Left to right: Professor Nic Cheeseman, Professor Alan McNally, Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, Chancellor Lord Bilimoria, Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Tickell, Dr Lucy Clark, Dr Clare Ray

Creating world-leading Covid-19 testing capacity, and advising governments on religious minority persecution were among the world-leading academic work recognised in this year’s Founders’ Awards.

The awards celebrate work by University academics that has tackled some of the biggest challenges the world faces, and showcases the breadth of teaching and research activity at Birmingham.

Each of our Founders’ Awards recipients this year represent the heroic effort that members of the University have made over the past three years, which have been unlike any in many of our lifetimes.

Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham

Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham said:

“From setting up Covid-19 testing ‘superlabs’ to strengthening democracies around the world, academics from the University of Birmingham are having a global impact to improve lives and situations.

“Each of our Founders’ Awards recipients this year represent the heroic effort that members of the University have made over the past three years, which have been unlike any in many of our lifetimes.”

The winners were:

The Josiah Mason Award for Academic Advancement

This award recognises academic activity that has significantly advanced the discourse or understanding within a specific academic area, with a national or international significance. 

The winner is: Professor Nic Cheeseman from the School of Government, for his research on how to strengthen democracies around the world. Nic works with major international players to turn his research into practical steps that can be taken to defend democracy.

The Rose Sidgwick Award for External Engagement and Impact

This award recognises academic activity that has created meaningful change at a civic, national or international level through demonstrably delivering societal benefits whether economic, social, environmental or cultural. 

The winner is Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, from the Department of Theology and Religion, recognising Jagbir’s research into the situation of religious minorities in the wake of the overthrow of the Afghan government, especially Sikhs and Hindus. Jagbir is working with the UK Government, the US State Department and also serves as an expert advisor to the OSCE on Religious Freedom. 

The Florence Price Award for Outstanding Early-Career Academic

This award recognises the work of an outstanding early-career academic whose research has international significance and is breaking new boundaries, placing their research, and the University, at the global forefront of their discipline.

The winner is Dr Lucy Clark, from the School of Chemistry, for her Quantum Materials research in an area that spans the fields of materials chemistry and condensed matter physics.

The Joseph Chamberlain Award for Educational Advancement

This award recognising the work of an outstanding academic whose contribution to the education of our students has had a major impact on student outcomes and experience at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

The winner is Dr Clare Ray, in the Institute of Clinical Sciences, School of Medicine and Dentistry, for her work supporting for students from under-represented groups in Higher Education. Clare’s work has led to a significant impact of access, success and progression for students across a range of subjects, particularly medicine and healthcare.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Award

The winners of the special category of ‘The Vice-Chancellor’s Award’ are:

Professor Alan McNally and Professor Nick Loman from the Institute of Microbiology and Infection.

At the start of the Covid pandemic, Alan advised government on the establishment of ‘super labs’ for Covid-19 diagnostics. By early March 2020 he had already set up the COVID-19 diagnostic laboratory in the University working across campus to bring together staff and equipment to deliver coronavirus testing capability.  He was subsequently asked to set up and implement testing at the UKBC site in Milton Keynes where he was installed as Laboratory Head.

Nick Loman played a pivotal role in the UK’s world-leading response to the Covid-19 crisis. In the previous decade here, Nick adopted the most up-to-date flexible DNA-sequencing technologies, making the University of Birmingham a national hub for bacterial genome sequencing. Nick and his team then applied this to track viruses in Africa and South America and then set up a national infrastructure to handle the emerging data.