Professor Dame Jessica Corner

October 9, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth

Our research continues

COVID-19 update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

In line with many areas of the country, the city of Nottingham and county of Nottinghamshire look set to face local restrictions from next week to manage increasing cases of COVID-19.

While we await official confirmation on the nature and extent of the restrictions, I am confident that we will maintain and continue to increase our research activities and capacity.

This confidence is assured by the immense hard work and progress that we have all made together in ensuring our research buildings and facilities are covid-secure and observing social distancing and safety protocols.

Of course, we are continuously reviewing our contingency measures and have re-assessed our safety measures to ensure on-campus research can continue to be carried out safely and responsibly within the current restrictions. All operational areas involved with research are being asked to develop business continuity plans, which set out how we will continue to prioritise research activity.

When the new local restrictions are announced, I ask everyone across the University to respect and adhere to them, both to protect our staff and students, and to play our part in stopping the spread of the virus in the wider community.

I will keep you fully informed and ensure that the continuation of research conducted in covid-secure conditions will remain our priority as we continue to navigate the local and national progress of the pandemic.

Resources for recovery

Research and KE Continuity Planning Overview has guidance in identifying actions and next steps in the development of business continuity plans, including useful links to supporting documentation on the University website.

Business Continuity Overview has more general points about what might be in a business continuity plan

COVID-19 Recovery Planning – has further resources on recovery planning.

We are further updating resources and guidance for researchers, together with information for visitors and businesses and our partners

FAQs for COVID-19 enquiries

These new FAQs will help colleagues respond to questions received from colleagues, students, parents and the media about the services and support available as we operate during the coronavirus pandemic. The documents will be updated regularly with the most accurate and up-to-date government and NHS guidance.

Improving the postgraduate journey

We are looking to improve the enquiry and application experience for prospective postgraduate researchers applying to study with us and join a highly valued part of our research community.

A rapid improvement exercise is taking place in the week commencing 2 November, led by Rachel Atkin, Director of Student Recruitment.

At the end of the week, the PGR progression from first enquiry to admission will have been overhauled, changes made, approved and implemented.

The exercise is enabled by the Getting in Shape team, which is sponsored by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long, and led by Professor Lucy Donaldson, Assistant Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Researcher Academy.

This is an exciting opportunity to make rapid improvements to benefit prospective PGRs and our wider PGR community. If you have any questions or wish to input into this exercise, please use this link

Bookable spaces for postgraduate researchers

The Researcher Academy is meanwhile working to open the Graduate Centres next week as bookable study space for PGRs, starting with the Social Science and Arts Graduate Centre in Highfield House.  Spaces will be available for booking by any PGRs who either cannot work from home or who need space on campus.

UKRI costed grant extensions

The first phase of our review of applications from UK Research and Innovation-funded projects for costed grant extensions is nearing completion.

Funds have been allocated for confirmed projects and the majority of reviews have been completed.

A second round of allocations will begin in November, focusing on projects due to end in April, May and June 2021.

My thanks to all in Research and Innovation and colleagues in faculties who are supporting this important work and ensuring funds are distributed effectively, equitably and fairly.

My thanks also to all who worked tirelessly and creatively to adapt research projects affected by COVID, mitigating the need for costed extensions in the majority of cases and ensuring that the UKRI-funded extensions were available to areas of critical need.

Details and guidance regarding the next round of allocations will follow soon.

Sharing good news

I am delighted to once again share highlights of our researchers making an impact and raising the profile of our discoveries.

Royal Academy award

Jonathan Hirst, Professor of Computational Chemistry has received a prestigious award from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Jonathan one of eight new Royal Academy of Engineering Chairs in Emerging Technologies who will receive a share of £22m funding to  support innovative new research.

Professor Hirst, working with scientists at the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Sustainable Chemistry will develop machine learning techniques to help chemical engineers and chemists make their manufacturing processes more sustainable.

£4.5m funding to help future-proof crops

A Nottingham team of plant scientists, including Professors David Salt and Malcolm Bennett and Dr Rahul Bhosale, Leah Band and Tony Bishopp in the Future Food Beacon of Excellence,  have received a share of £4.5m to future-proof crops against climate change and crop production shortages.

The funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council will help researchers from the universities of Durham, Nottingham, Cambridge and Liverpool further understand how plants adapt to their environment.

Precision Imaging welcomes world-leading team

Another of our beacons, Precision Imaging, has welcomed Michael Chappell as Professor of Biomedical Imaging. Michael and his team of ‘Physimals’ join us the from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford. This world-leading interdisciplinary team, now part of the  Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre, use medical imaging technology to make measurements of physiological processes in the human body.

Team member Flora Kennedy McConnell has secured an Early Career Fellowship funded by the Precision Imaging Beacon to work on personalised models of brain perfusion, while fellow Physimal Paula Croal has been awarded both an Anne McLaren Fellowship and a Brain Tumour Charity Future Leaders Fellowship to apply physiological imaging techniques in brain tumours. Congratulations to you both, and welcome.

Stars from Arts

Good research news from the Faculty of Arts includes the announcement that Dr Lonán Ó Briain (Music)  has won the inaugural book prize of the International Council for Traditional Music for his monograph, Musical Minorities: The Sounds of Hmong Ethnicity in Northern Vietnam (Oxford University Press).

In the department of History, Professor Maiken Umbach has won additional funding from the AHRC ‘Cultures in Quarantine’ call. Her project ‘Photography as Political Practice in National Socialism’ was selected as one of 10 AHRC funded projects nationally to be showcased in a forthcoming BBC documentary.  The School of Humanities has meanwhile welcome the arrival of two Leverhulme early career fellows Dr Sara Parkes  (Theology and Religious Studies) and Dr Matt Raven (History).

Soaking up information on sponge cities

Dr Ka Shun Chan, Associate Professor in Environmental Sciences at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China has been sharing his expertise and the experience of China in urban water management strategies with civic leaders and academics in Guatemala.

The hurricane-prone Central American country hopes to adapt the sponge city concept – designing urban areas to absorb and capture rainwater to reduce floods and repurpose it for  sustainable irrigation and home use.

Vice-Chancellor’s medal winners

Dr Benjamin Barton of the School of Politics, History and International Relations, Dr Aini Hamid of the School of Pharmacy and Dr Ir Teo Fang Yenn, Department of Civil Engineering, are among the staff at the University of Nottingham Malaysia who have received the Vice-Chancellor’s medal.

Winners at UNNC are Xuan Feng, Faculty of Business, and Chiew-Foong Kwong, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Midlands technicians launch new equipment sharing scheme

Technicians from the eight Midlands Innovation universities, including Nottingham, have launched the first of its kind equipment sharing initiativecomprising of a brochure, highlighting the excellent facilities across the consortium, and an equipment sharing fund to provide our researchers with the mechanism for access.

As part of the Research England-funded TALENT programme, the Technician-Led Equipment Sharing project demonstrates how technical colleagues can lead the sharing of equipment to further the research and develop collaborations across Midlands Innovation institutions.

Policy Impact and Public Engagement Awards

The Institute for Policy and Engagement’s Policy Impact and Public Engagement Awards recognise the excellent work by University staff in achieving policy impact and engaging the public with our research.

The deadline for applications is 11.59pm, 30 October.

The awards categories include an award for non-academic colleagues or teams who have been instrumental in supporting the delivery of successful policy impact or public engagement work, and a special award for response to the pandemic.

Please find out more and nominate yourself or colleagues who deserve recognition in this vital aspect of research and knowledge exchange.

Sky News at Biodiscovery Institute

Finally, at this difficult time it is reassuring that our research continues to  make a difference.  In the week it was announced that Nottingham and Nottinghamshire faces local restrictions, Sky News filmed at our Biodiscovery Institute to find out about the impact of the University’s in-house testing service designed to tackle asymptomatic transmission among students and staff.

It uses a simple and voluntary saliva test for students and we are working with our partners in the city to extend the service.

My sincere thanks once again for your goodwill and resilience. The situation in Nottingham and across the country is deeply troubling and my very best wishes for the wellbeing of you and your loved ones.

Jessica Corner's signature

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




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