PhD student wins ‘Breakthrough Brit’

Breakthrough Brit Mitu Khandaker

A University of Portsmouth PhD student is one of 17 newcomers to win a ‘Breakthrough Brit’ from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Mitu Khandaker was selected by industry experts for making an impact in the world of computer gaming. The 29-year-old founded the independent games studio, The Tiniest Shark Ltd, while studying for her PhD with the School of Creative Technologies.

Mitu fell in love with video games when she was young, playing on various hand-me-downs from relatives. She found that interacting with the games was thrilling and was inspired to teach herself programming at the age of 12.

The new awards aim to celebrate and support the UK’s future stars of film, television and games and provide a platform for emerging talent. The panel of judges included This is England writer and director Shane Meadows and actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

Mitu said: “I feel absolutely honoured to have been named as a Breakthrough Brit. My future plans already included continuing to work and expand my current one-woman games company, but being selected as a Breakthrough Brit has given me further confidence to pursue this.

“BAFTA has an amazing representation when it comes to games – it’s brilliant for the cultural legitimacy of the medium that games are taken so seriously, alongside movies and television, by such a prestigious organisation in this country.”

In addition to her PhD, Mitu spent six months in the US on a fast-track entrepreneurship program, spending time at Harvard Business School, the Kauffman Foundation, and taking part in a design and business internship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Education Arcade initiative, designing educational game concepts.

She set up The Tiniest Shark Ltd on her return to the UK and is now developing Redshirt – a social networking simulation game due to be released next month.

Mitu said: “Redshirt is basically a sci-fi game which imagines what life would be like on a mock Star Trek-esque space station if everyone in the future were still obsessed with social media, or ‘Spacebook’ as it’s known in the game!

“I’ve been working on the game for two years now, so it’s nice to finally be about to release it properly.”

Mitu also completed her undergraduate degree at Portsmouth and credits the University for her success.

She said: “The University has shaped absolutely everything about my career. As well as supporting my studies, the enterprise team was there to nurture my nascent interest in setting up my own business.

“It was also thanks to them that I was selected for the NCGE Kauffman Entrepreneurship Scholarship to go to America and for supporting me when I set up The Tiniest Shark Ltd.

“I owe a lot to Portsmouth for that, and to the School of Creative Technologies for supporting me in all of my endeavours while I’ve been pursuing my PhD. There are some fantastic, wonderfully supportive members of staff throughout the University, without whose encouragement, things would be very different!”

At the awards event Mitu took part in a day of in-depth career guidance and mentoring from leading industry figures.

Other newcomers on the list of winners included Tom Holland, an actor who appeared in disaster film The Impossible and Sharon Rooney, from hit show My Mad Fat Diary on E4.

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