Interdisciplinary Research Development Team

Meet the Team

We see interdisciplinary research and development as a way to harness the energy and ideas from different disciplines to engage with increasingly complex and urgent societal issues. At Leeds we see culture change as crucial to this way of working so we are developing research environments that allow these often siloed worlds to collide. Our team runs a programme of events that support academics to expand on their existing knowledge and methodologies and explore novelty often at the margin of disciplines. We offer support to academics for interdisciplinary research development and large bid development, and have expertise across a wide range of funding bodies.

Samantha Aspinall, Head of Interdisciplinary Research Development

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I am Head of Interdisciplinary Research Development at the University of Leeds. My driver and passion is to bring academics together from very different disciplines and see where their research or methods might overlap to create something novel. I lead the Interdisciplinary R&I Development Team and we work with colleagues to design and deliver a programme of opportunities to encourage a wider culture of working in interdisciplinary ways. The programme is based on my experiences of facilitating successful events and trying novel approaches, often to address grand challenges. I run the Leeds Crucible – an interdisciplinary programme for early career academics that gives them time and space to think about themselves, their research and explore how to work together to develop new ideas.

I also have a wealth of experience in supporting training and professional development of postdocs and PhD students. Until recently, I was a member of the BBSRC Bioscience Skills and Careers Strategy Panel, where we set the expectations for spending £170M on DTP3 and fostering the next generation of bioscience researchers. I have been a panel member for BBSRC and NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and currently sit on ESRC Review Group. I have also co-written BBSRC and MRC DTPs. I have been UKRI Future Leader Fellow Roving Panel Member since its inception.

Saeeda Bashir, Research and Innovation Development Manager, Health Technologies

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I am the Research and Innovation Development Manager for Health Technologies. Together with academic and clinical leaders, I have helped to establish the new Centre for Responsive HealthTech Innovation.

I am focused on developing and delivering the strategic priorities for the Centre, bringing interdisciplinary experts across the University, Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust and HealthTech partner organisations that contribute to the vibrant and dynamic health technologies ecosystem that we have here in the Leeds City Region.

I work across the clinical, academic and industry community to build high quality HealthTech research projects and programmes that address unmet clinical needs and attract significant public and private co-investment/funding. As such, I have significant experience developing proposals for UKRI councils, NIHR and EU H2020 funders.

I have a career in developing high profile, national research infrastructure projects and International clinical trials. Prior to joining the Interdisciplinary Team I set up and managed the UKCRC Registered CTUs Network, RCGP Research Ready for Primary Care and prior to joining the university I developed and delivered International Clinical Trials for high value EU H2020 programmes.  I am an accredited Prince 2 Practitioner and MSP accredited Programme Manager.  I have worked closely with the MHRA in the past and have a detailed understanding of the Clinical Trials and Medical Device Regulations as well as compliance with GDPR and HRA (ethical) approval process in the UK and equivalents across the EU. I have developed initiatives for improved funder, regulator and other strategic partner engagement, I have briefed and presented to Senior Officials and Boards at the Department of Health (Including Devolved Nations) and EU Commission. With unique experience in these roles I have acquired an extensive professional network of clinical trials experts and senior funder representatives.

Dr Danielle Battle, Research and Innovation Development Manager, Cancer Research

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As the Research and Innovation Development Manager for Cancer Research, I work closely with academics and clinicians from across the University of Leeds to identify and develop new research and innovation opportunities that align with strategic priorities, demonstrate impact and leverage external funding. My main focus is on the development of large-scale, interdisciplinary funding proposals that address the grand challenges of cancer. I work closely with researchers and R&I colleagues across the University to build novel and exciting interdisciplinary collaborations, facilitate industrial engagement and manage relationships with external partners and stakeholders. I am also the lead institutional contact for Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

Together with academic and clinical leaders, I have helped to establish the new interdisciplinary Leeds Cancer Research Centre (LCRC). I am supporting the development and delivery of the LCRC’s new cancer strategy and scientific research themes. I have significant experience of supporting applications to a range of funders including UKRI, CRUK and GCRF, as well as strategy development, international partnerships and industry engagement.

I joined the University in 2017 as R&I Development Officer for Health, before progressing to my current role in 2020. Prior to joining Leeds, I graduated from Durham University with a BSc in Biology and a PhD in Cancer Cell Biology. During my PhD, I spent 6 months at the University Hospital Maastricht, Netherlands, where I investigated the role of DNA methylation as prognostic biomarkers in colorectal cancer. In 2011, I joined Durham’s Research and Innovation Service to support the strategic partnership with Procter and Gamble.

In 2012, I was awarded an Australian Research Fellowship to investigate the role of epigenetics in cancer at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. I returned to Durham to undertake a BBSRC-funded postdoctoral position, before joining the Science Faculty where I helped shape and deliver Durham’s international strategy. In 2015, I joined CRUK as a Research Funding Manager, where I managed a portfolio of funding applications and supported the delivery of the Experimental Medicine Expert Review Panel and Clinical Research Committee.

Dr Siân Evans, Research and Innovation Development Manager, Global Food and Environment Institute

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I am the Research and Innovation Development Manager for the Global Food and Environment Institute, working with academics from across the University to support them in developing high quality research proposals that address global challenges under the Institute’s four themes:

  • Agriculture and Environment
  • AgriFood Supply Chains
  • Food in the Global South
  • Urban Food Consumption and Health

My main focus is on the identification and development of large-scale, interdisciplinary funding opportunities, bringing together cross-Faculty research teams and relevant external partners.  I have experience of supporting academics in preparing bids to a variety of funders, including UKRI councils and other UK funders, as well as internationally collaborative schemes such as H2020 and GCRF.   I am also involved in the strategic development of research plans at the University farm, working with an interdisciplinary group of academics, along with GFEI leadership, to identify areas of priority focus and relevant funding opportunities.

Before joining the interdisciplinary R&I team, I worked in research support in the Faculty of Environment, and prior to that completed my PhD in earth sciences at Durham University.

Elizabeth Garcha, Research and Innovation Development Manager, Culture

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I am the Research and Innovation Development Manager for Culture, and the lead professional services contact for AHRC at the University. I work closely with the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute (LAHRI) and the Cultural Institute (CI). My role focuses on supporting interdisciplinary work, with particularly developing large and strategic interdisciplinary research grants. As lead contact for AHRC, I coordinate the AHRC Strategy Group, and deliver AHRC training alongside LAHRI.

Prior to being at Leeds, my roles were focused on research impact, knowledge exchange and partnership working. I’ve held positions at the Economic and Social Research Council, the University of York and most recently, the University of Sheffield. I have significant experience with impact accelerator accounts and the Research Excellence Framework. From 2014-17 I was the Research Impact Special Impact Champion for the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA).

Kara Hazelgrave, Research and Innovation Development Manager, Leeds Institute for Fluid Dynamics

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I am the lead Research and Innovation Development Manager for Leeds Institute of Fluid Dynamics (LIFD). My role includes:

  • providing tailored support for high value and strategically important interdisciplinary research and innovation funding opportunities;
  • connecting academics with businesses and stakeholder organisations and facilitating co-development of collaborative research and innovation programmes;
  • promoting specific research and innovation strengths and initiatives, both internally and externally.

Prior to joining University of Leeds in 2016 I spent nearly 20 years working in industry—delivering environmental audits, updating ISO standards processes, improving implementation of new technologies, promoting effective organisational change and acting as a champion for peer-to-peer knowledge exchange.  I enjoy working with internationally diverse teams, and have worked in the USA and South Korea as well as helping globally distributed virtual teams achieve their ambitions.

Jeremy Laycock Campbell, Research and Innovation Development Manager, Energy

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I am the Research and Innovation Development Manager for Energy Leeds, which brings together around 200 researchers from across the University to tackle one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century – to develop and maintain clean, secure and affordable energy supplies as part of a sustainable future. I work with academics from across the University to identify and develop research and innovation opportunities and build the capacity of the University to help address these important energy challenges. I develop collaborations with external stakeholders by organising networking opportunities, workshops and events and support the development of large interdisciplinary and strategically important research proposals.

Before joining the University, I worked in a project management role in offshore renewables at Iberdrola Engineering and Construction as well as in third-sector roles leading environmental community projects in the East End of Glasgow and working for an international anti-poverty NGO in Geneva. I have extensive experience of bringing together very diverse groups ranging from academics to industry, policy makers, NGOs and community organisations and senior United Nations representatives to exchange knowledge and co-produce solutions. I have an excellent track record of developing successful proposals to a wide range of funders including Government, Research Councils and Innovate UK.