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08 July 2020

Dr Martina Zimmermann awarded UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship

Dr Martina Zimmermann, from the Department of English, has been awarded a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship for her work on The Sciences of Ageing and the Culture of Youth (SAACY), 1880 to the present day.

Martina Zimmerman book cover

Dr Martina Zimmermann’s fellowship will explore how scientific research influences how we think about ageing, and how culture frames scientific studies on ageing and diseases of old age. SAACY will engage with researchers from a range of fields, including history, gerontology and neuroscience. Martina and her team will also work with local charities (The Pam Britton Trust for Dementia and One Westminster) and national charities (AgeUK, the Centre for Policy on Ageing and the Centre for Ageing Better) to disseminate findings and to involve older people in developing policy change for the ageing population.

SAACY investigates the origins of and reasons for the cultural emphasis on ageing as pathological decline rather than continuous physiological change – and asks whether this pathological emphasis is led by scientific research; can it be explained by skewed popular scientific accounts; can it be rationalised by healthcare practice; or is it culturally driven? SAACY also wants to ensure that concepts like life-experience will move from the margins of literary scholarship to become an official record in the cultural conversations around ageing.

UK Research and Innovation’s flagship scheme invests in outstanding individuals across the UK and aims to support the creation of a new cohort of research and innovation leaders who will have links across different sectors and disciplines. Awardees will each receive between £400,000 and £1.5 million over an initial four years.

This fellowship enables me truly to live my discipline-crossing aspirations and passion, and, in its generous layout, to work with a team of experts as well as third sector project partners to maximise the potential of this project to overcome pessimism about ageing and achieve policy change.

Dr Martina Zimmermann

Dr Martina Zimmermann's latest book, The Diseased Brain and the Failing Mind: Dementia in Science, Medicine and Literature of the Long Twentieth Century, will be published with Bloomsbury this summer and is available open access.

The Pam Britton Trust for Dementia very much welcomes this opportunity to work with Dr.Zimmermann on this most valuable research project focusing on dementia. This is important for us as it enhances our work locally to achieve change for those directly concerned. This most complex illness which is currently without a cure, has long required more factual knowledge and understanding.

Tony Britton, The Pam Britton Trust

Ageing Better’s recent report showed that attitudes to ageing and to older people in the UK are mostly negative, with older people seen as incompetent, hostile or a burden on society. As our population ages, it’s vital that we dismantle the insidious ageism in society. We look forward to the outcomes of Martina’s work looking at the genesis of this damaging narrative.

Dr. Aideen Young, Centre for Ageing Better