UK and Ireland National Academies recently announced the first members of a new UK-wide Young Academy – a network of early career researchers and professionals established to help tackle local and global issues and promote meaningful change. The 67 members selected from across disciplines include Churchill Fellow Dr Xavier Moya and recent JRF Dr Leor Zmigrod.

The call for members received over 400 applicants from a variety of sectors including Life Sciences, Physical, Engineering and Computer Sciences, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Business, Public Service and Communications. The members were chosen by a panel of 65 reviewers, including an Appointments Committee. The successful applicants officially took up their posts on 1 January 2023, and membership runs for 5 years.

It is fantastic to see two of our younger colleagues from the College, Xavier Moya (currently a Senior Research Fellow) and Leor Zmigrod (whose Junior Research Fellowship finished this summer past) recognised by election to the newly formed UK Young Academy. They will be part of the very first cohort of Fellows of this new interdisciplinary organisation made up of UK-based early-career researchers, innovators and professionals. The Academy will cover all disciplines and areas and will provide a strong voice for early career researchers. I am sure both Xavier and Leor will make valuable contributions to this new enterprise. I warmly congratulate them both.

Professor Dame Athene Donald, Master of Churchill College.

Dr Xavier Moya is a Senior Research Fellow at Churchill College and an Assistant Professor at the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy. He works on the thermal properties of materials, focusing on phase transitions involving structural, electrical and magnetic degrees of freedom. He was awarded the Young Researcher in Experimental Physics Prize 2015 by the Spanish Royal Society of Physics, the Emerging Talent Award 2017 by the Society of Spanish Researchers in the UK, and the 2019 Global Cooling Prize.

I am very excited about being part of the UK Young Academy, and the opportunity it provides to help influence societal issues that are important. The first group of members will determine the strategic direction and the initial work programmes of the Academy. This is a great responsibility, and I am looking forward to help lay down a solid foundation for its success and reputation, now and in years to come.

Xavier is enthusiastic about working collaboratively with like-minded people that come from a range of backgrounds, disciplines and professions, and about being part of an exciting new academy that is aimed at improving the world that we live in. He aspires to take his expertise in research, innovation and entrepreneurship beyond his own field of work, and contribute to making a difference towards ensuring a better planet and society for everyone. He sees the work of the UK Young Academy and related learned societies as absolutely key to unlocking this transition, and enabling it to occur at speed.

Dr Leor Zmigrod completed her Junior Research Fellowship at Churchill College last summer. Her research combines methods from experimental psychology, cognitive science, political science, criminology, and neuroscience to investigate the psychology of ideological extremism and group identity formation. In particular, she investigates cognitive characteristics that might act as vulnerability factors for radicalization and ideologically-motivated behaviour. She is delighted to have been elected to the UK Young Academy and views it as a fantastic opportunity to advance the role of young thinkers in public debate and work towards a future that is genuinely progressive, equitable, and just.

I hope to promote cross-generational discussions on pertinent issues in science and society – how do we build a politics that embodies the values of evidence and equality? How do we engage young generations in dismantling oppressive and unequal systems? And how do we reimbue trust in scientific expertise and economic institutions so that populism loses its allure and appeal? I believe the UK Young Academy is an excellent platform to drive these conversations forward and generate real and positive change.

Leor is passionate about using science to fight dogmas that bind and blind us, noting that, “human beings can be highly susceptible to ideological narratives that ultimately diminish their freedom and authenticity”. By understanding the cognitive roots of ideological doctrines, Leor believes that we can understand how to de-spiral individuals away from extremism and towards a better tolerance of ambiguity and change, which is why helping to foster cognitive resilience against different kinds of extremisms is one of the central aspirations behind her work.

Find out more about the UK Young Academy:

UK Young Academy announces first members | UK Young Academy