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ARIA, the UK’s new R&D funding agency, has announced its line-up of new programme directors – and three of them are current or former researchers from the University of Cambridge.

It’s a remarkable reflection of the quality of Cambridge research that three of the eight new programme directors stem from our University

Anne Ferguson-Smith

ARIA is a government-funded agency that aims to unlock scientific and technological breakthroughs that could benefit everyone. Many of society’s most important advances have stemmed from those with the foresight to pursue new capabilities that most believed to be unattainable. ARIA aims to empower scientists and engineers with the resources and freedom to pursue those breakthroughs.

The new programme directors include:

Gemma Bale

Gemma is the Gianna Angelopoulos Assistant Professor in Medical Therapeutics and Head of the Neuro Optics Lab at the University of Cambridge. Her work focuses on developing non-invasive brain monitoring in real-world environments where traditional brain monitoring isn’t usually possible.

Sarah Bohndiek

Sarah is a Professor of Biomedical Physics at the University of Cambridge, jointly appointed in the Department of Physics and the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. Sarah leads an interdisciplinary team that uses optical imaging technology to monitor in situ tumour evolution and support earlier cancer detection.

Angie Burnett

Angie is a plant biologist, focused on investigating the responses of crop plants to environmental stresses, such as drought and extreme temperature. Angie worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Brookhaven National Laboratory and a Consultant at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, before becoming a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge.

Writing on the ARIA website, Professor Bohndiek and Dr Bale said: “We’re both passionate about the future health of our planet and the people on it. Working in the health tech space, we have created new tools to allow us to safely see inside humans in new ways using light. We believe that there are emerging optical technologies at the edge of the possible, which will disrupt the current landscape.

“As co-PDs, we’ll look to accelerate these technologies, initially by exploring ideas around non-invasive optical mapping and sensing across a range of applications – from monitoring human health to climate change.”

Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Cambridge, said: “The launch of ARIA, a brand new funding organisation, is an important moment for UK research and innovation. It’s a remarkable reflection of the quality of Cambridge research that three of the eight new programme directors stem from our University, including two current academics. We wish them luck in this exciting new endeavour.”

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