Six early-career academics from Oxford University have been awarded £100 000 each in prize money from the Leverhulme Trust after being named amongst the recipients of the 2021 Philip Leverhulme Prizes.

Now in its twentieth year, the annual Philip Leverhulme prize seeks to “recognise and celebrate the achievement of exceptional researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future careers are exceptionally promising.”  

This year, the prize pot was at its biggest yet, with a total of £30 million handed out by the charity to thirty winners.  Among them were six Oxford academics, the largest number awarded to any singular university.  

The Oxford winners were spread amongst three categories; Humanities; Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS); and Social Sciences.  They were Teresa Bejan, Jayne Birkby, Janina Dill, Giuseppe Pezzini, Erin Saupe, and Kathryn Stevens.

Researchers Birkby and Saupe both took away awards from the MPLS category, with the head of that division, Prof. Sam Howinson, saying “This is a well-deserved recognition to both Prof Birkby and Prof Saupe of the leading role they are playing in their exciting research areas.”  Birkby said she was “thrilled” to win the prize and that she will use the money to further her research of rocky planets.  Her colleague Erin Saupe said that the funding will enable her to continue “examining how phytoplankton respond to future climate change”.

Elsewhere, Bejan and Dill were selected as victors in the Social Sciences division.  Dill remarked that she was “honoured and thrilled” and will put the money towards her study of the moral psychology of war.  Meanwhile, Teresa Bejan is currently editing the two-volume Clarendon edition of John Locke’s Letters on Toleration and said she was “immensely grateful”.

Stevens and Pezzini were recognised in the Humanities division. Pezzini focusses his work on Latin language and literature and Stevens is about to start work on a new intellectual history of Greek history. He said he is “very grateful to the Leverhulme Trust, and to colleagues in Oxford and elsewhere for their collaboration and support.”  Chair of the Board of the Faculty of Classics, Prof. Neil McLynn, reflected, “Kathryn’s work on the role of intellectuals in the Hellenistic kingdoms, … and Giuseppe’s engagement with the comedies of Terence, … illustrate powerfully the quality and diversity of research being undertaken in the Classics faculty.”

The Director of the Leverhulme Trusts, Anna Vignoles, said that “This round was more competitive than ever” and that the winners were a “stunningly talented group of academics”.

Image credit: Tim Alex on Unsplash

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