Three DPhil students at the University of Oxford have been given £80,000 each to fund their research. 

The award was made by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, which seeks to support individuals with ‘exceptional promise’ in their research into industry based scientific projects. Of the ten Industrial Fellowships granted this year, three went to Oxford University students studying for science-based doctorates. 

One of the students, Daniella Cheang, is developing a way to improve molecular synthesis by mimicking a natural process to build a library of compounds. This research could help in future drug development, as Daniella hopes to adapt this work for industrial use. The project also aims to be environmentally friendly, with water as the only waste product.  

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The other two grant recipients are working on engineering-based projects.

Maral Bayaraa, a DPhil candidate in Engineering Science, plans to research how SAR interferometry, geotechnical modelling, and deep learning can be used to develop an early warning system for dam collapse. The goal is to prevent not only the loss of lives, but also environmental damage.  

Tom Waddell is working on the development of a computational model which will be used to predict future health conditions of type 2 diabetes patients. Such a model has never been created and could have significant benefits for researchers attempting to develop and test drugs to combat the disease. Tom said that he felt “very proud and fortunate” to have received the grant, which would allow him to “undertake valuable work in diabetes research.”

The Royal Commission spends around £2 million every year funding research projects which it believes have the potential lead to industrial development. Part of the goal of the fellowships are to ensure the maintenance of Britain’s role in scientific research and development. 

As well as helping with the funding of research, the fellowship also aims to promote close collaboration with industry. The recipients of this year’s award will work in partnership with major firms including AstraZeneca, Satellite Applications Catapult and Perspectum.

Students at Oxford University have a history of success in the programme. In 2019 three students also received the award to allow them to carry out research. 

Bernard Taylor, the President of the Royal Commission, said: “this year’s cohort demonstrates the potential and diversity of talent within British science” and that their research is “promising to unlock new products and revenue across the pharmaceutical, energy, defence and infrastructure industries.”