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Reputation for research excellence reinforced with four Fellowship awards

23rd September 2021

Northumbria University’s growing profile for excellence in research has been recognised once again, with the awarding of four prestigious Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships.

The Leverhulme Trust prides itself on supporting only the most talented researchers carrying out projects of the highest originality.

It prioritises research from outstanding scholars which will have significance and relevance outside of its field, as well as the suitability of the institution in which its chosen Fellows will work to enable them to undertake their research.

The four awards made to researchers at Northumbria are a clear sign that the University is becoming known as one of the best environments for research excellence in the UK.

The four new Fellows have been awarded £464,000 to investigate new technologies and emerging and historic issues affecting society, bringing Northumbria University’s total awards from Leverhulme to undertake world-leading research to £2.5 million since 2018.

With a focus on renewable energy and sustainability, Dr Kunyapat Thummavichai plans to develop a new form of self-powered switchable glazing to make buildings more energy efficient. She hopes to embed glazing with photovoltaic solar cells that can change the colour of the glass and reduce heat generation from sunlight. Her project will lead to a reduction in carbon emissions caused by heat within buildings.

In the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, two Fellows will focus on the experiences of hope within marginalised groups.

Dr Harry Pettit will examine the role of emotions in shaping Cairo’s emerging gig economy and the social platforms forged within it. He will look at how entrepreneurs building online platforms sell hopeful visions for Egypt’s digitalised future and how domestic workers and taxi drivers experience those visions on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, Isabel Meier will explore critical issues for migrants across European borders, with a focus on seasonal workers in Germany, migrants living on Greek islands, deportations in Finland and healthcare access in the UK. Isabel aims to reveal the role that hope plays in the everyday survival and politics of these migrant communities, as well as the impact of Covid-19 and its related legislation on different groups of migrants.

As a Fellow in English Literature, Dr Samraghni Bonnerjee will investigate how South Asian soldiers who were fighting for Britain during the First World War had unequal access to medical care. Samraghni will analyse previously overlooked fictional and non-fictional texts to examine the impact of imperial politics and lack of effective planning to provide medical treatment for combatants of colour.

Professor Louise Bracken, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: “These Fellowships are highly sought after and only go to the best early career academics working on exciting projects in universities with the best research environments, and with renowned mentors in their field to support the work.

“I am especially pleased to see that four awards have been made to researchers at Northumbria. This is clear evidence that the supportive and stimulating environment we have for early careers researchers is being recognised externally.

“In recent years we have been awarded £2.5 million from the Leverhulme Trust to undertake innovative exciting, interdisciplinary and boundary-pushing research on a broad array of topics.”  

Speaking about their Fellowships, the recipients have praised the University for the support it has provided.

Harry Pettit said: “From the moment I began applying, I received excellent encouragement and extensive engagement from my mentor and support staff. I am convinced that Northumbria will be an exciting place to carry out this research.”

This was endorsed by Samraghni Bonnerjee who said that she had received critical advice and feedback on her research plans and costs.

“I am so grateful to Northumbria for supporting my application and guiding me to success with this very competitive and prestigious Fellowship,” she said. “My application underwent rigorous internal peer-review and I was offered the opportunity to improve it before submission. I am very much looking forward to being based at such a supportive and nurturing organisation.”

The award winners will all begin their three-year Fellowships at Northumbria University this month.

The University will soon be inviting Expressions of Interest for the 2022 competition and details will be made available on

Northumbria University is a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic quality. Through excellent research, teaching and innovation, the University is pledged to transforming lives and making a powerful contribution to social, cultural and economic development.

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