September 11, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth

Our resilient researchers are rising to the challenge

COVID-19 update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

As our preparations for the start of the new academic session gather momentum I wanted to share with you highlights of our latest successes and developments in research.

It is also very good to report that we expect our final research-related areas to be opening over the next two weeks. I would like to thank colleagues in these later phases for your patience and generosity to those in other facilities that were prioritised for early return.

In her latest VC blog, Professor Shearer West reflects on what it means to return to working on campus and the University’s approach to a phased return.

Please also see Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long’s recovery blog for a very useful round-up of this extensive work and guidelines.

The Biodiscovery Institute’s Dr Ruth Griffin, one of the first researchers to return to the lab, gives an insight into what these policies look like on the ground as she continues vital work in applying vaccine platform technologies to COVID-19.

Researcher Academy: championing researchers for the world

From the start of the 2020-21 academic year the Graduate School will be known as the Researcher Academy, to reflect development of its role beyond supporting the postgraduate community. The Researcher Academy is further evolving to become a network for the whole of the researcher community, from postgraduate researchers through to senior research leaders, as well as those working in roles that support them.

As Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Researcher Academy and Researcher Career Development, Professor Lucy Donaldson will provide academic leadership. Her  team includes Researcher Academy Faculty Leads – academic staff appointed by each faculty who will help shape the activities of the Researcher Academy:

Arts  – Dr Lucy Bradnock (PGR and Research Staff lead)
Engineering – Dr Nicole Porter (PGR lead), Dr Ifty Ahmed (Research Staff lead)
Medicine and Health Sciences – Professor Anna Grabowska (PGR lead), Dr Alex Tarr (Research Staff lead)
Science – Professor Richard Graham (PGR lead), Research Staff lead TBA
Social Sciences – Professor Laurie Cohen (PGR and Research Staff lead)

The Researcher Academy will promote a healthy research culture, cultivate researcher excellence and develop creative partnerships that enable researchers to flourish.  I am confident Professor Donaldson, together with Head of the Researcher Academy Dr Jane Wellens and their colleagues, will make a truly significant contribution in supporting all researchers as we navigate an evolving research landscape.

Find out more: Dr Jane Wellens introduces the Researcher Academy

Guidance on PGRs and returning to campus

Policy and guidance for faculties and schools on supporting the return of postgraduate research students to campus is meanwhile being developed by the Recovery Group. For initial guidance on this, please contact your Researcher Academy Faculty lead (see above)

Successes for our researchers

In the months over lockdown colleagues have submitted record numbers of grant applications, which is testament to your dedication to research and resilience in such difficult times. Some of our latest successes include:

  • Dr Mattia Silvi, a Nottingham Research Fellow in the School of Chemistry, has been awarded a £400,000 EPSRC New Investigator Grant to develop a visible-light driven molecular process with the potential to provide novel chemotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer.
  • Brittany Wright, an ESRC-funded PhD student in the School of Education, has received a Mitacs Globalink Research Award, which supports international research collaborations with Canada. Brittany will visit Arcadia University, Nova Scotia, to develop a professional development programme for teachers working in rural areas
  • Dr Marco Iglesias of the School of Mathematical Sciences is a winner of a prestigious Apex award from the Royal Society. The award supports transdisciplinary research and will allow Marco and Professor Yupeng Wu of the Department of Architecture and Built Environment to develop a pioneering collaboration with the potential to improve the thermal performance of buildings.

Professor Ken Starkey of Nottingham University Business School has meanwhile been awarded a prestigious Richard Whipp Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Academy of Management. Ken is the Business School’s most cited scholar and a leading authority on management research.

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship

UKRI has announced timelines for the applications for the latest round of Future Leaders Fellowships. By providing up to £1.5m support over four years, with the opportunity to extend up to seven years, this prestigious scheme allows early career researchers with outstanding potential to develop ambitious and challenging research programmes.

For details of how to apply for a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, with Nottingham as the host, please contact fellowships@nottingham.ac.uk, marking your email ‘UKRI FLF Round 6’, or visit our SharePoint site.

Medical Research Council Confidence in Concept scheme

Applications are now open for the 2020 Medical Research Council-funded Confidence in Concept scheme, which is administered by the University. These grants are designed to establish the viability of health discoveries and so accelerate early stage therapeutic / diagnostic development.

Government plans to cut red tape in research

The government has revealed details of its drive to cut “unnecessary” red tape in R&D and is launching several reviews into bureaucracy in higher education and research.

We are meanwhile planning a review of our research strategy, which will, of course, include your input into how best to free up time to focus on the delivery of world-class research and discoveries. We will further inform this debate by responding to calls to consult on the UK’s R&D roadmap.

Oxjam becomes Voxjam

The Mixed Reality Lab helped the team behind Oxjam in Beeston – part of a national music event that raises money for Oxfam – become an online festival. Voxjam featured 10 hours of live and pre-recorded music streamed to ticket holders via a community ‘watch party’. Colleagues in Computer Science, supported by resources from Digital Research, used a new piece of software developed at the University called Video Magic along with immersive 360 virtual reality to help make this possible.

Once again, my very best wishes and sincere thanks for your dedication.

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

 

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