Piers Sellers Prize 2020

A researcher generating new possibilities for climate change risk assessment and responses has been named as the winner of the 2020 Piers Sellers Prize.

Dr Katharine Mach, whose work informs effective and equitable adaptation to the risks posed by climate change, will receive the prize for world leading contribution to solution focused climate research at a virtual event in June. This event will also see the presentation of the Piers Sellers Prize for exceptional PhD research.

The award is bestowed annually in the name of Piers Sellers, the former astronaut, climate scientist and Leeds alumnus, by the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds. This year, nominations were focused on the contribution of an up-and-coming researcher or research group.

The prize recognises Dr Mach as a rising star in interdisciplinary climate research. Her many publications over the past five years and significant involvement in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demonstrate an unwavering commitment to climate solutions.

Her work focuses on developing new ways to bring researchers and stakeholders together to understand complex climate risks – for human security, for example. She also explores how to address challenges central to responses – whether equity and justice or the need for attention to long-term consequences of present-day choices.

A presentation event in June will feature a keynote lecture from Dr Mach on integrative assessment of climate risks and adaptations in support of decision-making and policy. She will discuss recent work on climate and security and on managed retreat, a particularly complicated form of adaptation.

Dr Mach is currently Associate Professor at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a faculty scholar at the UM Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. Her research assesses climate change risks and response options to address increased flooding, extreme heat, wildfire, and other hazards.

The prizegiving event, scheduled for 15:00 – 17:00 on Wednesday 10 June, will take place online (complemented by a physical event at the University of Leeds if feasible and appropriate). You can register to attend using this link.

PhD Prize

This year, two postgraduate researchers at the University of Leeds have been named winners of the Piers Sellers prize for exceptional PhD research.

The 2020 recipients are Oliver Grasham from the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioenergy and Harriet Thew from the School of Earth and Environment.

Both prize winners will deliver presentations at the event on Wednesday 10 June.

Oliver Grasham

Oliver Grasham

Oliver Grasham researches novel ways to integrate carbon intensive waste processes with the production of sustainable energy and biofuels.

He was nominated for the Piers Sellers PhD prize by his supervisor Dr Valerie Dupont, from the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, after conducting his research as part of the Bioenergy Centre for Doctoral Training.

In 2017, Grasham won the inaugural Young Process Engineer Prize set up by IChemE’s Water Special Interest Group. His winning project featured the preliminary investigations into a process to decompose ammonia into hydrogen, which can then be used in fuel cells to generate electricity.

Grasham authored a recently published paper in Applied Energy that explored a novel method of ammonia recovery and utilisation with biomethane at wastewater treatment plants for improvements in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of his PhD, Grasham conducted extensive technical, economic and process analysis alongside various experimental investigations. The systems developed have been termed ‘NWaste2H2’ after the namesake EPSRC grant awarded to him during the second year of his PhD.

Dr Dupont said: “Oliver’s findings provide strong evidence that energy intensive and essential services such as the provision of clean water to dense urban communities and busy industrial sectors can drastically reduce their carbon footprint, which is an important step towards achieving a net-zero future.”

Harriet Thew

Harriet Thew

Harriet Thew is part of the Sustainability Research Institute. Her research is focused on youth participation in and around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

She was nominated for the Piers Sellers PhD prize by her supervisors Dr Lucie Middlemiss and Professor Jouni Paavola, who are both from the School of Earth and Environment.

Using a challenging longitudinal ethnographic research method, Thew has conducted rigorous data collection over a period of nearly three years, gaining deep insights into the lived experiences of youth participants in the complex UN climate negotiations.

Her most recent paper, published in Global Environmental Change, explores the changes over time in how young people talk about climate justice, and the implications this has on making their voices heard and representing their generation within environmental governance.

Thew advises a number of government departments on youth participation and her insights have been used to train youth participants in international youth constituencies of the United Nations to ameliorate their participation.

Her supervisors remarked: “Harriet is a rising research star in our school. Hers is research of the highest quality: interdisciplinary, rigorous, original and exciting. In summary, all of her efforts help to mobilise an effective response to climate change.”