Sophia Batchelor is a rising star in immersive technologies

One of our PhD students, Sophia Batchelor has recently been awarded the Nextant Rising Star Prize.

The Nextant Rising Star Prize is awarded annually to those who people can turn to for inspiration, guidance and role modelling, and who have exhibited an empathetic passion for building the best future reality that is possible for our civilisation. It honours extraordinary contributions to the development of virtual reality and related technology to lift humanity and celebrates both the current work in advancing immersive technologies, and the potential for ongoing contributions to society. 

After receiving the award, Sophia was thrilled and said that she was honoured to be considered for such an award as she always thought of herself as “just a scientist”. “For me, virtual reality and spatial computing extends far beyond just an academic discipline and brings opportunities to better connect, learn, and understand our world. What I have done within virtual reality has always been with the goal of creating that brighter world, and it feels odd to be recognised as a single individual as I truly believe that this technology is best developed with interdisciplinary teams. It is an honour to be named at the Nextant Rising Star and I truly look forward to the ways in which we can continue building Virtual technologies for the betterment of society.”

Her PhD supervisors, Faisal Mushtaq, Mark Mon-Williams and Ryan Morehead have also congratulated Sophia on her award win, “The supervisory team are delighted that Sophia’s potential has been recognised on the world stage. We are equally excited by her PhD project, where she is working towards realising this potential by making major contributions to the ways in which we interface with digital and immersive technologies”.

Sophia was originally attracted to Leeds due to the number of research collaborations dedicated to applying immersive technologies for the betterment of society. Our close collaborations with the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, Born in Bradford, the Centre for Applied Education Research, and the Centre for Immersive Technologies allows research to take place, not just in a laboratory, but on the ground where its insights are needed most.

She came to the University of Leeds after completing a Double Major from University of California Berkeley in Psychology, and Interdisciplinary Studies in Neuroscience, Computer Science, and Ethics. Whilst at UC Berkeley, she built the largest student lead virtual reality organisation. Sophia’s PhD was part funded by Dr Peter Corry, a retired consultant paediatrician who spent his career working in Bradford, treating many children with rare diseases. He is enthusiastic about developing the Born in Bradford programme of research.

Sophia comments that she is “overjoyed to be here at Leeds contributing to the development of immersive technology. For me, there was nowhere else where I could sit at the intersection of neuroscience and technology while also having a clear objective of building a world where all human life is celebrated. The Centre for Immersive Technology is pivotal to my work here at Leeds as it is one of the few dedicated centres to understanding and developing immersive technologies from an interdisciplinary approach. I am thrilled to be working alongside the incredible team to develop these technologies”. 

Sophia is currently researching how we could use immersive technology to find and change patterns that affect a child’s long-term social and economic prospects. She wants to make a difference in children’s lives and to tangibly impact the world outside of the research lab. After completing her PhD, Sophia’s ultimate goal is to find out how humans react to immersive technology so that we can understand what it means to be human and use technology to benefit us, and she hopes to build her own research lab in the future.