UCL News


Funding boost for UCL academics named as UKRI Future Leaders Fellows

8 December 2023

Five UCL academics are set to receive a major funding boost after being awarded UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships in recognition of the groundbreaking nature of their research.

UKRI Future Leaders Fellows

Dr Christina Anderson (UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society), Dr Emily Kostas (UCL Biochemical Engineering), Dr Jonathan Fisher (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health), Dr Lucy van Dorp (UCL Biosciences) and Dr Hossein Heidari (UCL Institute for Materials Discovery) are among 75 promising research professionals that will benefit from £101 million to tackle major global issues. 

UKRI’s flagship Future Leaders Fellowships programme allows universities and businesses to develop their most talented early career researchers and innovators, providing long-term support to enable fellows to tackle ambitious programmes or multidisciplinary questions, and new or emerging research and innovation areas and partnerships. 

UCL’s five selected researchers span a range of disciplines including infectious diseases, biosciences, immunology, bioengineering and European history. 

The fellowships are awarded to: 

Dr Jonathan Fisher 

Dr Fisher is a clinician scientist focused on designing new ways of harnessing the immune system to fight cancer. His team investigates novel engineering approaches in gdT cells, and by harnessing and enhancing their innate anti-cancer properties, they hope to improve their efficacy against a range of tumour types. 

He said: “I firmly believe that these technologies should be designed to be more accessible to patients.  I’m delighted to have been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship; not only will it give me the funding and security to work towards this aim but also allow me to interact with a fantastic cohort to share knowledge and experience.” 

Dr Emily Kostas 

Dr Kostas joined the UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering in 2019 with a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship, and has secured £1.3 million to undertake her project ‘SEACONOMY: Integrated Manufacturing and Biorefinery Research for Building the UK’s Seaweed Bioeconomy’.  

She said: “I am delighted, honoured and excited to have been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. This funding will enable the establishment of seaweed biomass as an important UK sustainable feedstock that can contribute to a circular bioeconomy. I will now be able to create and lead a research group that’s dedicated to addressing the engineering, bioscience and societal challenges to scale seaweed biorefining in the UK, and drive the development of a seaweed bioeconomy to help achieve Net Zero and meet the UN’s sustainable development goals.” 

Dr Lucy van Dorp 

Dr van Dorp’s research aims to contribute to the post-genomic revolution in biology and medicine through the use of computational methods applied to whole genome sequencing data to determine the factors giving rise to the patterns of genetic diversity we observe in human-associated pathogens. 

She said: “I’m excited to have the opportunity to advance both me and my science as part of the Future Leaders Fellows programme. This opportunity will allow me to deliver an ambitious programme of research around the evolutionary history and future trajectories of malarial parasites and provide the funds, training, collaborations and team to establish myself as a leader in infectious disease genomics.”

Dr Hossein Heidari  

Dr Heidari began his application for the Future Leaders Fellowships programme while holding a position at Queen Mary University of London but joined the UCL Institute for Materials Discovery in November 2023. He is now one of three academics to lead the Advanced Materials Lab at the UCL East campus.

Dr Heidari has been awarded £1.7 million to fund SPARK 3D - an organ-manufacturing research project that will integrate bioprinting, biomodulation and imaging in a volumetric bioproduction system to produce large 3D tissues. His research will be alongside the Advanced High Throughput Materials Discovery Lab utilising novel robotics and AI for novel materials and the Advanced Sustainable Materials Lab.

He said: “I am honoured to have received the UKRI’s flagship Future Leaders Fellowship for SPARK 3D. The £1.7m award plays an instrumental role in the realisation of our organ-manufacturing 2040 vision at the Programmable Biomaterials Lab at UCL. We will endeavour to make breakthrough advancements in delivering the bright future we all envision for regenerative medicine. I would like to thank the UKRI and all academic and industrial partners for supporting a proposal of such impact and magnitude.”

Dr Christina Anderson 

Dr Anderson has been a senior research associate in the UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society since 2017, having completed a British Academy Small Research Grant in 2022 on the Flemish merchant community in early modern Naples. Her most recent work involves a digital humanities project examining the networks established between Antwerp and various cities in 16th- and 17th-century Italy.

She said: “I am thrilled to have the support of UKRI to develop a new approach to understanding the development of early modern cities, and urban heritage, through the lens of their interconnectedness with other places.”

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with long-term support and training, giving them the freedom to explore adventurous new ideas and to build dynamic careers that break down the boundaries between sectors and disciplines. 

“The fellows announced today illustrate how this scheme empowers talented researchers and innovators to build the diverse and connected research and innovation system we need to shorten the distance between discovery and prosperity across the UK.” 

Professor Geraint Rees (UCL Vice-Provost, Research, Innovation and Global Engagement) said: “I’d like to congratulate my outstanding colleagues who have received a major boost to their research from a highly competitive and prestigious programme. Universities play a vital role in delivering impact to societies and economies through research and innovation partnerships, and the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships funding will enable some of our world-leading academics to continue their vital work in real-world environments.” 



  • From top-left to bottom-right: Dr Lucy van Dorp (UCL Biosciences), Dr Jonathan Fisher (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health), Dr Hossein Heidari (UCL Institute for Materials Discovery), Dr Emily Kostas (UCL Biochemical Engineering) and Dr Christina Anderson (UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society). 

Media contact

Tom Cramp

E: t.cramp@ucl.ac.uk