Josh Fearns awarded Ashok Kumar Fellowship

Article by Adam Duckett

Josh Fearns seeks to bridge the gap between scientific research and decision-making

JOSH Fearns, a chemical engineering graduate of the University of Surrey, UK has been awarded IChemE’s 2022 Ashok Kumar Fellowship and will work alongside UK Parliamentary advisers to brief lawmakers.

Fearns will begin his fellowship in early 2023. He will spend three months at the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) and will produce a briefing paper or contribute to an area of public policy related to science and engineering.

Fearns recently completed his Master’s of Engineering (MEng) in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, where he researched the use of stochastic programming – an optimisation framework that deals with decision-making under uncertainty – for applying probabilities to variables like natural gas price that may be random in the future. His modelling aims to enable mitigation strategies to be put in place when values change and allow policy-makers to have more confidence in more accurate results. He also spent a year in industry at energy technology company Baker Hughes learning about and working on risk assessments, accident investigations, and employee safety engagement projects.

Fearns said: “I am honoured to be awarded the prestigious Ashok Kumar Fellowship and look forward to working with parliamentarians to support decision-making. My motivation for applying to the fellowship was to be able to utilise the confluence of disciplines studied throughout my engineering degree to help bridge the gap between scientific research and decision-making.

“The Ashok Kumar Fellowship is a special and unique channel that allows the application of key chemical engineering skills, such as research and communication, to tackle societal challenges by contributing to scientific policy.”

The annual fellowship is jointly funded by IChemE and the Materials Processing Institute. Previous fellows have briefed lawmakers on cyber conflict and chemical weapons. Following his fellowship Fearns will share his experiences with the membership of both organisations.

Alexandra Meldrum, IChemE Vice President Learned Society, said: “Josh is extremely enthusiastic, skilled and motivated in not only his specialist research, but in the Ashok Kumar Fellowship and the opportunity to work at POST. He is an excellent communicator and passionate about using his chemical engineering knowledge and skills to make a real impact by providing decision-makers with crucial, evidence-based information for developing policies that will affect UK communities.”

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive Officer of the Materials Processing Institute, said: “Now in its second year with support from the Materials Processing Institute, the Ashok Kumar Fellowship is really showing its value in bringing together politicians and the latest thinking from engineers. Josh, our recently-appointed Fellow, brings with him real expertise and understanding in energy systems, that will surely benefit his work in preparing papers to inform parliamentarians.”

Lydia Harriss, Senior Physical Sciences Adviser and International Lead at POST, said: “The selection panel were extremely impressed by the high standard of this year’s candidates, who showed real passion for communicating science and informing public policy. We’d like to thank all of the candidates who applied. It was a really tough decision, but Josh’s appointment was very well deserved.”

The fellowship was established in memory of former Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Ashok Kumar, who was the only chemical engineer serving in Parliament at the time of his sudden death in 2010 aged 53.

Read more about the Ashok Kumar Fellowship at

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.