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Three Engineering academics receive MPLS Outstanding Research Supervision award

University awards celebrate colleagues who demonstrate leadership and best practice by nurturing and supporting research colleagues

L to R: Professor Mark Cannon, Dr Takafumi Nishino, Professor Clive Siviour

The University’s MPLS Awards for Outstanding Research Supervision is a new annual awards scheme to celebrate colleagues who demonstrate leadership and best practice in their role as DPhil supervisors or research group leaders.

Thirteen research group leaders in departments across the MPLS (Maths, Physics and Life Sciences) Division received awards for going above and beyond in nurturing and supporting their colleagues, by demonstrating inspirational leadership and enabling people to flourish in their careers.

Each entry to the awards required a minimum of two supporting nominations and 40 research supervisors were nominated. The judging panel, made up of research staff representatives from the MPLS Research Staff Forum, met at the end of last term to select the winners. Professor Sam Howison, Head of MPLS Division, said: "All academics know how important supervisors are (or should be!) to students embarking on research for the first time and indeed to research staff. It is wonderful to see so many examples of great supervision from our MPLS colleagues and I congratulate not just the winners but all 40 nominees on the terrific support they have given to their students and research groups."

Professor Mark Cannon studied engineering as an undergraduate and completed a doctorate at the University of Oxford. Since 2002, Mark has been an Associate Professor in the Engineering Science Department where he is a member of the Oxford Control Group. Mark Cannon’s nominations stress the patience, understanding and support he demonstrates in his role as a research supervisor. He provides pastoral care and encourages the career development of members of the research group on a one-to-one basis, and regularly offers advice about career development in team meetings. He is an enthusiastic supporter of his researchers in their funding and other applications, giving large amounts of detailed feedback even when deadlines are tight. Working with him has inspired at least one nominee to pursue a career in academia. According to his nominators, Mark “invests a huge amount of time and effort in developing his graduate students, and his approach to supervision is thoroughly deserving of the highest possible accolades.” He says of the award, “Supervising graduate students is probably the best part of my job. I am lucky to have a fantastic group of students whose enthusiasm and enjoyment of research are inspiring.”

Dr Takafumi Nishino studied mechanical engineering at Kyoto University for his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and obtained his PhD in aerodynamics at the University of Southampton. He joined the Department in 2018 as Departmental Lecturer in Civil Engineering Fluid Mechanics. Takafumi’s nominations emphasised his strong empathic and listening abilities as a supervisor. He gives a lot of time to his students, meeting them every week. Takafumi has a strong focus on pastoral support, being there for his students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. He also takes time to support them in their career development, giving them opportunities outside the research arena to develop skills such as teaching, supervising and peer support, or to benefit from internships. He also acts as a sponsor to his researchers, by opening up his professional network to them. He takes time to have career discussions with researchers he supervises, discussing the pros and cons of academic and non-academic pathways, and he provides prompt feedback on academic papers and presentations. Dr Nishino says, "I am really pleased to receive this award. Exploring new ideas with the next generation of researchers is what I enjoy the most in my academic life, and I hope that my students are also enjoying their research as much as I am."

Professor Clive Siviour completed an MPhys and PhD in the department of Physics at the University of Cambridge. He moved to Oxford in 2005 to take up a Career Development Fellowship in Engineering, and was appointed to his current position in 2008. He is a member of the Solid Mechanics and Materials Engineering Group. According to his nominations, Clive has created a great group spirit and dynamic that is relaxed and informal, allowing people to express themselves without fear of judgement. He is demonstrably concerned about everyone in the group as people, as well as in their academic capacity as researchers. He is empathic as well as being a supporter of diversity, treating everyone as an individual. He acts as a sponsor for members of his research group, actively promoting their work in the public, industrial and academic domains, and opening up his networks to them. He also shields his group from issues such as administrative or funding challenges, to help them focus on their research. He is constantly horizon scanning, looking out for professional development and career opportunities for group members. Clive is also recognised for giving useful, timely feedback, and putting his students first. His nominators feel he is the model of an outstanding supervisor.