Hydrogen as a Renewable Aerospace Fuel | The Enterprise Sessions with Neha Chandarana

The Enterprise Sessions bring together a diverse mix of company founders and researchers who talk openly about their experiences forming spin-outs and start-ups, raising capital, building academic-industry partnerships and translating research discoveries into real-world impact. Each episode aims to inform, inspire and challenge myths and stereotypes about research commercialisation and how businesses and universities can work together to tackle society’s biggest challenges.


What is the future of hydrogen as a renewable fuel source? Professor Michele Barbour talks with Dr Neha Chandarana, a Lecturer in Bio-based and Sustainable Composites at the University of Bristol. Neha explores the potential applications of hydrogen, from heating to various modes of transport. She also shares insights into her role as the Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Champion for the University’s Faculty of Engineering.



§  Learn about Neha’s research on hydrogen and its potential applications in aerospace, shedding light on the challenges and promises.

§  How does research transition from the lab to real-world industry applications? Explore what collaborations and funding streams are needed to make it happen.

§  Neha discusses her role as Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Champion, detailing initiatives aimed at fostering an inclusive environment within the Faculty of Engineering.

§  Discover how Neha collaborates across different Faculties to understand the educational experiences of engineering students, particularly those with intersectional identities.


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00:00:00 Prof Michele Barbour 

Hi and welcome to the enterprise sessions. Today I’m talking to Doctor Neha Chandarana, who’s a lecturer in bio based and sustainable composites, and the equity, diversity and inclusion champion for the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Bristol. Neha, welcome. Thank you very much indeed for joining me. So I wondered if we could start before we get into your your research and your collaboration with industry. 

00:00:21 Prof Michele Barbour 

Would you just like to tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be working at the University of Bristol? 

00:00:24 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Yeah. Sure. Firstly, thanks for having me today. So I joined the University of Bristol in October 2021 and before that I was at the University of Manchester. I basically went there to go to university and then just never left. So I did my. 

00:00:41 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Bachelors degree in textile science and technology, and since a young age, I’ve always been really interested in science and and so I yeah studied that ended up being acquainted with composite materials and went on to a pH. D where I was looking at composite pipes and how we can use different kinds of sensors to understand what damage is happening. 

00:01:00 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And then and then did a short fellowship there. And then I came to Bristol to take up this lectureship and and I think it’s been amazing. Like I really like that I’m doing something slightly different at Bristol and it’s given me the opportunity to both continue working on my research and diversify slightly, but also taking up a lectureship means that I get to work with students more and it’s just. 

00:01:20 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Yeah. Yeah, it’s been a great experience. 

00:01:22 Prof Michele Barbour 

I know that you’ve applied your expertise in composites and particularly composite sort of monitoring and testing to lots of different fields. One that I think you’ve been working on recently is hydrogen and the burgeoning hydrogen economy. With all this promise and uncertainty. So perhaps you could tell us a little bit about your research in that area, how you’re applying your? 

00:01:40 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Expertise. Yeah, sure. So. 

00:01:43 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And there’s a couple of different ways that I’ve been sort of tackling that very big challenge as you’ve put it. So using the experience and expertise that I’ve got in something called structural. 

00:01:52 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Monitoring where you basically can integrate sensors into a structure. It doesn’t have to be a composite structure, but that’s where my interest is. And then you can use those sensors to record information about what’s happening in the structure. In particular, I’m really interested in the initiation and growth of different types of damage and in composites this is particularly important because. 

00:02:12 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Depending on the type of damage that you’ve got, that might have a very different effect on the structure and and with hydrogen, there’s a couple of different areas where I’m applying this work, so one is with high pressure hydrogen, so we’ve got our project at the moment where we’re gonna be trying to deliver smart kind of high pressure systems. 

00:02:32 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Hydrogen and the other area is for liquid hydrogen, which is generally stored at cryogenic temperatures, so very cold, and there the challenges again are different because we’re trying to characterise how different constant materials perform when they’re cooled down to these temperatures, and in particular, can we detect that if we can’t see the materials? So some of that testing. 

00:02:52 Dr Neha Chandarana 

At lab scale might involve, you know, putting the composite into liquid nitrogen or liquid helium, where we’re not gonna have actual sight of it. So I’m trying to use some of the techniques I’ve used before to listen. If you like to what’s happening in that material as we call it down. 

00:03:09 Prof Michele Barbour 

And with the with the gaseous hydrogen storage you mentioned sort of creating smart composites. In what respect will be? They’ll be smart. What are they sort of sensing and responding to? 

00:03:22 Dr Neha Chandarana 

It’s a very good question and it’s something that we’re still developing A comprehensive answer to, but essentially what we wanna develop is. 

00:03:29 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Systems where you know we always know what’s happening in the structure from a structural point of view rather than you know whether the the hydrogen pressure system is operative, if that makes sense. So where we’re going towards developing novel and more advanced materials. We also want to make sure that those materials are performing. 

00:03:50 Dr Neha Chandarana 

When they’re in service. 

00:03:52 Dr Neha Chandarana 

But in my work I’m more interested in developing that sort of sensory isation for testing. So if we develop a new material or new tank design, let’s say, which I’m not saying I’m developing, but in that situation we would undergo some testing. And in that testing I want to see how we can integrate. 

00:04:13 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Senses to learn about what’s happening in the structure so you know tank failure generally might be characterised by a burst. 

00:04:22 Dr Neha Chandarana 

But I’m interested in what happens before that burst. So what can we capture about what’s happening in the material itself before the tank actually? 

00:04:29 Prof Michele Barbour 

Burst, which I guess will give you insights into the cause of the failure in the 1st place and. 

00:04:33 Dr Neha Chandarana 

How to design it out? Yeah, exactly. So we hope that that type of information will enable more effective design, let’s say. 

00:04:35 Prof Michele Barbour 

Cereal. Yeah. 

00:04:42 Prof Michele Barbour 

And I know that it’s certainly talked about that hydrogen could infiltrate a lot of different industries from sort of heating homes and workplaces, but also transport, whether it’s little things like cars or lorries or vans or or, you know, ships that travel around the world. 

00:04:57 Prof Michele Barbour 

Is your research particularly aimed at a a certain application of hydrogen, or is it really sitting across the industry? 

00:05:03 Dr Neha Chandarana 

So at the moment, and I think it’s partly due to the funding streams and the sort of organisations that I’m working with, it is kind of aerospace focused. So the bit of work on liquid hydrogen really has an aerospace focus and that’s the area where to achieve the the efficiency that you would need. 

00:05:23 Dr Neha Chandarana 

On this fuel, it really needs to be liquefied, otherwise it would just take up far too much space. And then that means that whatever it’s contained and would just be big and heavy. 

00:05:33 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And so obviously that’s quite a critical application because what you don’t want is for that type of system to fail while you’re in the air. So yeah, it’s it’s quite nice to, even though my work only forms a very small piece of that kind of bigger picture, it’s kind of nice to see where it might lead and where it’s important. 

00:05:52 Prof Michele Barbour 

So that’s, that’s fascinating there. 

00:05:54 Prof Michele Barbour 

Thank you. It sounds to me that this is still primarily laboratory based, but for this to realize its impact is going to have to get out into industry. So how would you anticipate that happening? How would you like that to happen? 

00:06:08 Dr Neha Chandarana 

So one of the ways that I’m looking at at the moment is so as I’m quite still early career into my sort of academic career, let’s say one of the things I’m looking at I’m working on at the moment is my first grant application. 

00:06:22 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And in this those are kind of the kinds of questions that I wanna be able to answer. So you’re right, my research primarily has been focused on the lab scale and that generally means that we’re putting way more sensors than are actually needed because we’re trying to monitor things that are very, very small scale. That may not be important. 

00:06:41 Dr Neha Chandarana 

In a in service environment. So I guess what I’d be looking for is some context on the bigger picture and how we can. 

00:06:48 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And kind of see the pipeline where my research can deliver impact in a commercial applications. So you know are the types of things that we’re monitoring with these sensors useful for the actual application in aerospace? And if so, how, how might we go about commercializing that? I don’t know how important. 

00:07:09 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Space is going to be, I don’t know what the format is going to be for these tanks when they eventually end up and some some form of aircraft. So I think work. 

00:07:18 Dr Neha Chandarana 

King, with partners on that will enable me to make sure we develop something that’s, yeah, useful. 

00:07:25 Prof Michele Barbour 

I guess it’s that. Yeah, that taking that sort of slightly rarefied atmosphere at the lab and saying what could be translated in in a more service environment as you put it, I think I’m right in saying that before you came to Bristol, you collaborated directly. 

00:07:39 Prof Michele Barbour 

With with one or more companies. So given that you’re now looking to developing that in your current work, what would you draw from your past experiences? What what did you get out of it? What were the challenges you experienced in industry academia so? 

00:07:55 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Yeah. So I the first time I worked with a company in my sort of research was when I did my PhD. So I I did that at the University of Manchester and my PhD was funded by EPSRC and also BP I Cam, which is BP’s International Centre for Advanced Materials. 

00:08:14 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And they are based in Manchester, but there’s also other partner university. 

00:08:19 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And and that really enabled me to to get this sense of what the bigger picture was. I’ll be honest, none of the work that I did in my PhD probably will ever be commercialised. But it gave me the opportunity to get that regular feedback on my work about, you know, what do people who actually work in this industry think about it? 

00:08:38 Dr Neha Chandarana 

What do they think is the potential and that was actually really helpful for me because I had two really good academic supervisors. I have to say. 

00:08:46 Dr Neha Chandarana 

That actually it kind of made the the work more real. So you know the types of questions they would ask were completely different to the types of questions that academics, supervisors or other people that were interested in that research field would ask. And. And similarly, I’ve I’ve worked also with other companies later in my PhD where I was able to. 

00:09:06 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Apply the techniques that I was using and other applications and so I worked with different aerospace companies on different projects that were funded through different Research Council. 

00:09:16 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And grants and I guess the main thing I’ve taken away is just that dialogue can be quite helpful. So even in the work that I’m doing now, there’s the hydrogen work. But there’s also other little bits that are just starting up where it might be similar research to what I would have done in an academic setting anyway. But just being able to have the conversation means that you might speak to different people. 

00:09:37 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And they just give you a different perspective on the work that you’re doing. And I have to say generally, they’re always really impressed with what you’ve done because it’s just not something that they normally do in their company. So yeah, if you want a bit of praise every now and then, then I definitely recommend. 

00:09:52 Prof Michele Barbour 

It for that as well. There’s no harm in that. I think a little praise can go along. 

00:09:55 Prof Michele Barbour 

So it sounds like you had a really, really positive experience. Were there ever any tensions or or any time that you felt your academic supervisors and your industry collaborators were sort of pulling in different directions? 

00:10:08 Dr Neha Chandarana 

I think my personal PhD experience didn’t exhibit any of those sort of conflicts or tensions, which I’m really fortunate about. I think partly that was because my industrial supervisors were based in another country, so there wasn’t like an in person or very regular contact where they could have. 

00:10:28 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Steered me in a different direction. 

00:10:30 Dr Neha Chandarana 

So for me it was actually fine. I think when I worked with the other company that I mentioned through another Research Council grant, there it was slightly different because we were geographically closer together and the time pressure when they wanted to see results was a completely different scale to what I was expecting in my PhD. So I think that’s. 

00:10:51 Dr Neha Chandarana 

The the main sort of challenge that I’ve experienced where you know if you’re doing a PhD or a a different kind of research project, you might have like a year, two years, three years to work on this challenge that you’ve identified. But for a company they might want answers like in a month or in a couple of. 

00:11:09 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And and I think managing that can be quite challenging, but I think yeah, it’s just something that you’ve got to be aware of going into it and you know setting the scope and the boundaries of what you wanna do also being realistic about what you’re capable of doing I think is important. So yeah, I guess that’s the kind of. 

00:11:28 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Advice that I would give. 

00:11:29 Prof Michele Barbour 

And I think from my experience, at least as a PhD student or an early career researcher, it’s it’s quite hard to be the one that has that conversation that sets as expectations. You can be a little bit caught in between sort of different different parties. But now you’re advancing in your career, now you’re looking to be the Pi collaborating with industry. 

00:11:48 Prof Michele Barbour 

I don’t know. Is there something your younger self would tell you about how to set that up, how to make sure PhD students don’t end up finding themselves sort of slightly dealing with those different timelines and bearing the brunt of. 

00:11:59 Dr Neha Chandarana 

That. Yeah, it’s a good question. So at the moment, I am actually supervising 2 doctoral students, one PhD and one entity. 

00:12:08 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Who are working or who are sponsored by companies in so? 

00:12:12 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And form and these are exactly the kind of conversations we’ve had with the students because I wanna make sure that the students are aware that, you know, they actually have the power as well to control this kind of relationship and and that they also need to be comfortable with what’s happening. Similarly, we have conversations with the people that we work with at the companies. Just to clarify that, you know. 

00:12:34 Dr Neha Chandarana 

We know this is important to you. It’s got some commercial relevance, but at the end of the day, this student needs to achieve this academic qualification. And so for that, we’re gonna make sure we steer it in a direction where they’re gonna achieve those things as well. 

00:12:47 Dr Neha Chandarana 

I guess for a project that doesn’t involve students, I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I think similar, just you know, there’s no harm in being transparent and being blunt about what your expectations are in a what should be a two way relationship. And then similarly they can be clear about what they expect from us and if that’s all agreed upfront. 

00:13:08 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Then at least you’ve got something to refer back to. 

00:13:10 Prof Michele Barbour 

So it it feels like in your answer you’ve you’ve told me that dialogue is both what you gain from the industry relationship, but also what is needed to help it go smoothly, maybe dialogue and different topics or from different angles slightly. But that openness, that transparency sounds like it’s, you know, pretty essential in your. 

00:13:29 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Experience. Yeah, definitely. 

00:13:31 Dr Neha Chandarana 

I think transparency that’s exactly the word for it. I think as long as everyone’s transparent with one another, then you know you just don’t have any misunderstandings or uncertainty, or if something does come up, you know, you can always clarify it at a later date. But I just think it’s really important to build that good relationship from the start. 

00:13:49 Prof Michele Barbour 

So let’s talk about the other major role that you hold at the University of Bristol, which is the faculty of Engineering’s Equity Diversity and Inclusion Champion. I’d love to hear a bit more about what you’re doing. I guess inevitably also a bit a bit more about the issues you’re trying to address with your team, but tell me about some of. 

00:14:07 Dr Neha Chandarana 

That work? Yeah, sure. So. 

00:14:10 Dr Neha Chandarana 

So this was actually a new role that was created just over a year ago. 

00:14:15 Dr Neha Chandarana 

So prior to the faculty role existing, there were equity diversity and inclusion leads in each of the schools in the faculty, and their role was really to bring together the different activities that we do to support both students and staff to basically, yeah, improve feelings of or sense of. 

00:14:34 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Longing and and all those other things. And so this faculty role was created to build a bit of cohesion between the different parts of the faculty. So coming into it, I didn’t really know what to expect because it wasn’t a role that had existed before. But now that I’m in it, yeah, I’ve had the opportunity to work with different members of the faculty. 

00:14:54 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Board. I also sit as part of the Faculty board now. 

00:14:57 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Now and we’ve been working on a few different things. Specifically if it’s OK for me to elaborate. So. So the role basically encompasses equity diversity inclusion for everyone that’s in the faculty. So that includes all of our students, all of our staff, you know no matter what pathway they’re on. And so one of the things that we did in this last 12 months. 


Yeah, yeah. 

00:15:19 Dr Neha Chandarana 

This build our faculty equity, diversity, and inclusion Commitment statement, which is available online for everyone to see and and this was our sort of piece of work where we wanted to bring together. 

00:15:31 Dr Neha Chandarana 

All of the feelings of what do these terms mean to members of our Community and what are the types of things that we wanna commit to delivering? So in particular, we had conversations with different members of staff at different levels and on different pathways. We also spoke to students both at undergraduate level and also postgraduate level. 

00:15:51 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And we also spoke to our postdoctoral researchers to understand, you know, what are the things that make them have a sense of belonging? What are the things that they feel we need to work on? And? And one of the things that came out of some of those conversations was around recruitment. 

00:16:06 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And how we can make the process of recruitment more inclusive, so we also undertook a project where we worked with colleagues also in HR and in central teams to develop some guidance for recruitment that would ensure that no matter what type of member of staff we were recruiting, that every stage of that process could be more inclusive. 

00:16:27 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Or, as we also included a less. 

00:16:31 Dr Neha Chandarana 

To be minimally exclusive. So rather than, you know, taking steps to include people who aren’t otherwise included, we wanted to put at the core the ideology that instead we only take steps where we ensure that nobody is excluded or that you have minimal exclusion. 

00:16:48 Prof Michele Barbour 

I mean, that strikes me as something not only self. 

00:16:51 Prof Michele Barbour 

Evidently very positive to do in the context of facts of engineering, but that’s really something that is is very scalable and desirable in largely every industry. 

00:17:01 Prof Michele Barbour 

I mean, can you tell us something about how you’re trying to achieve that? How what what’s what does that look? 

00:17:07 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Like. Yeah, so when we’re recruiting individuals from outside the university, we wanted a place where they can also go and look at our commitment and our values, but then to tie in with that, we included some guidance where. 

00:17:21 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Job descriptions could include criteria that ask individuals about what they felt about our commitment and how they might contribute to that if they were to join us at the University of Bristol and and one of the things that was raised when we first set out to do this was ohh you know, how are we gonna check or what questions should we ask to check against this criteria? 

00:17:42 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And so we also went through a process of developing some example questions that you might ask at interview. And these are just, there’s some also some other things in there, but just some little things that we put in place to help hiring managers as well to be able to do this. 

00:17:56 Prof Michele Barbour 

Just as you’re talking, I can’t help but think this. 

00:17:59 Prof Michele Barbour 

Engineering rightly is looking at it at its pipeline of of people and how people are supported and made to feel they belong. But engineering is by no means unique in needing to do that. I wonder if you have any thoughts for the future as to how you might share some of your successes with other parts of the university with other universities with, with industry. 

00:18:20 Prof Michele Barbour 

With the engineering industry as a whole, is that something that’s in your sort of long term? 

00:18:24 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Yeah, definitely. So looking fast at within the university. So I’ve been invited to be part of the EDI strategy, monitoring and Implementation Group, which is central across the university and that’s one of the places where I have agreed to share the guidance that we’ve put together. And as I said, it is building on guidance that HR. 

00:18:44 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Already put together and what we did was take the nuances for engineering and improve on the things that we thought were particularly important for us. 

00:18:53 Dr Neha Chandarana 

But I think, as you’ve said, there’ll be other challenges in other parts of the university. And so one of the things that we’ll definitely be doing is sharing that first wider and and perhaps some of those things can be adopted in other areas as well. Looking beyond sort of the University of Bristol. And we are also, you know, looking at other little projects where we can also learn from other universities. 

00:19:14 Dr Neha Chandarana 

So for example, going a step further and looking at specific pathways of staff and seeing what are the new nuance challenges there and what more can we do to support that recruitment process and and then we hope to be also to disseminate what we do here. 

00:19:29 Prof Michele Barbour 

It makes me think a little bit about your work with hydrogen earlier on, where the universe then becomes the laboratory for testing some of these methodologies for improving equity and and inclusion and then bringing it out into the world of industry and seeing if we can make it work there too. It’s clumsy analogy perhaps, but I quite like it. 

00:19:47 Prof Michele Barbour 

Thank you so much Neha. So I suppose zooming out because we’ve talked about lots of different aspects of your work and what matters to you. 

00:19:56 Prof Michele Barbour 

If you were to zoom forwards maybe five years, what what thing or couple of things would you really like to have achieved by then and from any of the examples of your work that you’ve talked? 

00:20:08 Prof Michele Barbour 


00:20:09 Dr Neha Chandarana 

So yeah, there’s a few things I’d like to achieve. I think reflecting on sort of my journey that brought me here. 

00:20:16 Dr Neha Chandarana 

The experiences that I’ve had, the people that I looked up to or didn’t look up to, I think I’m, I really want to do work that has an impact on people now. So I think in a lot of my sort of science and engineering research, it’s quite you know, looking forward. 

00:20:34 Dr Neha Chandarana 

We don’t know yet how useful it’s going to be. We don’t know exactly what the impact will be or the use. You know, there’s often lots of different research groups working on things in parallel, and we don’t know which idea is gonna win out and be used. But I think what I wanna do with with all of the work that I do, including research, is make sure that the people I’m working with now. 

00:20:55 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Benefit now. So in a lot of the work that I do, if I work with students, for example, PhD. 

00:21:01 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And I’m always asking them, you know, what is there that I can give you that you develop in the way you wanna develop, that you don’t just end up walking away knowing that you’ve contributed to this project that I had the idea for, but that you also get something out of this view. And so I think if I was to zoom forward, let’s say, five years, then I just hope that the people that I’m working with now. 

00:21:22 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Actually get that sense of they achieved the thing that they wanted to achieve and not just in their work, but also, you know, if there’s any other skills that I can kind of help them to get. 

00:21:32 Prof Michele Barbour 

It’s fascinating to hear your work in the equity, diversity and inclusion space for staff, but I think you also do some really creative things for students and their sense of belonging. Perhaps you could tell. 

00:21:42 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Us a bit about that. Yeah, sure. So I’m really pleased to say that recently we bid for and we’re awarded a grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering and they have a program called the Diversity. 

00:21:52 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Impact program, which was set up to support students to develop a sense of belonging in their educational journeys. And so in this project I’m working with academics from the Faculty of Social Sciences and law, and also the Faculty of Life. 

00:22:07 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Chances to develop an approach that enables us to understand what are the educational experiences of our students in engineering and how do they link to the things that we typically measure, like outcomes. In particular, we’re interested in the experiences of intersectional students. So for anyone who doesn’t know what that means, what we refer to when we say intersectional is when. 

00:22:29 Dr Neha Chandarana 

An individual belongs to or identifies with more than one social identity. So for example, I’m from a minoritized ethnic background, and I’m also a woman, and so in the context in which I work, I would be in sect. 

00:22:43 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And so we’re particularly interested in seeing how different social identities and their intersection impacts on educational experiences, and whether that then interplays with outcomes. And we’re also doing some work with students in that. So we’re working with undergraduate students and postgraduate researchers to deliver. 

00:23:03 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Parts of those parts of that project. So I think about 75% of the funding that we were awarded will directly be used to employ and benefit students during the course of the. 

00:23:13 Prof Michele Barbour 

Project. I think that’s so important that our people aren’t just doing these things through goodwill, but they’re actually being. 

00:23:19 Prof Michele Barbour 

Just because it’s this proper work, it’s not just sort of a casual thing that you can do as it as a as a student contributor. 

00:23:25 Prof Michele Barbour 

So is that a fairly early stage of that project? 

00:23:29 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Yeah. So the project started officially at the beginning of March and it will run for 18 months. So yeah, we’re still quite early on, but just the last two weeks we’ve just. 

00:23:40 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Recruited and had start new interns that are working with us over the summer, so this is it’s quite an interesting one because we’ve now got some undergraduate students from engineering working on parts of the project which are quite heavily sort of social science. It’s also a new field for me, hence the. 

00:24:00 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Academics that I’m working within, other faculty. 

00:24:03 Dr Neha Chandarana 

But it’s been so impressive to hear about all of the things that they’re learning already on in only two weeks. All of the reading that they’ve been doing and the sort of ideas that they’re coming up with. And so, yeah, I’m really excited to, to see what’s gonna come of this project, something that’s been really nice as well is that we’ve got some support from external organisations in the project as well. 

00:24:24 Dr Neha Chandarana 

As part of our Advisory Board, so you know you asked earlier about how we might link what we’re doing in the EDI space to industry. And so one of the Advisory Board partners that we have is the Henry Royce Institute. 

00:24:37 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And so that’s one area where you know, through dissemination of what we find, I hope to be able to at least soundboard, you know, some of the ideas that we’re having so that we can get a look on this whole pipeline. So we know that improving the experiences of students at undergraduate level is going to impact on what they might go on to do. 

00:24:58 Dr Neha Chandarana 

But I’m also keen to see how then industry might take that up and support those individuals once they leave university and go out into the. 

00:25:05 Prof Michele Barbour 

World of work. Well, I think that is crucial, isn’t it? Because what we don’t want to do is is is repair the pipeline to continue with the analogy. But then finally it gets leaky, you know, not long after the students have left us. 

00:25:16 Prof Michele Barbour 

So I imagine what might come out of this project if I’ve understood correctly, is some some observations, some data on the experiences of of students, particularly from an intersectional point of view, but also some some ideas, some initiatives even. Is there enough time to test out some things and see if they make a difference, or is that really beyond the scope of that short? 

00:25:37 Prof Michele Barbour 


00:25:38 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Yeah. So I kind of wanted to try and do a bit of both. So you’re right, one of the major things that will come out is a data set that doesn’t currently exist. Obviously, that data set won’t be that data set won’t be shared publicly, but it will enable us to just understand what are the different patterns that emerge during this sort of educational experience. 

00:25:58 Dr Neha Chandarana 

There are a couple of areas where we’re looking to trial some things and kind of see how they go. So one of them is looking at personal tutoring in engineering and you know again, looking through that intersectional lens and seeing what can we do as academics or as. 

00:26:15 Dr Neha Chandarana 

You know, there are a lot of members of staff that engage with students quite regularly, so we want to see what can we do better or what are we already doing well to support in sectional students. And we also want to develop some peer networks between students who are in different years of the same degree program so that they can start to build links amongst themselves as well. 

00:26:35 Dr Neha Chandarana 

And again, we wanna look at the impact of that through an intersectional lens and see. 

00:26:39 Dr Neha Chandarana 

What? Yeah. What is the impact? I think that’s kind of all we have time for during the scope of the project. But I think through the links that we’ve formed in different parts of the university and with external universities and organisations, hopefully there will be some will to take on some of the recommendations and continue to invest in this kind of area. 

00:27:00 Dr Neha Chandarana 

So that we see a continual improvement. 

00:27:01 Prof Michele Barbour 


00:27:02 Prof Michele Barbour 

Really, the sort of things you’re talking about should should become business as usual once we sort of understand what it is we’re doing. 

00:27:08 Prof Michele Barbour 

I’m gonna ask you a question if you don’t. 

00:27:09 Prof Michele Barbour 

Want to go there? Say so. 

00:27:12 Prof Michele Barbour 

One of the things I sometimes grapple with in my own academic context is when you’re trying to understand the experiences of students with different diversity characteristics. 

00:27:22 Prof Michele Barbour 

You mustn’t group people into groups when they are very much individuals, but if you study everything on individual level, you have n = 1 for every set of characteristics. And how can you decouple that from? 

00:27:36 Prof Michele Barbour 

How do you how do you get something meaningful from that? And I’ve never quite myself found what I think is a satisfactory answer to how to get that balance between not lumping people into a group which they wouldn’t. You know, I recognise, but also not only looking individuals. I don’t know if you’ve got any any words of advice for me. 

00:27:53 Dr Neha Chandarana 

For me? No. Well, I don’t have advice, but it’s a really interesting question and it’s something that I really want to explore in this project because I think. 



00:28:04 Dr Neha Chandarana 

As you said you know if you create too many categories then you end up with a very small pool of respondents per category and that makes it very difficult to draw any sorts of patterns, conclusions, whatever you might call it. And so that means that whenever we look at data that’s already been collected, it might be grouped in a way that’s not particularly. 

00:28:24 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Helpful for our calls. So in sectional data, for example for students is very rarely available and when it is all of their ethnicities that are minoritized will be grouped together and. 

00:28:36 Dr Neha Chandarana 

The one which is fine for reporting, but it makes it very difficult for us to understand what we want to understand. So part of this will be generating the data in a disaggregated way so that we can understand what the patterns are and and unfortunately it might be that when we report on that data and publish it, it will be grouped together. 

00:28:56 Dr Neha Chandarana 

In some way, because we wouldn’t want any of the dates to be identified. 

00:29:01 Dr Neha Chandarana 

But I think the important thing here isn’t about putting people into categories or saying that, you know, their experience is because they’re in that category. But it’s always about, you know, finding common ground, finding some similarities. You know, just because you belong to one group doesn’t mean that your experience is definitely going to be different from. 

00:29:23 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Someone in another group, and especially in the university context, you know, we’re not gonna create initiatives for every small intersection, but where we can see patterns and we can put things in place to support intersectional individuals. We know that a wider group will benefit. So for example. 

00:29:40 Dr Neha Chandarana 

You know, if we put things in place to support students from a particular socioeconomic background, who may also have one of the other diversity characteristics, the likelihood is that will benefit both groups and. And so that’s the type of ideology that we wanna go with. 

00:29:57 Prof Michele Barbour 

I think it’s an ideology I I can’t see how you could fail to get behind it, but I also would really, really encourage you as this develops and and with your colleagues and. 

00:30:06 Prof Michele Barbour 

Students to as things become clearer, also reach out to some of our existing industry partners because I think there are many industry bodies that grapple with all the same challenges just talked about, but they don’t necessarily have that academic context in which they can really study it. So I think some of the insights you gain will. 

00:30:22 Prof Michele Barbour 


00:30:23 Prof Michele Barbour 

Resonance way outside of the higher education. 

00:30:26 Prof Michele Barbour 

Sector. So I think we should seek to make the most of. 

00:30:29 Dr Neha Chandarana 

Those as best we can, yeah, definitely. That would be great. 

00:30:32 Prof Michele Barbour 

That’s all for this enterprise session, but join us again soon to hear more about the way our amazing staff and students are translating their enterprising ideas into real world impact. And do please click on the links if you’d like to contact. 

00:30:44 Prof Michele Barbour 

The University of Bristol. 



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