Author: Sarah Saxton

John Aouad, Disability Advisory Service Administrator, Education Office 

“I love getting rid of manual processes and replacing them with automated systems – I get the computer to do all the hard work!”

I have worked in education and inclusion for most of my career. I spent ten years working in the UK, China, and Taiwan teaching English. When I returned to the UK, I worked on the National Citizen Service programme with 16/17-year-olds ensuring the programme met its inclusive targets.    

I joined Imperial’s Disability Advisory Service in January 2019, in a new role as its administrator. I have been working on operational projects to improve the service for both students and staff. This has included implementing an online booking system that allows students to book appointments directly with the team, improving our CRM database, relaunching and managing our website and leading on the transition to Office 365. I am now working on a comms project to ensure students know about what we do.   

Mostly, I love getting rid of (or reducing) manual processes and where possible replacing them with automated systems – I get the computer to do all the hard work! My colleagues have appreciated that I have made the service a lot more streamlined as I have simplified many processes. They spend less time clicking buttons and doing data entry, and more time focusing on supporting students.   

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Dr Anne ter Wal, Associate Professor of Technology & Innovation Management, Imperial College Business School 

“The invisible webs of connections that we all have bear a strong influence on the ideas we develop and promote.”

I joined Imperial over twelve years ago, straight after finishing my PhD in the Netherlands, where I grew up. Currently, I lead an EU-funded research program titled “Networking for Innovation” to study how networking enables entrepreneurs and innovators to achieve business and innovation success. Together with a diverse team of postdocs and PhD students, as well as local and international collaborators, I seek to understand how individuals go about building the connections they need and assess how different approaches to building and mobilizing these connections help individuals to innovate. 

Networks are a fascinating field of study. Behind the scenes, the invisible webs of connections that we all have bear a strong influence on the ideas we develop and promote, but some people are better able to build and exploit strong networks than others. We observed, for example, how some R&D scientists and R&D managers closely working together excelled at innovation, because they “mirrored” each other’s networks: they gained useful input from similar but non-overlapping connections which they used to challenge one another in productive ways.  

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Dr Tiffany Chiu, Senior Teaching Fellow in Educational Development, Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship (CHERS)

“For me, the most satisfying moment is when I see colleagues put what they have learnt into practice.”

I work in the Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship where I co-lead the PG Cert in University Learning and Teaching which enhances staff learning, teaching and assessment practices. I previously taught research and academic writing skills to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of East London. I found it fascinating to shift from teaching students to teaching staff. For me, the most satisfying moment is when I see colleagues put what they have learnt into practice and can explain the educational rationales and pedagogies that underpin their activities. 

I am currently also Principal Investigator for the Supporting the Identity Development of Underrepresented Students (SIDUS) which aims to promote inclusion and support success for STEMM students from underrepresented groups. Our team conducted 110 interviews with underrepresented students to explore their lived experiences, including their successes, challenges and opportunities. We are currently working with three brilliant StudentShapers students, to develop pedagogical materials to promote inclusion, educational aspirations and student success. I am very excited to see how our materials can support staff and students! 

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Toyin Sosanya, Taught Postgraduate, School of Public Health

“I recently completed COVID-19 vaccination training and have joined other healthcare professionals in vaccinating the nation.”

I’m a qualified pharmacist with experience of working in an NHS Trust and a community pharmacy. During my pharmacy career, personal and academic experiences exposed me to the different health challenges faced by populations around the world. This sparked my interest and led me to pursue a Master’s in Public Health – the global health stream. 

I have learnt about the principles of public health and policy development as well as different global health challenges. I have also learnt about the significance of global governance, health economics and other disciplines such as statistics and epidemiology – which are all essential for improving global health. I am looking forward to working with my supervisors on my summer project, which will utilise data from the Improving Health in Slums Collaboration to explore migration.  

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Dr Gurpreet Singh, Research Associate, Department of Materials

“During lockdown I volunteered for Sikh charities providing supplies and meals to care homes and homeless shelters.”  

Joining Imperial was a dream come true for me as I had previously applied for over 50 courses and jobs here. My inspiration was Imperial’s (supposedly) first Sikh scientist, Professor Narinder Singh Kapany, who is known as “the father of fibre optics”. I believe that I might be the second proud Sikh scientist with a PhD in natural sciences to work at the College. I previously worked in industry for a successful startup company that tested ammonia toxicity in blood.   

My current project on nuclear waste treatment is part of a national consortium on nuclear decommissioning. I am investigating the capabilities of phosphate-coated magnetic nanoparticles to adsorb radioactive uranium from nuclear waste using tiny magnetic particles. This is an exciting project that is vital to the UK government’s 2030 and 2050 goals to decommission nuclear power plants and tackle climate change.  

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Aithne Atkinson, Research Postgraduate, Department of Brain Sciences

“No matter how far away your work is from the clinic, there is nothing more motivating than bringing patients and the public into your research bubble.” 

After completing my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and a Master’s degree in Cancer Biology, I chose to undertake a PhD at Imperial. Imperial is all about research, but being a researcher is not all about lab coats, hypothesis testing and data analysis. 

Although most of my time was lab-based (pre-pandemic) I have really enjoyed taking opportunities to gain insight into the clinical impact of research through patient and public engagement activities. I have helped to deliver charity lab tours and taken part in clinical trial design discussions with clinicians, scientists, patients and the public. I’ve found that no matter how far away your work is from the clinic, there is nothing more motivating than bringing patients and the public into your research bubble and talking to them about what you do! 

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Dr Thrishantha Nanayakkara, Reader in Design Engineering and Robotics, Dyson School of Design Engineering

“We use robotics to understand how animals solve survival problems in their natural environment, like how mountain goats survive on steep cliffs.” 

“I am the director of the Morph Lab. We use robotics to understand how animals solve survival problems in their natural environment. For instance, we conduct experiments on soft robotic hoofs to understand how mountain goats survive on steep cliffs. We have discovered that the hoof works like a brain to convert slips against the cliff to vibrations that automatically create a braking action. This is similar to how an automobile’s anti-lock braking system (ABS) works.   

“Before the pandemic I enjoyed demonstrating the Morph Lab’s work to the public. It is rewarding to hear people say that our work helped them to understand a complex issue.  

“I began my studies in Sri Lanka before going to Japan and the US. When the civil war ended, I returned home to Sri Lanka to set up a bio-inspired robotics lab to support landmine detection work. Before joining the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial in 2017, I also worked at Harvard, MIT and King’s College London. 

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Jinata Subba, Programme Manager for the Centre of Doctoral Training in Next Generation Synthesis and Reaction Technology (CDT React), Department of Chemistry

“I’m proud of what we have achieved in the past year, in particular how we developed our recruitment process to improve our EDI statistics.” 

“I’m the programme manager for the Centre of Doctoral Training in Next Generation Synthesis and Reaction Technology (CDT React) which opened in 2019. In addition to championing interdisciplinary projects, we actively collaborate with industrial partners to bring forth industrially relevant projects. 

“Being a programme manager means that I’m a jack of all trades and the master of them all too. I’m responsible for organising the CDT React’s programme to accommodate around 12 studentship projects each year (we will take on 60 overall) to focus on future research challenges across chemistry, chemical engineering and data science. I also oversee the development of the programme to ensure that we effectively build our researchers’ professional skills e.g. research communications and research ethics. Finally I oversee the research strategy which involves communicating with our external and industry advisory boards.  

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Nana Asante Asamoah-Danso, Bioengineering Core Facilities Laboratory Technician, Department of Bioengineering

“I volunteered to serve in the NHS COVID-19 face-shield assembly project during the first lockdown.” 

“After studying Biochemistry, I worked in a few different jobs, but one day of work experience at the UCL Molecular Virology lab helped to guide me onto a science career path. I first worked as a Science Technician in a school sixth form, before joining Imperial in 2017 as a Laboratory Technician in the National Heart and Lung Institute where I supported the Myocardial Function research groups.  

“I thoroughly enjoy working within a university research lab and being surrounded by all the equipment and chemicals. As a Bioengineering Core Facilities Laboratory Technician, I provide research support for the Synthetic Biology labs and manage the departmental utility facility. I also manage the lab coat laundry services and assist researchers and other technicians. I currently deliver safety inductions for staff and students returning to the labs after lockdown. 

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Josh D’Aeth, Research Postgraduate, School of Public Health

“We looked at how the NHS could best manage capacity during peaks in infection, as well as how to optimally schedule elective care for non-COVID-19 patients” 

“I came to Imperial in 2017, after completing my undergraduate degree in Biology. During my undergrad, I’d really enjoyed learning about infectious disease evolution, so the Imperial 1 + 3 PhD programme on the epidemiology, evolution and control of infectious disease seemed ideal to me.  

“After completing a Master’s in my first year, my PhD now focuses on antibiotic resistance, looking for patterns in how it evolves and spreads through different bacterial species. In particular, I’ve focused on how interactions between species, particularly with those that don’t tend to cause disease, can be important drivers of antibiotic resistance spread.  

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