Academics from Cardiff University have been awarded a prestigious UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship (FLF).
Dr Dayne Beccano-Kelly, soon to be joining the School of Medicine, and Dr Jose Camacho Collados, from the School of Computer Science and Informatics, have been awarded Future Leaders Fellowships as part of the £900m scheme run by UKRI.
The FLF scheme aims to grow the strong supply of talented researchers from diverse backgrounds and career paths to ensure UK research and innovation remains world-class.
The awards will give Dr Beccano-Kelly and Dr Camacho Collados the time and flexibility to progress their research in two very different fields, but with a common goal of tackling real-world problems that affect everyone’s lives.
They are part of a cohort of 101 fellows selected in round four of the scheme, comprising researchers and innovators from academia, business, and industry throughout the UK.
Dr Beccano-Kelly, who will join the Dementia Research Institute at the University, is researching the earliest stages of Parkinson’s disease and the things that go wrong even before the clinical signs first appear.
He said: “I’m extremely excited about joining the exceptional and collaborative team at the Dementia Research Institute in Cardiff. I’m looking forward to building a team to investigate neurodegeneration and to work with the research community in finding a cure. It’s a dream I’ve had for a long time and the UKRI-FLF is going to let me do that.’
In addition to his research, Dr Beccano-Kelly is passionate about raising awareness on the issues of black scientists in STEM, the disproportionally low numbers there are in different sectors, and the barriers that are faced.
“I believe that the more people that are informed, and the more conversations are had on the subject, then the more change can occur until the solution is normalised and it is no longer an issue. I hope to be able to do what I can to contribute to that endpoint,’ Dr Beccano-Kelly continued.
Dr Camacho Collados’ research focuses on Natural Language Processing (NLP) and how computers can understand language.
His main focus is on improving NLP models so that they can be more interpretable, can capture commonsense knowledge, and to enhance multilingualism, with applications ranging from tackling disinformation to improving mental health treatments.
"I feel very honoured to receive such an award. It will allow me to take my research in Natural Language Processing to a whole new level,’ Dr Camacho Collados said.
Professor Kim Graham, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowship scheme provides early career researchers with long-term sustainable funding to support rapid transition to leadership, aligned to delivering innovative research in their chosen field. I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Dayne and Jose on their outstanding success with this scheme, and welcome them to our growing University fellowship community.’
Cardiff University is also now part of a major consortium that will help shape these future research and innovation leaders through the Future Leaders Fellowships Development Network.
The Network, led by the University of Edinburgh, will provide training and development to 210 new Fellows and 40 early career researchers and innovators. The University will lead on transforming research cultures, supporting peer-review and mentoring and will also be the regional hub for Wales and the South West of England.
Professor Claire Gorrara, Dean of Research Culture and Environment said: “At Cardiff, we are fully committed to developing an inclusive, creative, and honest research culture. This opportunity to work with UKRI and a consortium of leading universities will enable us to improve our support to the future research leaders of the UK and beyond.’