Category: Research Staff

Dr Cristina Banks-Leite, Lecturer, Department of Life Sciences

I was born and raised in Brazil, where I studied ecology and fell in love with nature. I moved to the UK in 2010, to take up a postdoctoral fellowship to conduct my research at Imperial. In 2013, I was hired as a lecturer in the Department of Life Sciences and have been here since.

My work is about understanding why species go extinct and what the consequences are for ecosystems once species disappear. At present, my group has six PhD and seven Masters students. They are looking at a wonderful variety of systems in Brazil, Costa Rica, Borneo and the UK, and they are analysing groups as diverse as epiphytes, dung beetles, birds and their microbiome.

Collectively, we have shown that species loss in the tropics can reach up to 90% and that even small changes to biodiversity can lead to substantial consequences to pest predation, herbivory and even nutrient cycling. Most crucially, my research has been able to inform policy makers on how much native habitat is required to maintain biodiversity in Brazil. It is incredibly rewarding to see that our research outputs have been used to preserve species in a highly threatened biodiversity hotspot.

Imperial’s greatest strength are its people. It is fascinating to work in such a thriving community of outstanding scientists and excellent students. I also love working in the Silwood Park Campus, where we have woodlands and enough grounds to set up long-term experiments.

Andy Thomas, Research Computing Manager, Department of Mathematics

As the manager of the Department of Mathematics’ research IT facility in the Huxley Building, which has over 200 systems providing more than 1000 processors and 1000 terabytes of data storage, I have a busy, varied and enjoyable job.

I have been very fortunate to have spent most of my working life in research, starting in 1975 as an Electronics Technician in the Acoustics Lab of the former Chelsea College. I spent a decade creating specialist devices for projects and driving a mobile laboratory all over the UK.

An advert in the Guardian in 1999 for someone to come and sort out a motley collection of UNIX and Linux systems in Imperial’s Department of Mathematics was too much to resist. After arriving at Imperial in January 2000 (just in time to face and deal with the infamous Y2K bug), I have not looked back and have thoroughly enjoyed being here. Working at Imperial is like being part of a large family where I always feel at home, where thinking outside the box and embracing new ideas is the norm.

My present job is more like working for a small start-up. I routinely work on systems, networks, databases and programming all at once, and am responsible for every aspect of the facility. But above all, the most satisfying part of my role is providing a reliable service which gives researchers exactly what they want, when they want it and within budget.

Finally, receiving the President’s Medal for Research Support Excellence in 2018 has been the high point of my being at Imperial.

Dr Sophie Rutschmann, Senior Lecturer and Academic Lead for Postgraduate Education

I joined Imperial at the end of 2006, following a post-doc at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

I am a Senior Lecturer in Immunology. Around half of my time is spent leading the MSc in Immunology, which means organising, teaching and looking after our students. In the other half of my time, I am the Academic Lead for Postgraduate Education in the Faculty of Medicine.

In this role, I aim to develop the Faculty’s education portfolio and work with the programme teams to maintain and improve the quality of our education. Recently, we have actively engaged with Imperial’s new Learning and Teaching strategy and are in the process of finishing the Curriculum Review of our postgraduate programmes, which has been a rather intense but rewarding process! This will lead to exciting changes in the way we teach – more specifically we’ll be progressively introducing more interactive sessions with our students.

I believe that the best learning environment is one where we all – both students and staff – have fun, enjoy what we do, and convey our passion; a place where we are challenged, but feel safe to take risks and make mistakes, and where we interact in a trusting, fair and transparent way.

Read a Q&A with Dr Rutschmann from the Department of Medicine’s blog

Dr Christina Atchison, Principal Clinical Academic Fellow, School of Public Health

I joined Imperial in October 2018 and work part-time in the School of Public Health as a Principal Clinical Academic Fellow on the Global Master in Public Health. I also work for Public Health England as a Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, based in the North West London Health Protection Team.

Before joining Imperial, I completed my public health specialist training and have worked as a Consultant in Public Health Medicine for Local Government, the NHS and Public Health England. I obtained a PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2011 and have held several academic positions alongside my service roles since then.

It’s a privilege to work with dedicated individuals in the School of Public Health. We’re delivering an online degree in the Global Master in Public Health, and there is a real sense of togetherness. We’re trying to expand the reach of the high quality public health education offered by the School of Public Health. What’s really exciting about this project is that most of the content will be available free through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) that anyone can take​, and so increasing accessibility to public health education for those who cannot afford to enrol onto a Master in Public Health degree programme.

We are working with talented Instructional Designers in the College’s Digital Learning Hub to ensure a robust pedagogic approach underpins the design of the programme and to ensure that we are maximising online and digital technology to better apply interactive teaching techniques. In this respect we are very much creating a programme aligned to the vision of the College’s new teaching and learning strategy.

Professor Mimi Hii, Professor of Catalysis, Department of Chemistry

I am a Professor of Catalysis in the Department of Chemistry. Before this, I was a lecturer of organic chemistry at King’s College London, which (in)famously decided to curtail its Chemistry degree programme in 2003; prompting the move from WC2R to SW7, along with a promotion to senior lectureship. (more…)

Dr Andreas Kafizas, Lecturer in Climate Change and the Environment, Grantham Institute

“I completed my MSci and PhD in Chemistry at University College London (2003 – 2011), and was then awarded back-to-back fellowships that supported my research at Imperial (Ramsay Fellowship, 2012 – 2015; Imperial College Junior Research Fellowship, 2016 – 2018). This year I was awarded a Lectureship at the Grantham Institute.

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Dr Zahra Sharif Khodaei, Senior Lecturer, Aeronautics

I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Aeronautics. I completed my PhD at the Czech Technical University in Prague before I joined Imperial as a Research Associate, which led to a lectureship position from 2014. My research is focused on non-destructive inspection techniques and damage tolerant design of composite structures, mainly for aerospace application.

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Dr Imogen Gingell, Research Associate, Faculty of Natural Sciences

I work in the Faculty of Natural Sciences as a Research Associate in Space Physics, and joined Imperial in 2016. I am interested in magnetospheric plasma interactions and look at how spacecraft can be used to understand what happens when gas from the sun hits the magnetic field and space around Earth. Before I joined Imperial, I completed a PhD at Warwick and have also held a previous Research Associate position at Queen Mary University of London.

My research is focused on the region of space known as the ‘bow shock’, where supersonic plasma winds from the Sun are rapidly compressed and heated ahead of Earth. The thin transition is analogous to the ‘sonic boom’ created by an aircraft as it travels through the atmosphere faster than the speed of sound. Using data from NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft, I recently discovered that energy can be released in the bow shock which changes the shape of the magnetic field on very small scales – a process known as magnetic reconnection. Although reconnection is known to happen elsewhere in the magnetic environment around Earth, this is the first time it has been seen in a shock wave. I hope to understand how that discovery changes what we know about how shock waves work in space.

I’ve always felt very supported at Imperial. As a trans woman, I have found my experience of settling into the College to be quite smooth. For trans people on an academic career path, transition has its share of extra challenges. For example, navigating how to come out to your international network, or how to handle referencing past publications are significant sources of worry.

However, when I had my job interview here I was reassured that I would be treated equally, and I have found that to be true. I’ve never had any problems. Even if I have needed to take time off for transition-related healthcare, my managers and peers have always understood and given me space. I look forward to helping other staff and students in physics receive the same positive treatment as we develop our department’s new LGBT+ Allies Network.

Imogen has also been featured in Imperial’s LGBT History Month campaign. Read her profile.

Dr Michael Berthaume, Research Associate, Bioengineering

I joined Imperial in February 2018, as a Research Associate in the Department of Bioengineering, before which I worked in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University and at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology studying teeth and primate evolution.

I am interested in the intersection of anthropology and engineering (anthroengineering), and am currently applying anthroengineering to the design of biomedical devices for low-to-middle-income countries. I am working with a team in Sri Lanka, focusing on the design of culturally relevant and sustainable orthopaedic devices – specifically external fixators to stabilize broken bones that can be manufactured locally. Additionally, we are working towards the design of prosthetics for amputees in northern Jaffna, the vast majority of which received their injuries as a result of the nearly 30 year civil war.

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