Published: 23 August 2022

Graduate to contribute to energy policy during prestigious Fellowship

Josh Fearns, who recently graduated in chemical engineering from Surrey, has been awarded the 2022 Ashok Kumar Fellowship which will see him spending three months collaborating with UK parliamentary advisers to inform the work of MPs and Peers.

The Ashok Kumar Fellowship is jointly funded by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) and the Materials Processing Institute. It offers a three-month placement with POST (the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology), where the post-holder will produce a briefing note or contribute to an area of public policy related to science and engineering.

During his Chemical and Petroleum Engineering MEng at Surrey, Josh 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 give policy makers more confidence in more accurate results.

Josh spent his Professional Training placement year at energy technology company Baker Hughes in Bristol, learning about and working on risk assessments, accident investigations, and employee safety engagement projects.

Following Josh’s placement at POST, which begins in early 2023, he will work with IChemE’s Learned Society Committee and the Materials Processing Institute to share his policy knowledge and experience of the Fellowship with engineering members.

Josh 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.”

Dr Michael Short, who supervised Josh’s final year project in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering,  commented: “I am incredibly proud and not at all surprised by Josh’s fantastic achievement in obtaining this prestigious Fellowship. His research project work added features to our net-zero energy planning software and contributed to the British Council-funded COP26 Trilateral Research Initiative project. Josh will take this knowledge of energy systems decarbonisation to parliament to help inform and shape policy.”

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.

“Chemical engineers bring vital skills for many contemporary policy issues. It’s important to equip our future generations of chemical engineers with the skills and thought leadership to influence policy.”

The Ashok Kumar Fellowship is open to engineers who have completed a degree at undergraduate masters level or above, or have equivalent industry experience. It 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.


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