On Wednesday 11 July 2018, the OU held its first ever Research Excellence Awards to celebrate the University’s research and academic achievements, and the global impact and breadth of the University’s research portfolio.
Researchers from across the University were in the running for five awards, whose winners were chosen by a judging panel chaired by Professor Kevin Hetherington, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Academic Strategy. Kevin said:
“This is our first ever OU Research Excellence Awards scheme. The Awards are a great way of recognising the importance and quality of our research, and the excellence of our academics. We had a high-calibre of submissions, which made the choice of winners hard to make. Well done to all those who won.”
The winners and runners up
Outstanding Contribution to Research Award
OU Chair of International Development, Professor Giles Mohan from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, was the worthy winner of the coveted Outstanding Contribution to Research Award, for his world-renowned work on African development over the last 25 years.
Giles’ work straddles human geography and international development, and focuses on how international agencies have made progress in Africa, despite huge structural constraints.
“In my work, I have always tried to look at the ways that Africans themselves are driving their own development.”
Early Career Researcher Award
OU Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr Jenna Mittelmeier, from Learning and Teaching Innovations, won the Early Career Research Award. Since completing her PhD at the OU, Jenna has been working on large-scale psychological instruments to determine how international students at the University of South Africa develop strategies to cope and adjust to changes in their academic and personal life.
The judging panel praised Jenna as a real all-rounder, whose research is already generating substantial impact beyond academia.
“I feel really honoured just to be nominated and I am very proud of the hard work I have put in this year.”
Outstanding Impact of Research on OU Learning and Teaching, Curriculum and Students Award
Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Dr Ilona Roth, from the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) won this award for her track record of research in autism, which she has applied to innovative curriculum and learning materials. The judging panel described her work as “an exemplary demonstration of research-informed curriculum.”
Since the beginning of this century, Ilona’s research has ranged from documenting unusual cognitive traits in autism to addressing autism awareness and stigma in Ethiopia, to dementia. This work has inspired her to create a range of innovative curriculum, training and informal learning materials for those interested in autism and mental health, and has enhanced the way staff teach and support students with autism.
Outstanding Impact of Research on Society and Prosperity Award
Professor Shailey Minocha and her team in the faculties of STEM (Duncan Banks, Catherine McNulty, Ana Tudor) and WELS (Caroline Holland), and Kate Hamblin from the University of Oxford won this award for their research investigating how wearable monitoring technologies can support active and healthy ageing.
With Age UK Milton Keynes, Carers MK, University of Oxford, and Samsung UK, they are working out how these devices can help older people self-monitor and self-manage their health, and alleviate social isolation and loneliness. The research has informed activity monitor design and is providing the evidence that could underpin policy for active and healthy ageing and caring.
The judges described the programme as “an excellent example of research that is shaped by its users.”
Outstanding Research Project Award
The Rosetta team from the Faculty of STEM, whose research enabled the first ever landing on a comet, has won the Outstanding Research Project Award.
Many colleagues in the team have worked on the project for 20 years, and were involved in shaping the scope of the Rosetta Mission from the very beginning, developing and constructing scientific instrumentation to take it on its journey around the sun, and to construct the Philae Lander, which landed on the comet’s surface. Rosetta and Philae have revolutionised our understanding of cometary science and boosted the OU’s research profile, by publishing many academic papers, attracting grant funding, and contributing to public outreach and teaching activities.
Professor Ian Wright, a member of the team explains:
“We have spent our lifetime on Rosetta – this allows us to convey our sense of excitement to our undergraduate students and encourage them to rise to almost impossible challenges too.”