Blog posts

Dr Sanaz Talaifar, ‪Assistant Professor in Organisational Behaviour, Imperial College Business School

Dr Sanaz Talaifar, Assistant Professor in Organisational Behaviour

“It is always very gratifying when students tell me that what they have learned in my class is helping them directly in their lives and their careers.”

I received my PhD in Social and Personality Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Before graduate school, I had been a bit confused about what topic and career to pursue because I was interested in so many different things! I found that many of my interests (identity, personality, wellbeing, politics, technology) were being studied by social and personality psychologists in super fascinating ways, and so by becoming a social-personality psychologist I was able to pursue these diverse interests simultaneously.

After graduating, I became a Postdoctoral Scholar in Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. My transition to a business school context made sense in many ways. I had done research during my PhD at Google and had worked in the private sector before graduate school. I also gravitated towards research that had real world implications and felt that many of society’s most pressing problems could not be solved without the involvement of business. (more…)

Travis Mager, Business School, Student Life Manager (Global)

Travis Mager
“Joining the Student Life team last year has been such a revelation for me – I’m very lucky to work with such passionate and respectful colleagues”

I studied History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, where upon graduation, I promptly decided I wanted to pursue other professional avenues. I’ve worn a fair few hats over the years: from working in arts fundraising, to a political ad agency back in my native Washington DC. Most recently I was working as a PA, and in marketing postgraduate programmes, in the Faculty of Medicine. I’m now in the Business School, where I’ve worked for the last year as the Student Life Manager.

I manage incoming and outgoing exchanges for postgraduate Business School students, working with over 25 partner Business Schools around the world to provide students with as much global experience as possible. I also work on other memory-making activities in the Business School including developing our overseas modules, and trip leading. Annually, we take over 600 Business School students on overseas trips, which create opportunities for students to increase their cultural fluency in the real world by immersing them in a country’s business and cultural scenes. More broadly, the Student Life team is also responsible for community engagement and experiences in the Business School, including Welcome Day, the Winter Party and Summer Ball. (more…)

Xingchen Zhang, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellow, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Xingchen Zhang
“I enjoy doing research and seeing students improve through my teaching and supervision.”

My project Safety in Smart Vehicle-Pedestrian Interaction aims to develop novel algorithms for smart vehicles to understand the behavior and intention of pedestrians by leveraging deep learning and multimodal information. Employing multimodal information ensures that the developed algorithms are robust across varying lighting and weather conditions.

Beyond my research endeavours, I am passionately engaged in both teaching and supporting learning at Imperial. I’ve delivered multiple lectures on Deep Learning in my department, and I was also primary supervisor for an MSc project in Applied Machine Learning. This project was focused on the innovative development of pedestrian privacy protection systems in videos captured by vehicle cameras, resulting in two submissions to a journal and a conference. I am also a mentor on Imperial’s Activate Student Mentoring Programme, supporting students from ethnic minorities in their academic and professional development.

I was a team leader in the 2023 Great Exhibition Road Festival, an annual festival led by Imperial College London that celebrates science and the arts. Our exhibit, showcased the navigational capabilities of our autonomous robotic wheelchair, which includes the latest research on detecting pedestrians using thermal sensing. We managed to attract over 2,000 visitors throughout the weekend.

As part of the Faculty of Engineering’s Bring Your Child to Work initiative, I showcased the unusual cameras of our lab to children and their parents.

I am honoured to have spent over three years at Imperial, a place that has been excellent for conducting research, personal development, and assisting others. Looking forward, I plan to find a permanent faculty position. I enjoy doing research and seeing students improve through my teaching and supervision. As Mencius the philosopher said, attracting talented individuals from all over the world and educating them is one of the greatest joys in life.

Rasha Dabagh, Senior Manager, Internal Audit and Compliance, and University Council Member 

Rasha Dabagh

For Women at Imperial Week, we are profiling Rasha Dabagh and Liz Elvidge who are both members of the Council, Imperial’s governing body.

“Personally, I’ve felt empowered to voice my opinions at Imperial, regardless of my gender. The environment is welcoming and encourages diverse perspectives.”

I’m Rasha Dabagh, part of the Internal Audit and Corporate Compliance team with Imperial’s Central Secretariat department. Before joining Imperial, I spent a decade working in the City where I was involved in corporate and investment banking audits and compliance oversight.  

I have been impressed so far with the various initiatives Imperial has to support women throughout their careers. The Academic Women’s Association provides valuable development opportunities for female academics, and the Elsie Widdowson Fellowships empowers those returning from parental leave. Additionally, networks like Women in STEM offer peer support and career guidance. Personally, I’ve felt empowered to voice my opinions at Imperial, regardless of my gender. The environment is welcoming and encourages diverse perspectives.

Joining a new team as a hijabi woman can sometimes feel like an initial hurdle. It can take extra effort to build rapport and overcome potential biases before people truly see me for who I am. However, once we connect on a deeper level, the veil fades away, and meaningful relationships blossom. (more…)

Dr Liz Elvidge, Head of Postdoc and Fellows Development, and Imperial Council member

Dr Liz Elvidge

For Women at Imperial Week, we are profiling Liz Elvidge and Rasha Dabagh who are both members of the Council, Imperial’s governing body.

“Throughout my career I have always been passionate in supporting women, and I’ve had great opportunities at Imperial to do this.”

I started at Imperial on 5 May 2008. It was not the nicest first day I’ve ever had – dirty coffee cups on the desk, a broken chair and desktop. I almost didn’t come back for the next day! Anyway, clearly I did. In 2009 I launched the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre, the first of its kind in the UK. The Centre is dedicated to providing support, and development opportunities for our Postdocs and Fellows. Nearly 16 years later, I’m still head of the Centre.

I also introduced the Springboard Women’s Development Programme to the university, which is a programme for any female members of staff who want to set goals, build confidence and network. It has had a huge impact on the participants. Throughout my career I have always been passionate in supporting women, and I’ve had great opportunities at Imperial to do this.

In 2015 I was awarded the Dame Julia Higgins Medal for ‘outstanding support for early career researchers and academics’. It was an absolute career highlight. The medal was presented at the Graduation Ceremony in the Royal Albert Hall. I didn’t know I had been nominated so it was such a lovely surprise. Nine years later, there has been significant effort via the Athena Swan work to support women, but I think there is much work still to do – particularly for early career academic women. There are of course examples of excellence across the university, but this can be very variable.

Last year I was appointed to Imperial’s Council in the new membership position, drawn from Imperial’s academic job family. I applied because I wanted to have the opportunity to represent both the academic job family, and women at the highest level at Imperial. The appointment of four women to the Council has been a significant step forward.

Outside of Imperial I’m a newly appointed Magistrate, which is both rewarding and interesting. I live in a small village in Cambridgeshire with approximately 130 houses, but no facilities, shop, bus service or school. But I am very much embedded in the community. For example we have a monthly pop-up pub on the first Friday of the month, so you’ll find me serving behind the bar (kitchen hatch). I also co-ordinate the speedwatch volunteers group that monitors car speeds through the village – I love a high-vis jacket.

Finally, I’m been committed to fundraising for Cancer Research UK since 1998. Last year I did the skipping challenge. This month I’ll be doing the ‘Walk all over cancer’ challenge.

Look out for our second Women at Imperial Week profile which, will be published on Wednesday.

Women at Imperial Week graphic

Ben Gray, Sustainability Initiatives Coordinator, Estates Division

Ben Gray, Sustainability Initiatives Coordinator, Estates Division
“Our labs and offices at Imperial are quite energy intensive, and it’s my job to understand how we can reduce our energy consumption to reach Imperial’s Net Zero target by 2040.”
 

I have always been interested in Sustainability which led me to do an MSc in Chemistry, with a focus on future battery technology in my final year project. Following university, I worked as an Analytical Chemist for four years, with a focus on Chromatography for the Health Care business, which is when I first considered the need for sustainable practices in laboratory spaces. I led the My Green Lab certification for our lab spaces, tackling reduction of energy use and recycling of plastics. It was a fantastic experience bringing people together and making positive changes. And that is exactly why I was drawn to the position of Sustainability Initiatives Coordinator at Imperial. 

My job is about the resource management section of Imperial’s Sustainability Strategy, and what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. Our labs and offices at Imperial are quite energy intensive, and it’s my job to understand how we can reduce our energy consumption to reach Imperial’s Net Zero target by 2040. This involves engaging with lab, and office users, to understand current behaviours, and where savings can be made through adjustments in usage. For example, warming up our Ultra-Low Temperature Freezers from -80C to –70C, saves approximately a whole home’s worth of energy every day.  (more…)

Rhea Samra, Sustainability Officer, Office of the Provost

Rhea Samra
“Sustainability Fortnight, the annual celebration of sustainability at the university started last week. This year, we’re excited to host a range of workshops, exhibits and seminars.”

I’m based in the central Sustainability function, working to support the delivery of the university’s Sustainability Strategy, and it’s been great to see the momentum build around sustainability over the past few years at the university.

I’m lucky to work with a wide range of colleagues at Imperial – from academic experts to help draft the upcoming Sustainable Business Travel Policy, to operational leads who attended our pilot staff climate literacy course. I also work with communications experts to help amplify the great work going around on campus, such as sustainable lab practices, such as closing fume cupboard sashes completely when not in use. This reduces their energy consumption by 40% or more. (more…)

Amber Yitong Liu, MSc International Management, Imperial College Business School

“I hope every individual will no longer be entangled with the question of who they are, no longer fear their differences, and with joy, accept themselves and others, and accept this world that is inherently colourful like a rainbow.”

I was born and raised in China until I came to Canada at 13 and discovered I was genderfluid and bisexual. You can’t imagine my ecstasy upon realising that the ostracisation from school wasn’t because of my “weirdness” in my boyish behaviours, but rather a lack of understanding from those around me. One day, my high school finance teacher praised me, noting I was different from others, in a good way. Being the simple person I am, I decided finance was my favourite subject (the alluring world of finance also attracted me, of course).

After completing my undergraduate degree in finance and marketing, I decided to pursue a deeper understanding of the business world, and leverage my knowledge to assist those in need. Therefore, I joined the MSc International Management program at Imperial College Business School. It is the most exciting master’s program in business. I have opportunities to engage in worldwide projects in Cape Town, the US, Europe, and so many incredible places. It completes my UK experiences and makes this year of journey an unforgettable milestone in my life. (more…)

Dr Stephanie Hodeib, Teaching Fellow, Department of Immunology and Inflammation

“Celebrating LGBT+ History Month is crucial to acknowledging and appreciating the diverse contributions of the community throughout history.”

As a recently appointed Teaching Fellow at Imperial College London, my professional journey has been a blend of education and career growth. I embarked on this journey by completing a PhD in the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial. There I developed the skills that paved the way for my current role, principally by teaching fundamental lab skills. During my PhD I gained experience in teaching by working with taught courses and providing teaching support. This allowed me to successfully achieve the Fellowship of Higher Education.

In my current role, I focus on developing wet laboratory skills in students, and evolving their ability to critically think about the scientific method in an objective manner. My teaching is also about bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world applications. It’s about making science come alive in the laboratory, but with a strong focus on immunology and infection. The impact of my work is evident in the growth and proficiency of students. Witnessing their progress is immensely rewarding, and their feedback informs me of how transferrable, and important, the skills they develop are in their future education and careers. (more…)

João Cabral, Professor of Soft Matter Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering

Prof Joao Cabral

I am an incredibly lucky married gay man, with two children, and Imperial has provided me with a great supportive environment.” 

I am a professor of soft matter in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Associate Director of the Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE). I also co-chair our Equality, Diversity & Culture Committee in the department. I hold a research chair co-sponsored by Procter & Gamble, and the Royal Academy of Engineering. Our team collaborates closely with industry to understand and redesign the thermodynamics and performance of ‘complex fluids’, to enable a sustainable transition of the sector. 

I grew up in Portugal, between Lisbon and the countryside of Alentejo, where my family comes from and runs a cattle and cork farm. At school, I somewhat resented having to accept and memorise concepts and formulae in chemistry and physics. Perhaps my stubbornness led me to study physics at university, and I attended the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) in Lisbon, where I had some amazing mentors. I became fascinated by atomic and molecular physics and, for the first time, appreciated the humility and tentativeness of scientific discovery. I was lucky to spend time at KTH Stockholm, and a year at a nuclear laboratory Laboratoire Léon Brillouin, just outside Paris, before doing my PhD in polymer thermodynamics at Imperial. I then moved to Washington DC as a postdoc at the National Institute of Science and Technology, and learned the importance of articulating the significance of our research to funders in industry and government, before returning to Imperial as a lecturer.

LGBTQIA+ History Month is a time to remember and celebrate the many contributions of LGBTQIA+ individuals to society. This requires some research, particularly in science and engineering, where so little is known about these individuals. (more…)