St Johns College academic awarded prestigious Fellowship

Mon, Dec 4, 2023

An academic from St John’s College has been named as a Future Leaders Fellow and will receive £1.9 million to boost her research into social media and teenage mental health.

Dr Amy Orben is one of 75 new Future Leaders Fellows announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to support universities and businesses in developing their most talented early career researchers and innovators, and to attract new people to their organisations, including from overseas.

The scheme is UKRI’s flagship research Fellowship that targets the most innovative scientists and researchers across the country to allow them to secure the UK’s status as an ongoing global science superpower. 

The 75 new Fellows, who include three other researchers from the University of Cambridge, will benefit from £101 million in total to tackle major global issues and commercialise their innovations.

Dr Orben, who is a Group Leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, College Lecturer and Director of Studies in Psychological  and Behavioural Sciences and Fellow of St John’s, will pinpoint how social media use might be linked to mental health risk in teenagers, a time when they are considered especially susceptible to developing mental health conditions. 

She will use a range of innovative techniques to study technological designs. These designs include the quantification of social feedback through ‘like’ counts, that could be problematic and therefore a target for future regulation. 

Through the project Dr Orben will also collaborate flexibly with youth, policymakers, and charities to swiftly address pressing questions about social media and technology, helping safeguard young people from the moment her Fellowship starts.

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with long-term support and training, giving them the freedom to explore adventurous new ideas, and to build dynamic careers that break down the boundaries between sectors and disciplines. 

“The Fellows announced today illustrate how this scheme empowers talented researchers and innovators to build the diverse and connected research and innovation system we need to shorten the distance between discovery and prosperity across the UK.”

The Fellowship is initially for four years and could be extended another three.

Dr Orben said: “Research on social media use and adolescent mental health urgently needs to move beyond the current conclusion that ‘it’s complicated’ to inform safeguards for adolescent mental health in the digital age.

“I will use my Future Leaders Fellowship to develop the basic and applied research pipelines that will allow me to produce ground-breaking outputs that cut through the current uncertainty and provide the evidence needed to progress policy and practice in the UK and internationally.

“By the end of year four of this Fellowship, my team and I will have identified two mechanisms through which social media use and adolescent mental health outcomes are linked, thereby informing effective intervention sites that help remediate this negative association and adverse long-term outcomes.

“Intervention and policy targets for these mechanisms will be successfully tested, developed and deployed by the end of year seven, reaching thousands of young people through a dissemination network of stakeholders strengthened throughout the Fellowship.” 

The other three new scientific leaders announced by the UKRI from the University of Cambridge are: Dr Dr Alecia-Jane Twigger, Dr Anna Moore and Dr Niamh Gallagher. 


Article source:
Published: 04.12.23

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