Quantum mechanics, climate change and the arts and gender and risk are among the topics that have won University researchers prizes for their research.

Four researchers have been honoured with a Research Output Prize for Early Career Researchers. One award for each research theme is made annually to recognise and celebrate research achievements.

Professor Dominik Zaum, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Congratulations to all four winners. As in past years, we had a very strong field of outputs by our Early Career Researchers. The entries and winners highlight the breadth and depth of excellent research is being undertaken across the University. The success of these award winners is both a reflection of their own outstanding achievement, and of the research environment in their Schools and Research Divisions that have supported and enabled their research.”

The awards for each research theme are:

Agriculture, Food & Health

Winner: Az Alddien Natfji for his article, ‘Conjugation of haloperidol to PEG allows peripheral localisation of haloperidol and eliminates CNS extrapyramidal effects’, (Journal of Controlled Release 322 227-235.)

In addition to their desired therapeutic effects, drug molecules can cause unwanted side effects. In some cases, these side effects affect the central nervous system. For example, some antihistamine drugs, used to treat allergies, give drowsiness due to the distribution of their molecules to the central nervous system. Therefore, we have suggested using polymers (large molecules) to prevent drugs from reaching the brain while maintaining their desired action.

In this study, I demonstrated that by linking a model drug (haloperidol) to a polymer (poly(ethylene glycol)), it was possible: (a) to retain the desired activity of the drug, and also (b) to prevent its unwanted effects in the central nervous system. Specifically, I showed activity of the linked drug/polymer using several approaches including in cells and computer modelling. Of particular significance, our strategy was successful at completely removing the effects of the drug on the central nervous system in animal models, as it did not reach the brain due to the linking of the drug to the polymer. This study constitutes biological evidence that polymer linking can be used to localise the effects of some drugs at the intended body compartment.

Read Az Alddien Natfji’s blog about his work: How can we minimise side effects but keep the benefits of drugs?


Winner: Gyorgy Geher, for his article, ‘Coexistency on Hilbert Space Effect Algebras and a Characterisation of Its Symmetry Transformations’ in Communications in Maths and Physics 379, 1077–1112 (2020).

In the classical formulation of Quantum Mechanics, called Quantum Sharp Measurement, it is assumed that physical measurements are accurate/sharp. However, in reality measurements are inaccurate by nature, therefore we often need to work in the more general framework called Quantum Unsharp Measurement.

Two quantum (sharp or unsharp) events are said to be jointly measurable if they can be measured together by applying a suitable apparatus. While joint measurability of quantum sharp events is mathematically well-understood, it is a much more complicated notion in the unsharp context.

In our paper we answered two fundamental open questions about joint measurability of quantum unsharp events. First, we characterised when two quantum events are jointly measurable with exactly the same quantum events. Second, we characterised all automorphisms with respect to joint measurability, which is an important ingredient in the study of the evolution of quantum systems.

Read Gyorgy Geher’s blog about his work: Sharp and Unsharp measurement in Quantum Mechanics

The runner up for this theme is Jian-Feng Gu for his article, ‘Pressure drag for shallow cumulus clouds: From thermals to the cloud ensemble’ in Geophysical Research Letters47 (2020). Read Jian-Feng Gu’s blog about his work: Understanding vertical motion in clouds.

Prosperity & Resilience

Winner: Lisa Schopohl for her article ‘Female CFOs, leverage and the moderating role of board diversity and CEO power’ in the Journal of Corporate Finance 101858 (2020) (with Andrew Urquhart and Hanxiong Zhang).

Do female managers take on less risk in the firms they manage and under which conditions does gender affect corporate financing choices? In this study, we analyse the impact of the gender of the chief financial officer (CFOs) on firms’ corporate leverage decisions, one of the most important corporate policies. We are particularly interested under which decision-making environment female CFOs can affect corporate leverage. Based on a sample of UK public companies, we find that firms with female CFOs take on considerably lower leverage than firms run by male CFOs, suggesting that female CFOs prefer less risky corporate financing choices. Moreover, our results highlight the important role of the decision-making environment for female CFOs to affect corporate leverage. We show that only in firms with diverse boards as well as in firms that are not run by powerful CEOs do female CFOs have a significant effect on corporate leverage.

Read Lisa Schopohl’s blog about her work: Female CFOs, leverage and the moderating role of board diversity and CEO power

The runner up for this theme is Georgina Holmes for her article, ‘Situating Agency, Embodied Practices and Norm Implementation in Peacekeeping Training’, in International Peacekeeping 26 55-84 (2019). Read Georgina Holmes’s blog about her work: How are gender equality norms implemented in peacekeeping?

Heritage & Creativity

Winner: Lisa Woynarski for her monograph, Ecodramaturgies: Theatre, Performance and Climate Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

Ecodramaturgies addresses theatre’s contribution to the way we think about ecology, our relationship to the environment and what it means to be human in the context of global climate change. It is a detailed study of the ways in which contemporary theatre performance has critiqued and re-imagined everyday ecological relationships, towards a more just and equitable future. The broad spectrum of ecologically-oriented theatre and performance included, from the UK, USA, Canada, Europe, Mexico and Nigeria, foreground marginalised perspectives and the multiple social and political forces that shape climate change and related ecological crises. Climate change magnifies inequalities and injustices. Theatre can stage invisible perspectives, challenging dominate narratives. The work analyses contemporary performance, alongside scripted plays and Indigenous activist movements, in relation to environmental justice frameworks.

Read Lisa Woynarski’s blog about her work: What can the arts show us about climate change?