“Being able to work in the lab on important environmental health issues, surrounded by amazing brains who are genuinely nice people, is a privilege.”
I wouldn’t say my career journey was entirely conventional. Academic, yes, but I skipped an MSc and went straight from PhD to my first fellowship. These were considerable achievements, but establishing both my independence and my own research niche so early on was challenging. I also weaved through disciplines, from marine biology to ecotoxicology to physical and analytical chemistry, to exposure and air pollution science and back to toxicology. These have given me a solid, holistic understanding of the research I do. Now I’m a lecturer and lead a research team and I can’t wait to watch them flourish and make discoveries in the emerging field of microplastics and health.
Over the last few months, I’ve presented remotely to a group of European consortia, and to College students on the other side of the world. The students were on a programme at the University of Akron, and as part of one of their modules, I was invited to give a lecture.
I also presented in-person to science enthusiasts at the New Scientist Festival in Manchester, and to toxicologists in San Diego at the Society of Toxicology annual meeting, my first international conference off UK soil in two years. (more…)
“The impact I value the most is making a difference to the lives and careers of my students.”
I am an economist by training. Early in my career I realized that I wanted to contribute to improving society and wellbeing, so I opted to focus on health economics and policy.
The core of my job is conducting research with social impact, with an emphasis on policies and interventions to promote population health at global level. My work has been featured at the World Economic Forum and has informed the development of health policies internationally, for example the introduction of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to curb obesity. During the pandemic I led a project that created a tool to help governments decide which patients should be seen first in hospitals given their capacity constraints. If implemented, it has the potential to save years of life globally.
My work on diversity and inclusion has impacted the lives of Imperial staff through initiatives to mitigate gender pay gaps and prevent bullying and harassment. I chair the Diversity Committee and have been awarded a Julia Higgins award for my contribution to equality, diversity and inclusion.
“I develop decision-making tools to support integration and uptake of industrial decarbonisation concepts”
My educational journey started in Nigeria and continued in the United Kingdom where I completed a PhD in process integration. My professional career has followed the same pattern. I worked as a process engineer in both countries and consulted for industrial partners before moving into research and academia.
My career choice was initially influenced by my interest in designing industrial processes. This expanded into looking at whole industrial systems – minimising resource and energy use, and decarbonisation.
I joined Imperial in 2019 and my research develops and applies concepts at the interface of engineering, economics, and policy to address industrial decarbonisation. I develop modelling and decision-making tools to support cost-effective integration and uptake of industrial decarbonisation concepts such as advanced materials and energy efficiency, fuel and technology switching, carbon capture utilisation and storage, and greenhouse gas removal.
“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.
“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.