Sheffield University Research Experience (SURE) Academic Supervisor of the Year

Dr John Fenner & Simon MarchantThe award of a prize for supervision of summer research projects highlighted successful completion of the SURE exercise for 2013/14.  The Sheffield University Research Experience (SURE) is a mechanism by which undergraduate students can experience life as a paid researcher during the summer.  Guided by an interested supervisor, students submit short research proposals in early Spring, and the winning entrants are notified in April.  A bursary supports a funded period of research during the months of June/July, and this is a great opportunity for students to discover what the world of research is like and whether a future research post (e.g. PhD) might interest them.  The students operate as a member of the research team, availing themselves of all the opportunities that affords - participating in departmental seminars, getting to know research colleagues and of course undertaking the research for which they were funded.  Similarly, supervisors gain an enthusiastic and intelligent pair of hands that can take a piece of bite-sized research and move it forward, perhaps clarifying whether it is an area worthy of further effort in the future.  Dr John Fenner & Professor Tony RyanAn important outcome is the production of a short report and a poster, as well as feedback supplied by the supervisor at the end of the project.  In the case of Simon Marchant and his Medical Physics supervisor Dr John Fenner, the project involved a cross-disciplinary exercise in which Simon was using his engineering expertise to inform experiments on cellular responses to blood flow undertaken by biologists in the Department of Cardiovascular Science.  The project exposed some interesting ambiguities of interpretation and was successful enough to warrant further investigation; specific aspects are being pursued as part of Simon’s final year project for his MEng degree.  The work of the summer supported by the SURE bursary was presented at an event in February, in which the work of all SURE students was showcased via a poster exhibition and awards ceremony.   Dr Fenner was the surprised recipient of the prize for ‘SURE Academic Supervisor of the Year’ and took it as an acknowledgement of a very productive summer research studentship “Winning awards is easy when you have excellent students to work with!” he remarked.  Attention is now switching to the next intake of SURE students, for whom the application deadline is the middle of March.

Sheila Francis, Head of Department of Cardiovascular Science commented “SURE is an excellent scheme and many students go on to further research after their degrees as a result.  I am delighted that Dr John Fenner has been recognised in this way for his unassuming research inspiration given to many undergraduate and postgraduate students.  He is really making a difference, which we all admire.”