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PGR Excellence Awards

The PGR Excellence Awards celebrate the contributions and achievements of staff and students in the Faculty's postgraduate research community.

The next call for nominations for the PGR Excellence Awards will be 2021.

Please note that the Student of the Year category has an earlier deadline and an earlier call for nominations than the other Excellence Awards.

All nominations will be considered for the Doctoral Academy PGR Excellence Awards (Faculty-wide) in the first instance. The shortlisted nominations will also be considered for recommendation at the annual MDC Excellence Awards (University-wide). All nominations to go through the general PGR Excellence Award route should be submitted to

Award categories

Award Category


Who can nominate?

Student of the Year

The nominee should be an outstanding research student who has excelled in some significant manner, for example, after the presentation of a thesis, based on the recommendation and judgment of the external examiner. They may have had a major research achievement during their PGR programme – for example, high quality journal publications or a research spin-off.  

The shortlisted nominations for this category will also be considered for the President's Distinguished Achievements Award (University-wide).
Current UoM Staff Member. Please note that this category has an earlier deadline than the other awards.
Best Outstanding Output The Best Outstanding Output award recognises research outputs of the highest quality and acknowledges the continuing importance of high quality research to the University. Current UoM Staff Member
Best Contribution to PGR Environment The Best Contribution to PGR Environment award recognises outstanding achievement/contribution of an individual towards the enhancement of the postgraduate environment. An award will be made to a student who has made a positive impact, demonstrated innovation and creativity in their actions, and been an inspirational role model to other students. Examples of this include organising events which bring together the postgraduate community; identifying an area of development within the postgraduate community and providing a solution to this.  Current UoM Staff Member
Best Contribution to Society The Best Contribution to Society award recognises outstanding achievement/contribution of an individual who has offered their time and energy to make a difference to the social and economic well-being of our communities. Examples of this could include community volunteering, working with local schools or charities, organising public engagement events/activities.  Current UoM Staff Member
Best Contribution to Internationalisation The Best Contribution to Internationalisation award will be made to a student who, in the opinion of the Panel, encapsulates the spirit of internationalisation at Manchester. Examples of this include a student that has demonstrated their ability to work internationally and be an exemplar global citizen; a student that had driven forward an initiative to enhance the international student experience at Manchester. Current UoM Staff Member
Outstanding Impact The Best Outstanding Impact award will be made to a student who, in the opinion of the panel, has made a demonstrable contribution to society, benefitting individuals, organisations and/or society as a whole through their excellent research. Current UoM Staff Member
Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant (including Demonstrator, UG Project Supervisor)

The nominee should be an individual who is supportive and available. The qualities the panel will look for in candidates include:

  • Clear and effective demonstrating, supervision, teaching methods
  • Offering detailed and personalised feedback
  • Giving one-to-one support when needed
  • Use of original and accessible teaching methods
  • Clear communication of learning objectives
  • Working towards external recognition for teaching excellence
UoM Staff and Students, including self-nominations
Outstanding Student Rep

The nominee should be an individual who has a clear commitment to the role through proactivity and leadership. The qualities the panel will look for in candidates include:

  • Innovative approaches to the role
  • Impact in the wider student community
  • Inclusivity – recognising the cultural (both social and research) diversity of our PGR students and the geographical spread of our research sites
  • Supportive and approachable
UoM Staff and Students, including self-nominations

Outstanding Supervisor of the Year

  • The nominee should be an individual who has created the most supportive, stimulating and inspirational research environment for doctoral students.
  • The qualities the panel will look for in candidates include:
  • A pioneering approach to supervision: what has the individual done above and beyond that which is expected of any good supervision?
  • A demonstrable commitment to supporting the personal, professional and career development of PGRs supervised. 
  • Demonstrable enthusiasm for the role and going the extra mile to help students navigate through difficulties, academic or otherwise 
  • Challenging students intellectually and helping them to make substantial contributions to their academic field
  • Providing additional support and facilities to give greater scope to their research 
  • Evidence of outstanding results of their supervision over a number of years: have students from a range of backgrounds been encouraged to pursue a doctorate? What have they gone on to achieve? 
  • Providing supervision to an exceptional number of candidates over time.
UoM Staff and Students
Outstanding Professional Support Staff (PSS)

The qualities the panel will look for in candidates include:

  • Approachability and responsiveness
  • Willing to go the ‘extra mile’ to solve problems and identify support mechanisms
  • Enthusiasm for PGR activities
UoM Staff and Students

Criteria for nominations

At the time of being nominated for an award, students must be registered for a postgraduate research degree at The University of Manchester, be under examination for a postgraduate research degree at Manchester, or have completed their doctoral degree within the past six months.

Making a PGR Excellence Award nomination

Only current University staff members can nominate in certain categories. However, both staff and students, including self-nominations, can nominate in others. Please check 'Who can nominate?' column in the table above for further information.

All nominations must be made by submitting the PGR Excellence Awards Form to by the deadline. This form will be available once the awards are open for nominations.

All nominations must be sent with the following:

  • a summary of the nominee's achievements for the prize-giving ceremony (max 100 words);
  • the main supporting statement (max 350 words);
  • additional supporting statements (minimum two additional statements, maximum four).

If you are a student who would like to be put forward for a category where only staff members can nominate, please ask your supervisory team to submit a nomination for you. This is completely allowed and we encourage you to do so.

If you have any questions, please contact the Doctoral Academy at

Previous winners

So far, the PGR Excellence Awards have celebrated the contributions made by numerous students and staff in supporting the work and achievements of postgraduate researchers.

The most recent Doctoral Academy Award winners are listed below.

PGR Student of the Year

Elke Van Veen – President's Distinguished Achievement Award 2019 (winner)

Elke has made significant advances in the understanding of the genetic basis of inherited breast cancer. She has discovered a novel mechanism of silencing of the BRCA1 gene due to hypermethylation of the gene promoter (the on/off switch for the gene).

This work has led to an important publication in the American Journal of Human Genetics and much media interest, but also, most importantly, clarification of the risks in the family members affected by this devastating condition.

She has also undertaken analysis of risk scores based on common genetic variants in thousands of women from Manchester to personalise their breast cancer screening.

Dr Neil Ryan - Doctoral Academy Student of the Year Award 2020 (winner)

Dr Neil Ryan completed his PhD as a University of Manchester President’s Doctoral Scholar through an MRC-funded Doctoral Research Fellowship.

He led the first UK study of unselected testing of womb cancer for Lynch syndrome, and showed that tumour immunohistochemistry for mismatch repair deficiency is the best testing strategy. He showed that women want to be tested for Lynch syndrome and that it costs as little as £50/case.

His findings prompted the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to assess new guidance that recommends the universal testing of womb cancer for Lynch syndrome, and thus his research will change clinical practice.

Neil published 15 research papers during his PhD and a further 12 are in submission or draft format.

Best Outstanding Output

Connor Rogerson - Best Outstanding Output Award 2020 (winner)

Connor has shown himself to be an excellent research scientist, publishing four papers to date from his PhD, focused around understanding the molecular basis to oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

This cancer shows very poor survival statistics and Connor’s work significantly increases our understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for cancer progression and hence potential therapeutic targets. His recent work will result in another high impact first author publication in this area.

In addition to his research excellence, Connor has contributed to public engagement with teaching local school children and has been instrumental in driving two different student-led scientific discussion groups, and hence has contributed greatly to the local scientific environment. This builds on his direct involvement with patient support groups in the local hospitals.    

Best Contribution to PGR Environment

Beatriz Costa Gomes - Contribution to PGR Environment 2020 (highly commended)

Beatriz has made an outstanding contribution to the PGR environment, not only for the division of Molecular and Cellular function, but also the School of Biological Sciences and the wider research community. She has been a passionate advocate for the support of the PGRs and members of staff in her division.

Beatriz is a tireless advocate for mental health awareness and wellbeing, and has been a real driver for changing attitudes through the distribution of ‘Women in science’ stickers on Women in Science day 2019. She represented PGRs as an invited speaker at the 2019 Post-doc appreciation week. Beatriz has organised numerous events for her division and at school level, including cake bake-offs and the SBS Careers seminar series. She is always smiling and full of enthusiasm and puts the needs of others before herself. She has given so much of her self to improving the PGR environment for everyone.

Kelly Birtwell - Best Contribution to PGR Environment Award 2020 (winner)

Kelly Birtwell has contributed to the PGR environment in an innovative way, supporting PGR wellbeing locally, and at a global level.

She delivered bespoke mindfulness sessions for PGRs in her department, the Centre for Primary Care, and wrote an article about mindfulness for the Division of Pharmacy and Optometry PGR Wellbeing Newsletter.

Having identified a clear need for bespoke mindfulness support, Kelly went on to develop and deliver a series of Mindfulness for Postgraduate Research workshops through My Research Essentials (MRE) that allowed PGRs across the University to connect, discuss PGR challenges, and learn mindfulness techniques.

She is now working with the MRE team to develop an online open-access version of this workshop, making a positive contribution to the global PGR environment.

Best Contribution to Society

Katy Finch - Best Contribution to Society 2020 (winner for the School of Health Sciences)

Katy Finch has made an outstanding, significant and sustained contribution to society during the past four to five years alongside her master's and PhD studies, with a focus on widening participation and supporting children’s development.

She has worked directly with parents, teachers and children on several distinct projects designed to benefit our local community and beyond, ranging from literacy projects with minority and disadvantaged primary-school children, to multiple widening participation initiatives, to parenting interventions for non-English speaking parents.

She really is an inspiration to all of us and a shining example of a fantastic ambassador for our University’s Social Responsibility agenda.

Jemma Houghton - Best Contribution to Society 2020 (winner for the School of Medical Sciences)

Jemma is an exceptionally energetic communicator who contributes to a wide range of public and community engagement activities.

As a University Widening Participation Fellow and tutor on the Manchester Access Programme, she helps aspiring undergraduates from non-traditional backgrounds to realise their potential. As a heritage guide for the University’s tours programme, she has brought our history to life for a range of public audiences.

As co-creator of the In Pursuit of Plants podcast, she showcases activities at this university for an international audience. In her collaborations with the Manchester Museum, she has pioneered a local model for citizen science.

Most impressively, while doing all this, she provides constant organisational support for engagement work by other students.

Jade Pickering - Best Contribution to Society 2020 (winner for the School of Biological Sciences)

Jade has contributed to society by adopting forward-looking approaches in her PhD research into the control of actions in Parkinson’s disease.

She has used both patient and public involvement – talking to people affected by Parkinson’s to shape her research question – and open science practices – taking a rigorous and transparent approach.

Importantly, in both areas she has shared her knowledge and been a role model. Her work with people with Parkinson’s has been used as a case study by Parkinson’s UK, inspiring other researchers and people with Parkinson’s to get involved.

She helped found the University working group on Open Science, as well as a journal club and has contributed to national and international conferences in this area.

Best Contribution to Internationalisation

Ghada Binkhamis - Best Contribution to Internationalisation Award 2020 (winner)

Ghada’s PhD focused on developing objective outcome measures, based on speech evoked auditory brainstem responses, for people with hearing aids and with cochlear implants.

Ghada has regularly presented her work at international conferences and research meetings. In addition to conducting her day-to-day research, Ghada has also provided excellent clinical training to a number of Research Fellows at the University of Manchester.

Ghada has also played a primary and vital role in the improvement of audiological services and in raising Audiology professional standards in Saudi Arabia by advocating and working towards the approval of a universal newborn hearing screening programme in Saudi Arabia.

Ghada is an exceptionally knowledgeable, generous and thorough clinical researcher, who displays the genuine curiosity that drives excellent clinical researchers and combines this with a strong ability for planning and sharing her excellent clinical and research skills with others.

Outstanding Impact

Anna Beukenhorst - Outstanding Impact Award 2020 (winner)

Anna Beukenhorst is a pioneering researcher in digital epidemiology.

She has led analyses contributing to the highly successful national smartphone study Cloudy with a Chance of Pain. She has also been instrumental in setting up and conducting the world’s first cellular smartwatch study in health.

Anna has also excelled in scientific communication. She has represented Cloudy magnificently to scientific and lay audiences. This included national radio interviews, live international TV appearances, and coordinating a social media campaign of study participant videos.

Her written work has been highly commended in the MRC’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award, and she has been cheered and applauded as she shared her passion for epidemiology via the medium of stand-up comedy. A true all-rounder.

Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant

James Beswick - Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award 2020 (winner)

James has been a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) since he joined The University of Manchester three years ago.

During his time as a GTA, he has demonstrated on numerous practical laboratory sessions and co-led multiple workshops. Students know him for his sense of humour and enthusiasm – especially evident in laboratory sessions.

In addition to his unique teaching style, James has received specific praise from undergraduate students for his relaxed, patient and personal one-to-one approach, making himself available outside of taught hours for students who request further support.

He has been described in feedback as a first point of contact for struggling students.

Outstanding PGR Student Representatives

Samira Hosseini - Outstanding Student Representative 2020 (winner)

Samira has been instrumental in building a friendly, welcoming environment for our postgraduate community in Evolution and Genomic Sciences, organising meetings and events, and working with staff and students alike to increase interactions and collaborations in a newly formed group with diverse research interests.

She has organised and promoted a wide variety of events, such as the Dragons and Elevators event, PEGS across the school and between faculties via PSRS.

Outstanding Supervisor of the Year

Professor William Dixon - Outstanding Supervisor of the Year Award 2020 (winner for School of Biological Sciences)

To be able to enjoy Will’s supervision, Europeans moved to Manchester and clinicians branched out to research. His key virtues as a supervisor are:

  • a genuine interest in what drives his PhD students, offering opportunities and research projects that optimise their development around those drivers;
  • exceptional generosity in providing stimulating feedback on papers, presentations and grant applications, in spite of his busy job as director, rheumatologist, PI and father;
  • providing mentorship and support during and post-PhD, also supporting students who pursue careers outside academia.

This outstanding supervision has led his students to publish articles, win awards, receive competitive fellowships post-PhD and land research positions at The University of Manchester, University of Oxford and Harvard University.

Professor Gillian Haddock - Outstanding Supervisor of the Year Award 2020 (winner for School of Health Sciences)

Professor Gillian Haddock has served her students and the university community diligently over the past twenty years.

She is a prolific, world-leading expert in psychosis and mental health research combining this work effectively and positively with and for her students and colleagues. Professor Haddock wants her students to achieve their potential and thus she treats each student as an individual and with respect.

Gillian is a master of pragmatism and unflappability which are essential skills of a supervisor. Despite her commitment to her students and colleagues, Gillian remains dedicated to her clinical practice and continues to be awarded large grants for world-leading research in mental health.

Professor Emma Crosbie - Outstanding Supervisor of the Year Award 2020 (winner for School of Medical Sciences)

Professor Crosbie is passionate about nurturing the next generation of clinical academics.

Over the past six years, she has guided six clinical trainees from across the UK in obtaining nationally competitive, externally funded clinical research training fellowships in Manchester.

All of her students have been awarded ‘best oral’ at prestigious international conferences and achieved first authorship publications in high impact journals. She has supervised five PhD/MD students to completion and a further 12 are in programme.

Her dedication and excellence has not gone unnoticed. She was recently featured as the British Medical Journal role model of the week and in 2019, received the Cancer Research Excellence in Surgical Trials (CREST) award by the National Cancer Research Institute of the United Kingdom.


Outstanding Professional Services Staff

Suzanne Carter - Outstanding Professional Services Award 2020 (winner)

Suzanne Carter joined the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research at The University of Manchester five years ago as Clinical Trial Coordinator on the DISKO study and, subsequently, the InRespond trial.

In June 2018, she joined the Division of Cancer Sciences as DETECT Project Manager. She coordinated trial setup, recruitment and data collection for DETECT so efficiently that the trial surpassed its milestones and has been awarded additional funding for a bolt-on study.

In her current role, she enthusiastically supports the training and research activities of three postgraduate students, going out of her way to enable and prioritise their academic success.