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Fellows are setting the research agenda

 May 11, 2015 | Simon Jenkins

From water to bio-engineering to agriculture, a series of fellowships funded by a Leeds alumnus are having a major impact right across campus.

Cheney Fellowships, supported by Peter Cheney (Bacteriology and Biochemistry 1969), allow exceptional individuals to come to the University, share their knowledge with staff and students and contribute to our research.

Junguo Liu, Professor of Hydrology and Water Resources at Beijing Forestry University in China, says the international reputation of the water@leeds research group was instrumental in him accepting a fellowship at Leeds, where he has focussed on water footprint and peatland research. Along with Leeds colleagues, Professor Liu’s work on the virtual water flows embedded in international trade was published in the America’s prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

He is now establishing long-term collaborations between the two institutions, with a UK-China Centre for Water and Wetlands being set up in Beijing and plans to develop an international peatland monitoring network.

Another Cheney Fellow to join water@leeds was Dr Shunsuki Managi from Japan’s Tohoku University. At Leeds he developed a database of global water reserves and usage to help better understand changing water use resulting from economic activities.

Dr Adrian Unc from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, says Leeds’ reputation for interdisciplinary research attracted him to water@leeds. An expert in the use of algae for biofuels, Dr Unc worked with researchers from Civil Engineering, Earth and Environment, Geography and Biological Sciences examining microbial transport and soil-water interface issues. He is now establishing collaborative research ideas, funding opportunities and a student exchange programme between Leeds and Canada.

Prof Neil Coles from the University of Western Australia, Dr Leonie Pearson from the University of Canberra, Dr Elena Lopez-Gunn from Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Dr Nikolai Friberg from NIVA Norway are the latest Cheney Fellows to join water@leeds where the impact of the fellowships has been wide-ranging – joint papers, workshops, new ideas for future research, fresh collaborations, funding proposals and partnerships which will continue long into the future.

Other areas of Leeds research are also feeling the benefit of this support. Prof Jeremy Gilbert of Syracuse University, an expert in bio-corrosion, is working with our mechanical and biological engineers to study the corrosion of biomaterials and implants in the body. Their work will help guide the future choice of biomaterials and surgical procedures and the design of implants to improve their reliability and durability.

Prof Paul Hughes from the University of Adelaide has joined Prof Helen Miller examining key factors in female pigs’ reproductive development. Many sows only breed once – with impacts both on food production and animal welfare. Their work will examine how improved animal nutrition, both for the sows and their young, can encourage greater fertility and improve productivity.

Recruitment is now under way for fellows to work in the arts, medicine and structural biology.

Professor David Hogg, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, explains the value of this support: “Cheney Fellowships are bringing world class researchers to Leeds and developing our international partnerships and worldwide reputation. Their University-wide reach is opening up some great collaborative opportunities.

“I am really looking forward to meeting the next wave of Cheney Fellows.”

Donor Peter Cheney, left, with Professor Junguo Liu


Fellows are setting the research agenda