Cambridge researchers recognised as Future Leaders by UKRI

Future Leaders Fellowships are awarded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to support universities and businesses in developing their most talented early career researchers and innovators, and to attract new people to their organisations, including from overseas.

The 75 ‘most promising research leaders’ recognised today by UKRI will benefit from £101 million to tackle major global issues and to commercialise their innovations in the UK.

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with long-term support and training, giving them the freedom to explore adventurous new ideas, and to build dynamic careers that break down the boundaries between sectors and disciplines.

“The fellows announced today illustrate how this scheme empowers talented researchers and innovators to build the diverse and connected research and innovation system we need to shorten the distance between discovery and prosperity across the UK.”

The four Cambridge researchers are:

Dr Alecia-Jane Twigger (Department of Pharmacology) (pictured)

Breastfeeding has been highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival”. A major priority of the WHO is to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months up to at least 50% by 2025. However, many mothers worry about low milk production – a major driver for mothers switching to formula feeding. With funding provided by the Future Leaders Fellowship, Dr Twigger will establish state-of-the-art models of lactation with the aim of developing and trialling treatments to support low-milk production mothers in partnership with breastfeeding advocates and clinical stakeholders.

Dr Amy Orben (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and Fellow of St John’s College)

Dr Amy Orben will pinpoint how social media use might be linked to mental health risk in teenagers, a time when we are especially susceptible to developing mental health conditions. She will use a range of innovative techniques to study technological designs, such as the quantification of social feedback through ‘like’ counts, that could be problematic and therefore a target for future regulation. As a UKRI Future Leader Fellow, Dr Orben will also collaborate flexibly with youth, policymakers and charities to swiftly address pressing questions about social media and technology, helping to safeguard young people.

Dr Anna Moore (Department of Psychiatry)

Seventy percent of children suffering mental health problems are unable to access services and those who can are waiting longer than ever for help. Working with children, families and Cambridge Children’s Hospital project, Dr Anna Moore is developing easy-to-use digital tools to revolutionise mental health treatment for the young, by helping clinicians diagnose conditions much earlier. The system, called Timely, will use AI to analyse patient data, joining the dots to spot the early signs of mental health conditions. The tool will be designed to reduce health inequality, improve service efficiency and ensure data use is ethical and publicly acceptable.

Dr Niamh Gallagher (Faculty of History and Fellow of St Catharine’s College)

Dr Gallagher will lead ground-breaking historical research into one of the greatest geopolitical transformations of the 20th century, the disappearance of the British Empire, by investigating how Ireland, the Irish and a series of so-called ‘Irish Questions’ influenced the multifarious ‘ends’ of the Empire, from 1886 to today. With partners spanning education, public policy and the media, this research will produce a series of innovative outputs and shareable recommendations that facilitate pathways to cohesion in post-conflict Northern Ireland and enhance British–Irish relations in the aftermath of Brexit.

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