University of Glasgow: Glasgow Gains Four Prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Awards

The University of Glasgow has been awarded four prestigious UKRI-funded Future Leaders Fellowship awards, for work on key research areas including quantum sensing, bunyaviruses, immigration detention and colorectal cancer.

The awards, which have been made to Dr Stephen Carter and Dr Colin Steele from the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, Dr Sam Bayliss from the College of Science and Engineering, and Dr Cetta Mainwaring from the College of Social Sciences. Together they received £5.8m funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Bunyavirus

Future Leaders Fellowships is a £98million fund designed to help to establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across UK business and academia. The scheme supports early career researchers and innovators with outstanding potential in universities, UK registered businesses, and other research and user environments including research councils’ institutes and laboratories.

The support will enable each fellow to tackle ambitious and challenging research and innovation and develop their own careers.

Dr Sam Bayliss, of the James Watt School of Engineering, has received £1.8m to investigate how spin states in molecular systems can be harnessed for quantum sensing, and photonic materials and devices.

Dr Bayliss’ research explores the optical and magnetic properties of molecules, with applications spanning quantum technologies, energy harvesting, and sensing.

He joined the University of Glasgow as a Lecturer in Quantum Engineering in 2021 following a PhD in physics at the University of Cambridge and postdoctoral research at the Freie Universität Berlin, and the University of Chicago,

Using his Future Leaders Fellowship, Dr Bayliss will explore the interface of molecular spins with light, and stimuli ranging from thermal to electric fields. Through this research, he will seek to unlock the potential that molecular spins offer as versatile quantum probes, with a range of applications from nanoscale sensing of local fields in biological systems, to design rules for next-generation light-harvesting and light-emitting materials.

Dr Bayliss said: “I am delighted to have received a Future Leaders Fellowship. It provides a fantastic opportunity to pursue ambitious research over a sustained period, build a team around new directions, and develop as an early career researcher more broadly. I’m looking forward to the opportunity this Fellowship will offer to focus on adventurous research over the next four years.”

Dr Stephen Carter, who is based at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), has been awarded £1.6m to use cutting-edge cryo-ET (electron cryo-tomography) to study bunyaviruses, a family of viruses transmitted through bites from insects such as ticks, mosquitoes and midges.

Cryo-ET has the potential to revolutionize cell biology, as it can be used to dissect structures in place, in 3-D, and in their native state in cells, with results often producing dramatic new insights. Dr Carter’s work will apply cryo-ET to virus-infected cells to provide completely new perspectives on virus-host interactions. To learn about important structural aspects of bunyavirus biology, Dr Carter and his team will apply state of the art technologies, such as cryo-CLEM, cryo-FIB milling, and cryo-ET to visualize these viruses at a microscopic two nanometre resolution – one nanometre is equivalent to just one billionth of a metre.

Dr Carter said: “I am thrilled to be awarded the Future Leaders Fellowship. The Future Leaders Fellowship will allow be to build a laboratory that conducts cutting-edge imaging of viruses inside infected cells. It is an honour to be able to conduct this work within the CVR. Identifying novel architecture and key interactions between bunyaviruses and the host will offer a step change in our understanding of fundamental aspects of viral replication.”

Dr Cetta Mainwaring, who is based in the School of Social & Political Sciences, has been awarded £1.1m for her project – Immigration Detention: Investigating the Expansion and Global Diffusion of a Failed Project

This project examines the expansion and diffusion of immigration detention systems around the world, despite the fact that they do not deliver stated policy objectives and cause harm. It focuses on the UK, the US and Australia asking how policies and the ideas that reinforce them move transnationally. The research will also examine resistance to detention, and includes five non-governmental organisations across these countries as research partners.

Dr Mainwaring said: “I’m delighted to have been awarded a Future Leaders Fellowship and excited about carrying out this research with a PhD student and two postdoctoral researchers over the next four years. I’d like to thank colleagues across the University who made this success possible through their support.”

Dr Colin Steele has been awarded over £1.3m to better understand the role of neutrophils – common white blood cells which play an important role in the immune system – in advanced colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer for men and women in the UK, and patients sadly die due to spread, or metastasis, to other organs, in particular the liver. Previous research showed that neutrophils cells contribute to failure of other immune cells to recognise and clear the tumour, however the exact mechanisms involved remain unexplored.

This new work will stratify patients into subtypes of colorectal cancer and begin to understand the role of neutrophils play in advancing the disease. This work will assess neutrophil targeting strategies to assess if a subgroup of patients may benefit from clinical trial of neutrophil directed therapies.

Dr Steele said: “I am delighted to receive the support of UKRI. This award will revolutionise our work, providing time and specific funding to better understand the spread of colorectal cancer. The funding will give us the opportunity to perform in-depth characterisation of the disease, and work towards translating our findings to improving outcomes for patients with metastatic cancer.”

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