About the Awards

The Research Excellence Awards recognise the outstanding contribution of Ulster staff members in the area of research, across four categories – Senior Distinguished Research Award, Distinguished Research Award, Future Research Leader Award and Research Recognition Award.

Congratulations to all the 2023 Champion and Faculty Winners in the Research Excellence Awards.

Champion winners 2023

Senior Distinguished Research Champion Award


Professor Luke Chen
Professor of Data Analytics, School of Computing

The research accomplishments of Professor Chen have been on the conception and development of knowledge-driven semantic-enabled data analytics methods and their application to a number of emerging real-world application domains.

He leads and advances research within this area by further initiating the hybrid data-knowledge approach to computational behaviour analysis, and more broadly smart cyber-physical systems. As an internationally recognised researcher, Professor Chen has raised the reputation, esteem and visibility of Ulster University at both national and international levels.

Distinguished Research Champion Award


Dr Kirsty Pourshahidi
Lecturer in Food Science and Technology, School of Biomedical Sciences

Dr Kirsty Pourshahidi’s leadership and drive has spearheaded the development of the Agri-Food theme within NICHE, with a strong focus for her research on agri-food nutrition and consumer innovation. Dr Pourshahidi’s early-stage scientific excellence in the field of nutrition has been recognised by The Nutrition Society, she is co-ordinator of the European Nutrition Leadership Platform and is a Registered Nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition.

Future Research Leader Champion Award


Dr Nikhil Bhalla
Lecturer in Electronic Engineering, School of Engineering

Dr Bhalla’s research interest lies in the invention and discovery of new materials at nanoscale to develop highly sensitive plasmonic biosensing devices. Ranked in the top 2% of researchers in Nanoscience as listed by Stanford University, Dr Bhalla’s research accomplishments (which also include 3 patents) has advanced the understanding of how light interacts with biosensing materials including solid/liquid sensor interfaces.

Faculty Winners 2023

Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

  • Professor Raffaella Folli - Senior Distinguished Research Faculty Award
  • Dr Andrew Sneddon - Distinguished Research Faculty Award
  • Dr Conor Murray - Future Research Leader Faculty Award

Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment

  • Dr Shuai Zhang - Distinguished Research Faculty Award
  • Dr Federico Cruciani - Research Recognition Faculty Award

Life and Health Sciences

  • Professor George Kernohan - Senior Distinguished Research Faculty Award
  • Dr Greg Tierney - Future Research Leader Faculty Award
  • Dr Aoife Caffrey - Research Recognition Faculty Award

Ulster University Business School

  • Professor Geoff Simmons - Senior Distinguished Research Faculty Award

Previous winners

Further Information

To find out more about the Research Excellence Awards and how to apply visit the Research Excellence Awards website.