Airam Hernández and Joyce El-Khoury perform Sardanapalo at Staatskapelle Weimar

Twelve students, academics and professional members of staff from across the University of Cambridge have received Vice-Chancellor’s Research Impact and Engagement Awards in areas as diverse as prostate cancer, family law, museum public engagement and police mental health.

This year’s nominations recognise impressive and inspirational individuals, and strongly reflect our mission to engage the public, tackle real-world problems and improve people’s lives

Professor Stephen Toope

Now in their fourth year, the awards were made in four categories: collaboration, early career, established researcher/academic champion and professional service.

Winners in the collaboration category included PhD student Christoph Franck for an initiative creating a global air pollution sensor network driven by citizen science.

The early career researchers included Jessica Miller whose project has changed understandings of mental health and trauma in UK policing, informing a new wellbeing service and leading to discussion in Parliament.

Among those commended as established researchers, Vincent Gnanapragasam developed a new tool to predict an individual’s prognosis following a prostate cancer diagnosis to help make decisions about the value of treatment. In a very different field, David Trippett was recognised for bringing an ‘indecipherable’ opera back to life through international performances, broadcasts and recordings.

In the professional services category Naomi Chapman from the Polar Museum Education team developed maps to enable young and partially sighted people to explore the Arctic and Antarctic by touch.

The announcement was made at a prize ceremony held at the Old Schools on 14 October 2019.

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, says: “This year’s nominations recognise impressive and inspirational individuals, and strongly reflect our mission to engage the public, tackle real-world problems and improve people’s lives. The award scheme focuses attention on the increasingly important role that institutions such as ours have to play in restoring faith in experts.”

The Vice-Chancellor’s Research Impact and Engagement Awards were established to recognise and reward outstanding achievement, innovation and creativity in devising and implementing ambitious engagement and impact plans that have the potential to create significant economic, social and cultural impact from and engagement with and for research. Each winner receives a £1,000 grant to be used for the development and delivery of engagement/impact activity or relevant training.

This year’s winners are:

Collaboration Award

Emily Mitchell (Department of Earth Sciences)

Researchers and museum specialists collaborated on a museum exhibition and public programme, engaging a range of public audiences with research on the earliest fossils to illuminate the start of complex life.

Helen Strudwick (The Fitzwilliam Museum)

This collaborative project engages audiences with our pioneering research on ancient Egyptian coffin construction and decoration, through a major exhibition, ‘Pop-Up’ museum targeting underserved audiences and digital resources.


Open-seneca is a student-led initiative creating a global low-cost mobile air pollution sensor network driven by citizen science. The aim of the initiative is to empower citizens with air pollution data to raise awareness, initiate behaviour change, and inform policy makers on environmental issues. The team are: Christoph Franck, Charles Christensen, Lorena Gordillo Dagallier, Sebastian Horstmann, Raphaël Jacquat and Peter Pihlman Pedersen. 

Early Career Award

Saumya Saxena (Faculty of History)

Saumya’s research focuses on family law and gender in India. She advised the twenty-first Law Commission of India on reform of family law and worked with the Verma Commission on amendments to law relating to rape in India.

Jessica Miller (Department of Sociology)

Jessica’s project involved engaging with over 18000 police officers and staff to change the face of trauma resilience in UK policing, and inviting commitment from decision-makers to inform national policy and operational change. 

Matthew Agarwala (Bennett Institute for Public Policy)

Matthew’s research on valuing natural resources is helping in the transition to sustainable economic growth. Having been adopted by the United Nations and other bodies, his work is shaping standards for measurement.

Zoë Fritz (School of Clinical Medicine)

Zoë’s research around resuscitation decisions led to the development of the ReSPECT process (“Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment”), which has replaced problematic ‘DNACPR’s with tremendous impact on policy, practice, guidelines and beneficiaries.

Established Researcher and Academic Champion

Nicholas Thomas (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

In 2018, Nicholas co-curated the landmark exhibition 'Oceania' at the Royal Academy in London. Based on collaborative research at Cambridge, the exhibition brought a dynamic, contemporary view of the art of an extraordinary region to European audiences.

Vincent Gnanapragasam (School of Clinical Medicine)

Vincent is the Chief Investigator for PREDICT Prostate, the first individualized prognostic tool accessible to both clinicians and patients to help make unbiased informed decisions about the value of treatment for newly diagnosed prostate cancer. 

David Trippett (Faculty of Music)

An unheard opera by 19th-century composer Franz Liszt languished silently in a manuscript thought fragmentary and illegible. David’s meticulous reconstruction brought it to life, to global acclaim, through international performances, broadcasts and recordings. 

Professional Service

Oliver Francis (Centre for Diet and Activity Research, and the MRC Epidemiology Unit)

Oliver’s leadership in communications has transformed the impact strategies at CEDAR and the MRC Epidemiology Unit. His innovative contributions span all aspects of the communications and impact portfolio.

Naomi Chapman (Scott Polar Research Institute)

With a local artist, Naomi developed innovative maps of the Arctic and Antarctic with which hundreds of young and partially sighted people have enjoyed a touch tour of polar research.

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