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Six top postgraduate research students honoured

11 November 2013

Six University of Bristol postgraduates have been awarded prizes for the exceptional quality of their doctoral theses.

One winner was selected from each faculty by members of the Research Degrees Examination Board, which oversees the examination process for research awards. The successful graduates, listed below, each receive a certificate of commendation and a cash prize.

Professor Sally Heslop, Academic Director of Graduate Studies and Director of the Bristol Doctoral College, said: ‘Many congratulations to this year's winners. These prizes are very competitive and each winner has made an exceptional contribution to their chosen area of research. It is always a great pleasure to read the examiners' reports on the work of our top doctoral candidates and to be reminded of just how good they are.’

The 2012/13 Faculty Research Prize winners are:

Faculty of Arts: Dr Adam O’Brien (Department of Drama; Film, Theatre, Television)
'Transactions with the World: Ecocriticism and the Environmental Sensibility of "New Hollywood"'

Dr O’Brien’s research examined the turbulent New Hollywood period – the late 1960s to the mid-1970s – and analysed elements such as location shooting, new film technologies, and the interrogation of genres like the Western, to show how these facets can be understood from an environmental perspective. His work offers a new view on a key period of American cinema, and opens up new ways of understanding cinema's relation to materiality and the environment.

Faculty of Engineering: Dr Oliver Payton (Department of Engineering Mathematics)
'High-speed Atomic Force Microscopy Under the Microscope'

Dr Payton, in collaboration with the School of Physics, conducted mathematical and experimental investigations into the dynamics of the microcantilever of an atomic force microscope as it passed over known surfaces. The results of his PhD have led to two breakthroughs: a new, improved detection mechanism immune to the primary source of noise in the images produced; and a new understanding of the physics of imaging surfaces at high speed. A low-cost AFM designed by the team won a New Enterprise Competition award.

Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences: Dr Martin Cheung (Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine)
'Structural and Compositional Studies of the Type III Secretion System of Shigella flexneri'

Dr Cheung investigated the mechanisms involved in the delivery of bacterial disease-inducing factors into their host cells. His research used a combination of molecular genetics, biochemistry, and high-resolution electron microscopy, and involved extensive collaboration, both within the Department and internationally. His results will help understand how bacteria such as Shigella, Salmonella, Chlamydia and Yersinia first interact with the cells of their host, and may also lead to the development of therapeutic drugs. Dr Cheung’s thesis has already yielded two publications, with more publications anticipated.

Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry: Dr Edgardo Abelardo (Department of Clinical Science)
'Rationally Designed Proteinogenic Hydrogels as Extracellular Matrix Mimics for 3D Cell Culture'

Dr Abelardo’s research, broadly in the field of tissue engineering, involved translating new protein-based biomaterials engineered in Professor Dek Woolfson’s lab into clinical applications with Professor Martin Birchall’s team. Dr Abelardo created and manipulated materials and successfully cultivated a range of cells on them to form mimics of nerve tissue. His work brings both groups closer to real-life applications for these materials in the areas of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. 

Faculty of Science: Dr Emily Lawson (School of Geographical Sciences)
'Investigating Carbon Sourcing and Cycling in Subglacial Environments'

Dr Lawson’s research investigated how organic carbon might be generated within glaciers via microbial activity, and examined how this organic carbon might be exported to downstream environments, where it may fuel bacterial activity. She completed two field seasons on the Greenland Ice Sheet and a suite of laboratory experiments lasting two years. Her PhD was highly commended for demonstrating that significant concentrations of highly bioavailable organic carbon derived by in situ microbial activity are exported from ice sheets.

Faculty of Social Sciences and Law: Dr Zhixin Feng (School of Geographical Sciences)
'A Longitudinal Multilevel Study of the Health Outcomes for the Elderly in China'

Dr Feng’s thesis examined how different demographic and socioeconomic factors, social security provision and access, social contexts and geography effects are responsible in explaining differential health outcomes and mortality among the ageing population in China. The study combines pioneering research design and methodology with intriguing research questions, and the discussion advances knowledge in the field of health and population geography. The results have great policy implications for improving the wellbeing of the rapidly increasing elderly population in China, and for China’s social security reforms.


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