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Future Human SRT – Sandpit debrief

A two-day intensive research Sandpit, held by the Future Human Signature Research Theme (SRT) in November, has resulted in two PhD Studentships and two seedcorn funding projects.

The Sandpit event brought together academics from five Divisions, who participated in facilitated discussions aimed at developing new inter-disciplinary research ideas and projects relating to human augmentation.

On the first day, participants discussed their hopes and aspirations for the Sandpits, introduced their experience and expertise, and exchanged initial ideas about exciting themes to develop. On the second day, the group prioritised research themes and spent much of the day refining these and working towards well-shaped projects that were shared with the wider cohort and benefited from their feedback.

From the two-day Sandpit, ten project proposals were developed and pitched to a selection panel comprising of the Future Human Theme Leads and Dr Tim Hopthrow from the Graduate and Researcher College. The standard was amazingly high, with all ten of the pitched projects demonstrating huge potential and exciting opportunities for follow-up.

The Panel identified two of the project teams to receive the two Future Human PhD Scholarships for the 2022-23 academic year, and a further two teams to receive seedcorn funding to run more contained projects. The projects are:

Future Human PhD Studentships

Decision design ecology and deciding whether or not to treat Simon Bailey, Larry Duffy, Raza Mikelyte, Connal Parsley, Daniel Soria

Taking a combined technology driven and patient-centred approach to the development of next-generation bladder cancer treatments Michelle Garrett, Jennifer Hiscock, Katrina Taylor

Future Human Seedcorn Funding projects

Exploring the use of static transport: its role in the life of the future human Samuel Smith and Katrina Taylor

Establishing user-led priorities for use of immersive technologies in palliative care Project team: Jim Ang, Rasa Mikelyte, and Samuel Smith

Quotes from Sandpit participants

‘As a new member of staff at the University of Kent, I was excited to be selected to take part in the Sandpit days. It was a great opportunity to network, and I enjoyed hearing first-hand about diverse areas of research colleagues at Kent are engaging in. Through the sandpits, I have become part of an interdisciplinary team, researching within a field I hadn’t imagined a few weeks ago. The Sandpits encouraged me to think outside the box and explore ways to apply my interests and expertise beyond my own academic discipline.’

‘As an interdisciplinary researcher, I often wonder if there are colleagues across the University who I could be collaborating with on ‘big questions’ beyond our individual fields. The Sandpit offered a concrete process for finding those colleagues and identifying questions in common. Over the course of two days, I ‘went with the process’ and became part of a collaborative group with diverse expertise, but a clear set of shared research interests—enabling us to frame a PhD project in the multi-dimensional way that is so important today. I also met many people I would like to talk to more in the future.’

Find out more

The Future Human Theme Leads will be running another research Sandpit, specifically for Early Career and Mid Career Researchers on 4 and 5 May 2022. More seedcorn funding will be available for the teams and projects formed at this Sandpit.

Please watch out for further communication and watch for updates on our website. The Future Human Blog provides more details about the projects that were pitched at the November Sandpit.

Dr Lex Mauger, Dr Sarah Hotham and Professor Aylish Wood |Future Human Leadership Team