Royal Society announces University Research Fellowships for 2020

12 August 2020

The Royal Society has announced 38 successful University Research Fellowship (URF) candidates for 2020. The researchers will take up their new posts at institutions across the UK and Ireland from the start of October.

The University Research Fellowship scheme was established to identify outstanding early career scientists who have the potential to become leaders in their chosen fields and provide them with the opportunity to build an independent research career.  After completion, many alumni are offered tenure positions, and go on to enjoy significant national or international recognition for their work.   

Venki Ramakrishnan, the President of the Royal Society said, “The URF scheme celebrates and rewards high calibre early career scientists throughout the UK and Ireland. While Brexit and the pandemic will have an impact on early career researchers, it is gratifying to see this year’s URF scheme continuing to support talented researchers from around the world. This is vital for sustaining the talent pipeline that the UK’s science and innovation sector relies on. The scheme’s alumni go on to achieve great things within their disciplines, with their research contributing to the advancement of our society.”

In line with the Society’s mission of supporting excellence and the next generation of research leaders, this year’s applicants were also able to apply for enhanced research support as part of their fellowship. The announcement includes the appointment of one Royal Society Science Foundation Ireland University Research Fellow funded by Science Foundation Ireland, which is available for researchers in the Republic of Ireland. 

The newly appointed research fellows will be working on a wide and diverse range of research projects spanning the physical, mathematical, chemical and biological sciences, including: 

Dr Chunyi Li (University of Warwick) - Stability condition and application in algebraic geometry 

Dr Li will build on their recent discovery within the field of Algebraic Geometry that proves the existence of stability conditions on the quintic 3-fold, the most classic object in mirror symmetry. They intend to further develop the theory of stability conditions by studying some intrinsic questions that motivated the development of this field. 

Dr Katrina Jones (University of Manchester) - Mammals put their back into it: A whole-body perspective on the evolution of running 

Dr Jones will investigate the evolution of mammalian running across 60 million years. By comparing and evaluating information about anatomy and function with fossil skeletons they will know if changes to hunting behaviour and/or climate drove the evolution of running in mammals.

Dr Pietro Sormanni (University of Cambridge) - Third generation methods of antibody discovery and optimisation: In silico rational design

Dr Sormanni’s research focuses on developing and establishing rational design as a competitive technology to generate antibodies. This approach lowers the time and costs required, does not exploit animals, and enables much better control over the properties of the antibodies.

Dr Julia Stawarz (Imperial College London) - The Universality of Turbulent Energy Dissipation in Collisionless Space Plasmas

Dr Stawarz will investigate how the energy contained within turbulent fluctuations of space plasma is dissipated, providing insight into the role that turbulence plays in producing hazardous energetic particles that can damage human infrastructure through space weather.

Dr Claudia Tait (University of Oxford) - Insights into Fundamental Processes in Solar Energy Technology by Advanced EPR

Dr Tait will use Electron Spin Resonance spectroscopy to characterise single electron environment at the molecular level to monitor the charges created after illumination, and to investigate what properties of their nanoscale environment facilitates their separation to generate electric current. This knowledge can guide the design of improved materials for photovoltaics and push commercial production and widespread use of these new technologies forward.

The complete list of 2020 appointments is as follows: 

Dr James Attwater 
Origins and evolution of coded polymer synthesis 
University College London (UCL) 

Dr David Ayuso 
Ultrafast control of chiral matter and enantio-sensitive imaging: towards the ultimate efficiency 
University College London (UCL) 

Dr Bruno Bertini 
Organising Principles in Out-of-Equilibrium Quantum Matter 
University of Oxford 

Dr Jochen Brandt 
The Interaction of Chirality and Spin 
Imperial College London 

Dr Thomas Collett
Launching the statistical era of strong gravitational lensing cosmology.
University of Portsmouth

Dr Michele Conroy
Improper Ferroelectric Domain Wall Engineering for Dynamic Electronics
University of Limerick

Dr Ruadhaí Dervan 
Moduli Spaces and Fibrations in Complex Geometry 
University of Cambridge 

Dr Netan Dogra 
Diophantine geometry, fundamental groups and modular forms 
King’s College London

Dr Charles Downing 
Chiral and topological nanophotonics: from theory to applications
University of Exeter

Dr Emrys Evans 
Radical energy and spin control for organic electronics 
Swansea University

Dr Jessica Fintzen 
Representations of p-adic groups and the Langlands program 
University of Cambridge 

Dr Hannah Froy 
Eco-evolutionary consequences of individual heterogeneity in density dependence 
University of Edinburgh 

Dr Jonathan Gaunt
Multiple Partonic Scattering at the Large Hadron Collider and Beyond
University of Manchester

Dr Will Handley
Bayesian machine learning and tensions in cosmology
University of Cambridge

Dr Jake Harris 
Reading and rewriting epigenetic memory in priming plant defence 
University of Cambridge 

Dr Timothy Hele 
Designer lighting: a radical approach to improve organic solar cells and light-emitting diodes 
University College London (UCL) 

Dr Katrina Jones 
Mammals put their back into it: A whole-body perspective on the evolution of running 
University of Manchester 

Dr Stephen Jones
The Higgs Sector at the Precision Frontier
Durham University

Dr Andrew Jupp 
Shining Light on N2 Activation: The Photo-induced Functionalisation of Nitrogen Gas 
University of Birmingham 

Dr Alpha Lee 
Designing Molecular and Soft Materials Using Data-Driven Physical Models 
University of Cambridge 

Dr Chunyi Li 
Stability condition and application in algebraic geometry 
University of Warwick 

Dr Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo
Investigating the permeability of two-dimensional crystals
University of Manchester

Dr Joshua McFayden
Consolidating the top-Higgs sector to determine the fate of the Universe
University of Sussex

Dr Davide Michieletto 
Topologically Active Polymers 
University of Edinburgh

Dr Christopher O'Reilly
Extratropical climate variability: what are we missing?
University of Oxford

Dr Erik Panzer 
Quantum perturbation theory at large orders 
University of Oxford 

Dr Ronelle Roth 
Hitching-a-Ride in Extracellular Vesicles: Inter-kingdom Cargo Trafficking During Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Symbiosis 
University of Oxford 

Dr Alexander Shapiro 
Quantum character varieties and positive representation theory 
University of Edinburgh 

Dr Anna Slater 
Control of non-covalent synthesis and dynamic equilibria in flow 
University of Liverpool

Dr Pietro Sormanni 
Third generation methods of antibody discovery and optimisation: In silico rational design 
University of Cambridge 

Dr Julia Stawarz
The Universality of Turbulent Energy Dissipation in Collisionless Space Plasmas
Imperial College London

Dr Claudia Tait 
Insights into Fundamental Processes in Solar Energy Technology by Advanced EPR 
University of Oxford

Dr Nicola Tamanini
Gravitational Wave Propagation (GWPro): A new way to explore the dark universe
King's College London

Dr Deepak Venkateshvaran
Electrically controlled polymer mechanics
University of Cambridge

Dr Eleni Vryonidou
Probing New Physics at the Large Hadron Collider: the Effective Field Theory approach
University of Glasgow

Dr Richard Wade 
Automorphisms and duality in geometric group theory 
University of Oxford 

Dr Kali Wilson
Probing emergence and many-body physics with ultracold quantum mixtures.
University of Strathclyde

Dr Mao Zeng
Scattering amplitudes and applications to precision QCD and gravitational waves
University of Oxford