Dr Cheryl Battersby wins the 2021 Simon Newell award

Each year, with support from GOSH Charity and Sparks, we offer this prestigious award of £2,000 to one early independent researcher in paediatrics. We speak with this year's winner about her research to improve the lifelong health of preterm babies, and we hear her tips for aspiring researchers.
Dr Cheryl Battersby

After receiving many excellent applications, the winner of the 2021 Simon Newell award is Dr Cheryl Battersby.

Cheryl is a Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London and an Honorary Consultant Neonatologist at Chelsea and Westminster hospital. In 2020 she received a NIHR Advanced Fellowship award of £1.3M to lead a five-year research programme neoWONDER, using whole population data to improve lifelong health and wellbeing of preterm babies.

Professor Nick Bishop, Vice President for Science and Research said:

Cheryl Battersby has used national data to substantially improve outcomes for preterm infants focusing on firstly understanding the antecedent factors for and then reducing severe necrotizing enterocolitis. Her work has clear impact for preterm infants globally. She is now developing as an independent researcher following the award of an NIHR Clinician Scientist. Her future work will be informatics-focused, using big data approaches to answer difficult questions, with a clear commitment to patient/parent involvement. She has a strong commitment to training the next generation of researchers in paediatrics through her founding of the Neonatal Trainee-led Research and Improvement Projects group. Cheryl is a worthy winner of the RCPCH Simon Newell Award 2021.

We spoke to Cheryl about her research, the award, her plans for the future.

What does it mean to you to win this award?

It is an honour to receive this prestigious award, particularly as Simon Newell inspired generations of neonatologists like myself.

The transition to independence for early career investigators is an exciting but challenging time. Knowing that my research matters gives me a motivational boost.

What are your plans for your research career?

Over the next five years, I will be leading a research programme supported by the NIHR to help understand and improve the longer term outcomes of children born very prematurely. Health and education data for over 100,000 babies will be brought together. This combined information will inform us how these babies progress through their childhood.

From this we could learn what neonatal unit interventions, social and environmental factors may have impacted on their development.

To find out more or get involved, visit the study website

What is your advice for aspiring researchers?

  • Plan ahead. Seek out mentors and potential supervisors early on. Reach out to those with a track record of supporting aspiring researchers. These early conversations may open doors to opportunities you didn’t even know existed. 
  • Use your initiative and forge your own career path. Don’t let others tell you research is not possible because of wrong timing, training pathways etc. I didn’t follow a conventional academic training pathway myself and embarked on my PhD journey quite late into training (ST7).
  • Persevere and be patient. Rejections and failures often outnumber successes. Be willing to fail, learn from the experience, and try again.

The Simon Newell award will be running again for 2022. Keep an eye out for more information.