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Looking down inside the Radcliff Observatory building at two people talking

The MPLS Summer Reception took place at Green Templeton College on Wednesday 3rd July. Head of Division Professor Sam Howison outlined staff achievements over the last six months (honours, awards, significant appointments and grant funding), and gave an update on capital projects and commercial activity through OUI.

The Reception featured presentations from Professor David Pyle (Earth Sciences), MPLS Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research, and from Dr Charlotte Kirchhelle (Plant Sciences and Engineering Science) on the way that organisms develop the diverse anatomical shapes observed in nature.

The Reception also saw the presentation of two sets of awards to MPLS staff.

The 2019 MPLS teaching awards

The awarding panel chose six nominees to receive the Teaching Awards.  These divisional awards carry a financial award of £1,000 per awardee.

The winners, announced by Professor Charlotte Deane, Deputy Head of Division, were as follows:

  • Anna Bidgood, DPhil student in the Department of Earth Sciences for her dedication to, and talent for, giving high-quality tutorials in Petrology and for her field teaching.
  • Mareli Grady from the Mathematical Institute and the Department of Statistics for raising awareness of mathematics and engagement with the public through the Oxford Maths Festival.
  • Dr Ian Griffiths, Professor Sam Cohen and Professor Frances Kirwan from the Mathematical Institute for their work on Friday@4, an initiative which since 2015-16 has enhanced graduate students' study skills and their long-term educational development, and helped integrate students within the department.
  • Dr Lindsay Turnbull from the Department of Plant Sciences for her drive and vision in developing a course that will allow Biology graduates to remain competitive in the workplace and for graduate training programmes.
  • Professor Patrick Rebeschini from the Department of Statistics for the design, development and teaching of a new course titled “Algorithmic Foundations of Learning” (AFoL), presenting recent trends in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in a unifying framework. 
  • Professor Fabian Essler from the Department of Physics for innovative lectures on Quantum Mechanics, promoting student interaction and participation.

Further details on previous Teaching Award winners and the awards scheme in general can be found here.


These awards were introduced to recognise the impressive work within the division to advance equality, diversity and inclusion. £1,000 is granted to each recipient.

The winners, announced by Professor Helen Byrne, MPLS Director of Equality and Diversity, were as follows:

Best Initiative: This award recognises a successful activity or initiative aimed at increasing equality and diversity in a department, group, or subject area.

  • Shazeaa Ishmael and the Women in Materials Group for their Career Pathways for Women in Science initiative in partnership with the Institute of Physics.

Best Team Effort: This award recognises effective collaboration between team members - within a department or across departments - working together on an equality and diversity related activity or initiative.

  • The RisingWISE team, a team effort between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Dr Anne Miller, Daisy Hung, Shelley Rowley and Leah Thompson from Oxford, partnered with Dr Shima Barakat and Frances Bycroft from Cambridge to develop a programme that aims to build a network of enterprising women across academia and industry. 

Outstanding Contribution by a Staff Member – Student Choice Award: An award made to an individual (academic, researcher or administrator), nominated by a student or group of students, who has made an important contribution to advancing equality and diversity. 

  • Professor Dominic Vella from the Mathematical Institute. Dominic was nominated for creating and fostering a diverse and inclusive research group, with people from many different countries, socio-economic and educational backgrounds, and varying ethnic, gender and age profiles. 

Lifetime Achievement (Researcher): This award is made to an individual who has shown outstanding dedication, sustained commitment, and effective leadership in advancing equality and diversity. 

  • Benjamin Fernando, DPhil student in Earth Sciences and Physics. Ben was nominated for the initiative he has taken with a wide range of outreach activities to support underrepresented groups and with policy changes and analysis he has advocated for within the Division and nationally.