University of Surrey graduate awarded prestigious Ashok Kumar Fellowship

University of Surrey graduate awarded prestigious Ashok Kumar Fellowship

15th August 2022

Josh Fearns, a chemical engineering graduate of the University of Surrey, UK has been awarded the 2022 Ashok Kumar Fellowship and will be working alongside advisers in UK Parliament to inform the work of MPs and Peers. 

The fellowship is jointly funded by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) and the Materials Processing Institute. It is 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.

Fearns, 23, recently completed his Master of Engineering (MEng) in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the university 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 through an internship at energy technology company Baker Hughes in Bristol, UK learning about and working on risk assessments, accident investigations, and employee safety engagement projects.

Fearns, who now lives in Wirral, will begin his fellowship in early 2023. He 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 fellowship is open to engineers who have completed a degree at undergraduate Master’s 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.

After the placement at POST, the successful candidate will also work with IChemE’s Learned Society Committee and the Materials Processing Institute to explain their policy knowledge and experience of the fellowship with each organisation’s engineering members.

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.”

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive Officer of the Materials Processing Institute, said:

“Now in its second year, 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.”

Read more about the Ashok Kumar Fellowship at


Ashok Kumar Fellowship

POST (the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)

Materials Processing Institute


For more information please contact: 

Rachael Whittles, Communications Executive & PR Lead, IChemE 
t: +44 (0) 1788 534435 

Andrew Cargill, Marketing Manager, Materials Processing Institute 
t: +44 (0) 1642 382047 

Lydia Harriss, Senior Physical Sciences Adviser, POST 
t: +44 (0) 207 219 8380 

What is chemical engineering?

Chemical, biochemical and process engineering is the application of science, maths and economics in the process of turning raw materials into everyday, and more specialist, products. Professional chemical engineers design, construct and manage process operations all over the world. Oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, food and drink, synthetic fibres and clean drinking water are just some of the products where chemical engineering plays a central role. 


The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) advances chemical engineering's contribution worldwide for the benefit of society. We support the development of chemical engineering professionals and provide connections to a powerful network of over 30,000 members in more than 100 countries. 

We support our members in applying their expertise and experience to make an influential contribution to solving major global challenges, and are the only organisation permitted to award Chartered Chemical Engineer status and Professional Process Safety Engineer registration. 

Materials Processing Institute

The Materials Processing Institute is a research and innovation centre serving global steel and materials organisations that work in advanced materials, industrial decarbonisation, the circular economy, and digital technologies.

The Institute has served as the UK’s national steel innovation centre since 1944 having been set up by Sir Winston Churchill’s wartime government just before D-Day to equip the British steel industry for post-war reconstruction. It will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2024.

Through collaboration with its customers, the Institute provides a range of technology and R&D based services and consultancy. It also has pilot and demonstration facilities and an SME Technology Centre to support supply chain businesses with the development of new technologies and products.

Works with: steel, metals and alloys, chemical processes, aerospace and defence, energy, mining and quarrying, construction, rail, transport, and infrastructure, offshore, subsea, and nuclear.

More information:

POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)

POST produces impartial, non-partisan, and peer-reviewed briefings, designed to make scientific research accessible to the UK Parliament. The briefings come in the form of POSTnotes and POSTbriefs. Timely and forward thinking, they cover the areas of biology and health, energy and environment, physical sciences and computing, and social sciences. POST runs seminars, receptions and other events on science and technology topics. It also runs several fellowship schemes with Research Councils, learned societies and charities, through which PhD students and other researchers are sponsored to spend three months working at POST.

More information: