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Ask an Academic: Professor Sue Hamilton, Director of the UCL Institute of Archaeology

Sian EGardiner30 May 2019

Professor Sue Hamilton is Professor of Prehistory and since 2014 has been Director of the UCL Institute of Archaeology.

Sue is Principal Investigator of the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Landscapes of Construction Project (LOC), which has been substantially funded over the past decade by the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

It has been undertaken in collaboration with UK Universities of Bournemouth (co-investigator), Manchester (co-investigator), Cambridge and Highlands and Islands, together with representatives of the Chilean Council of Monuments, MAPSE (the island’s museum) and the indigenous peoples communities of Rapa Nui.

Sue and her team were the first British archaeologists to work on the island since 1914, when the English archaeologist and anthropologist, Katherine Routledge carried out the first true survey of the island.

We spoke to Sue to find out more about her unique partnership with the local indigenous community of Easter Island, and how she navigates the relationship with both the local community and the Chilean government while conducting her research.

What is the project about?

The project studies the sites and artefacts of the Easter Island statue building period (AD 1200-1550) as an interconnected, integrated whole, on a landscape scale. It has involved excavation, mapping of monuments, assessment of threats to preservation and studies of the island’s ancient and present environment.

What’s it like to work on Easter Island?

It’s a remote place, being a tiny Pacific island some 5000 km from the nearest mainland of Chile and 2,500 km from the nearest island, Pit Cairn. The local indigenous community is highly politicised, so all sorts of major internal events continually happen. If you have just a few months away it’s likely there will be completely different ground rules when you get back.

I have been formally working on Rapa Nui (which is the local name) since 2009. Much of the island is covered in prehistoric remains and is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Landscape.  In 2017, the Chilean government and National Parks Authority signed over the management of the National Park to the local indigenous community, Ma’u Henua and in 2018 we signed an agreement with the community that ‘LOC’ would advise them on archaeological issues in the park. By the time we got back in January 2019, there were several new people involved in discussing what LOC might work on and the methods to be used. Alongside this, there were new island tensions and new agreements of access to land and methodologies of documentation. Such negotiations to undertake work and its precise format can only be resolved by face to face meetings on each occasion of return to undertake fieldwork. It’s very much based on people trusting you; being able to talk to different individuals, and importantly giving people your time.

How does this partnership differ from others you might have, say with the local community in Camden?

There’s a lot of delicacy that comes with global partnerships. There are all sorts of tiny nuances. Easter Island is famed for its colossal statues and these prompt high profile discussions of the apparent collapse of the society that produced them and of the threats to the conservation of the island and its archaeology in the present; and any work on issues of its heritage always hits the newspapers – even the tiniest thing. Today the local community do at last have a very powerful gift in their hands in managing their heritage, and equally they have had a very embittered history of enormous threats to the survival of their society and traditions, which must be touched upon with empathy and sensitivity.

From the time the island was discovered by Europeans in the 18th century the local community had all sorts of terrible things happen to it, in no small part because of European contact brought disease, and ultimately loss of access to their lands. Katherine Routledge in 1914 recorded just 250 islanders compared with a population of maybe 6,000 during the statue building period. With the increasing return of land by the Chilean government in the late 20th century, and the current role of Ma’u Henua the islanders are significantly economically empowered because they have a heritage that tourists pay a heavy Park admissions fee to see.

There are currently about 6,000 islanders and 75,000 tourists go there every year. But this means that there are things that we might think are best for Rapa Nui’s extraordinary archaeology that might not be so good for tourism. We need to take things slowly and take care in giving opinions as  ‘privileged academics’, and not for example just leap in with a comment because someone says that’ll make a great quote in a national or international newspaper.

You have to remember it’s not your past, it’s their past, and I think it’s particularly so on Rapa Nui because it’s living heritage – the statues and associated monuments still have an active meaning to the Rapanui; they are not ruins of a now dead past. So a living heritage is something you can’t dabble with and think it won’t affect people.

How did you first come to work on the island?

I was working in Italy and invited my colleague, Colin Richards who worked on similar sites in the UK to come out and see the Italian ones. He spent rather a lot of time on the beach rather than working! So I went down to the beach one day and he was reading Thor Heyerdahl’s Aku-Aku, which is a 1950s popular book about Easter Island. Colin said we ought to go visit Easter Island and when we did we were just stunned by the archaeology and its great potential for new work. It was a great leap for both of us but we ended up co-directing our AHRC funded LOC project. It’s the most amazing archaeology I’ve ever worked on.

How closely are you now working with the Island’s local community?

We are currently doing research into the impact of soil erosion on the island’s archaeology and have been working on the massive ceremonial monuments by the sea and recording the extent to which many are near collapse. Conservation-related work is a good way to be working with the local community and stakeholders, and trying to do something that they want. For instance, they will put their effort into sites that tourists would particularly want to go and see, because that makes current economic sense. For us, this concurrently generates research information about the range and distributions of different categories of archaeological site. There are however numerous archaeologically very important sites beyond the tourist trail that may be key for better understanding Rapanui’s past and we have to find a pathway between both considerations.

Currently, most media people contact me about Easter Island to ask about climate change and rising sea levels and threats to the statues and their associated ceremonial monuments which wrap the island’s coastline. In many cases it’s not actually the sea that’s the most significant problem; it’s mismanagement of the landscape in modern times and the erosional impact of increased rainfall. Huge surfaces of the island are losing their soil. There are about 1,000 statues – which people don’t realise, and a lot of them at the main site where they were quarried are buried so there might be around 3,000. They are variously deteriorating due to lichen growth and the effects of atmospheric salt which penetrates the whole island environment.

Residential fieldwork uniquely creates local friendships; we stay with a local family business for a month each year, and the family have become special friends and are very supportive.  A few years ago I obtained a bursary  for a Rapanui archaeology student, Fran Pakomi, to come over to the UK and she was  trained on our UCL fieldwork course and stayed in my house. It’s these types of visits and exchanges that maintain and solidify connections and trust with distant local communities because they are at the cross-over between work and friendships.

What’s been your best archaeological discovery over there?

I suppose that one of the most dramatic is something that people knew a little bit about, but which we’ve documented and rediscovered many more of, are the carved  giant pairs of eyes on the walls of  the statue quarry. I always remember reading that in the Marquesas they believed rock to be living and that when rock was taken for monument building, the rock regrew again. We’ve found eyes that you can no longer see by using photogrammetry .

The other one’s a bit more esoteric – it’s just how interconnected things are and how many little stones were moved and how in being impressed by the physically big (such as enormous statues) you can lose the insights provided by small scale things. The builders of the statue period took giant flat cobbles from the beach and must have moved millions of them inland to make pavements and terraces outside of the houses they built. On land, large screes of volcanic rubble were move to create rock mulch, to protect the soil. The kind of human chains involved in moving millions of stones hand-to-hand from seashore inland and redistributing the volcanic rubble is quite incredible.

In the 20th century, the local community was provided with Chilean social housing, which is now seen by many as something to be rejected and demolished. We are now studying this housing and how interestingly a lot actually incorporates aspects of ancient traditions. Now on Rapa Nui there is beginning of building a sort of Polynesia of the modern imagination and an aligned very inventive local architecture that incorporates what they and potentially tourists may think Polynesia is. It’s fascinating to live through these changes as a regular visitor and it gives and insights into local priorities.

Fieldwork in distant places, and living with a local community over numerous years, accretes to make the dynamics of ancestry and heritage recording and isolating conservation and preservation priorities a mixture of diplomacy, empathy and co-production of research to secure the futures of a living past.

Ask GEO: Rachel Hall, Senior Partnership Manager (Americas)

SophieVinter29 November 2017

Rachel Hall is GEO’s Senior Partnership Manager for North and Latin America.

Q: Tell us more about your role and activity in your regions.

A: I joined GEO in August 2017 as Senior Partnership Manager for North and Latin America. Previously I was working at the Faculty of Population Health Sciences. My background is in Latin American studies and I studied an MA at UCL Institute of the Americas. My role is to develop and manage partnerships in the Americas region and a key focus is to try and map all of the collaboration that exists at UCL within North America and Latin America.

My main focus at the moment is an emerging partnership with the University of Toronto which is developing well, and facilitating different activities under this partnership. Recently we announced the winners of the first UCL-UofT funding stream, which will support some great projects in the areas of child health, education and cities, among others.

I’m also looking at building on the existing links we have with Yale and NYU. In Latin America, we are focusing on Mexico and Chile and supporting our partnership with Santander Universities and the many schemes offered under our agreement with them, such as the Research Catalyst Awards which will open next month.

Q: How are you finding the role?

A: I think the Global Engagement Strategy is great for UCL and I like how the GEO team is constantly reviewing our work, which is the nature of working with partners. We’re looking at the implementation and evaluation of our strategy and I think partners appreciate success stories and case studies of our work together – a good example of this is our ongoing partnership with Santander Universities. In my first month GEO welcomed the CEO of Santander to an event celebrating ten years of our partnership. It’s nice to now be working across the university in the full range of subjects too.

Q: What’s top of your to do list at the moment?

A: In January Provost will be welcoming the President of the University of Toronto to discuss the development of our partnership, so I am currently preparing for that. We recently set up a UCL-UofT working group that meets termly to oversee activities as we develop how we work together.

In Latin America, we’ve just announced that Dr Deepak Kalaskar (UCL Biomedical Engineering) is a successful recipient of the the UK-Mexico Visiting Chair Scheme, which offers UCL academics a great opportunity to develop links in Mexico. He’ll be collaborating with the Autonomous University of Nuevo León.

I’m always mapping more collaborations in both regions and actively pursuing leads – so if you are a UCL academic collaborating in the Americas, please get in touch as I’d love to hear about your work!

Q: How can academics find out more about UCL activity in the regions?

A: I work closely with UCL’s Pro-Vice-Provosts for North and Latin America, Professor Brad Karp and Professor Alejandro Madrigal, to develop our regional networks.

For Latin America we’re planning to hold a meeting in January to discuss new ways we can harness our shared interest in the region to leverage funding. I’d be really keen to hear from any UCL academics who are currently collaborating in Chile and Mexico as a priority. We’re also looking to broaden our partnership with Yale University and will be reaching out to the academic community over the next few months, to see where potential opportunities lie.

Q: Can you tell us a fact about either region that may surprise people?

A: Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon is visiting the New York Metropolitan Museum next year, as part of some work being led by UCL Culture and OVPD!

Why I’m proud to be a UCL student making a difference on the world stage

AbdulElmi27 November 2017

UCL student Abdul Elmi at the One Young World summit, ColombiaGrowing up, I never imagined that at the age of 21 I would be given the opportunity to fly to Colombia to join the likes of Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof, and others to debate how we tackle world issues. Yet, a month ago I was honoured to represent not only the United Kingdom but also UCL at the ‘One Young World Summit’ in Bogotá, Colombia.

As the first generation of diaspora, born in the UK but with parents from Somalia, I feel well placed to represent the reconciled interests of both my motherland and my country of birth, and I enjoyed sharing my experiences with a similarly diverse group of people.

Championing the need for support of minority voices was one of the key messages I took from the summit. Sir Bob hailed the next generation as the key to solving global issues, while Denise Young Smith, Apple’s Vice President of diversity and inclusion, impressed the need for young people to have a role model. They certainly hit the nail on the head.

Mentoring has made a real difference to me so I was thrilled to hear these inspirational voices talk about the value this can add to someone’s life. Having access to the support of community groups such as Bright Education Centre combined with sheer dogged determination lead me to the successes I have achieved so far.

I now work as an Outreach Manager for Bright Education Centre to encourage others to achieve their aspirations, by running educational workshops and coordinating university advice days. Crucial to this communal effort is providing young people with opportunities to maximise their potential, and provide alternatives to the culture of crime prevalent in so many London boroughs.

It is equally important to harness our fortuity to help those abroad. Just recently Somalia was hit with the most fatal attack in the country’s history. A truck bomb planted in the centre of Mogadishu claimed the lives of over 350 men, women and children with hundreds seriously injured. The scale of the attack makes it one of the worst terrorist attacks in the world. Rescue workers said a definitive death toll may never be established because the intense heat generated by the blast meant that the remains of many people will never be found.

Somalis are resilient against violent extremism. But this is different. Everyone in the city has lost someone or knows someone who was injured. Some of those who died were described as the breadwinners; as a result, many families are suffering. Two weeks ago, I led a fundraiser and I made a pledge along with many other young people that evening. I pledged to not only stand with those suffering at the hands of this horrendous attack but to also raise £1000 for the cause. The amount I raise will go towards African Relief Fund, a charity on the ground helping the sufferers recover from the attack.

So please join me in my attempt to help the victims of this senseless attack. Please share the following link and donate: https://www.gofundme.com/bvxx9p-mogadishu-attack-appeal 

It’s not an easy fact to acknowledge, but the truth is that millions of people across the world are looking to us for assistance. And although some may feel like our contributions could never be as far reaching as to impact those on other continents, I demand you rethink.

This collective effort requires individuals from every age, race, ability and walk of life. I am fully aware that the capabilities of any individual is limited, but as long as we unite as one, there is no difficulty we cannot overcome.

Abdulkadir Elmi | @abdulelmi

Neuromarketing goes global

GuestBlogger10 November 2017

By Joe Devlin, UCL Experimental Psychology, Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

When John Hogan and I began running Neuromarketing Workshops we received a noticeably cool reception from colleagues.  To most neuroscientists, “neuromarketing” epitomizes the worst of pseudo-science and is used to exploit unsuspecting companies.  But business leaders are genuinely interested in what neuroscience and psychology can offer them and they naturally want to take advantage of the latest scientific knowledge.  Where can they go to get accurate, unbiased information? UCL’s reputation as a world-leading research institution provided the perfect opportunity to uniquely meet this need and deliver global impact.

John and Joe hosting workshopWhen we began, we assumed that our workshops would primarily attract people from marketing companies around London.  In fact, there was much wider interest than we anticipated.  Over the last two years, our participants have come from a range of industries beyond marketing, including retail, fashion, publishing, finance, and government.  In addition, they came not only from the UK but also from Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE and the USA. Being based in the heart of London clearly appeals to a wide audience, many of whom are willing to travel considerable distances to attend.

Fostering marketing and neuroscience collaborations in Brazil

This year we had an opportunity to run a series of seminars and workshops on a two week trip to Brazil, organized through UCL Consultants (UCLC).  In São Paulo we spoke to business leaders about the appeal of neuromarketing and its potential for improving our understanding of consumer decision making.  In Rio de Janeiro we spoke at the government’s House of Business, where we discussed how even micro-to-small sized enterprise can benefit from neuromarketing (and crucially, how to avoid neuromarketing snake oil).

John and Jo speaking at University of Central Brazil (UniCEUB)Finally in Brasilia, we were hosted by the University of Central Brazil’s (UniCEUB) marketing school to speak with faculty and students.  There we focused on the science behind neuromarketing and the need to foster stronger collaborations between marketing and neuroscience in order to further develop the field.

In all three cities, we ran in-depth two-day workshops that fleshed out these concepts, provided case-study examples (of both good and bad neuromarketing), and engaged participants with hands-on learning activities.  Ultimately about 70 people attended the workshops and another 150 came to the lectures.

Building partnerships through engagement and enterprise 

For us, the workshops are both exciting and slightly terrifying as we are often challenged to apply the research we discuss to real-world situations on the spot.  On the plus side, this has led to new industry-funded research projects.  Following our Brasil trip, we are now in discussions with two large, international companies about how they can use consumer neuroscience to understand their customers better.

In our experience, these types of opportunities provide access to new research questions, novel (and rather large!) data sets that go beyond anything we could collect in the lab, and unique opportunities for students to apply their knowledge towards solving real-world problems. We were also invited by Brazil’s small business association to help them co-create content about neuromarketing to share with businesses throughout the country via the Sebrae Corporate University.

In a recent Vice-Provost View in The Week@UCL, Dr. Dame Nicola Brewer (Vice Provost International) revealed that the Global Engagement Office has made substantial progress delivering on our Global Engagement Strategy (GES) goals with an investment of less than half a percent of UCL’s overall expenditure.  Building partnerships through engagement and enterprise also helps to meet our GES objectives, while at the same time generating revenue and novel research opportunities.

Ask GEO: Alejandro Moreno, Strategic Data Manager

JasonLewis15 September 2017

Alejandro_5796_SquareAlejandro is GEO’s Strategic Data Manager. Through analysis of the various databases that UCL uses and produces, Alejandro monitors the levels, patterns and progress of global activity underway across the university, which helps track delivery of the Global Engagement Strategy. He tells us more about his work and reveals some interesting statistics about UCL’s collaborations abroad.

Tell us more about your role in GEO
My role is to map UCL’s relationship with the world, one map at a time. The idea is that we have a database into how we interact across the globe, for example: How many students from Japan study in UCL? How may UCL graduates work in South Africa? How do we make an impact on South America rural areas? How many collaborations do we have with American Universities? Answering those questions is broadly speaking my role.

How could you be of support to UCL staff outside of GEO?
If there is a question as to what UCL is doing in certain geographical areas, or where we are collaborating with a specific institution, that is a query I can help with. Let’s assume an academic is travelling to Colombia for a conference: he could contact us and we could let him know which other academics have links in the country. That way he would be aware of UCL’s relationship with Colombia and know more about the specifics of collaborating there from first-hand experience.

Could you share some interesting statistics on UCL’s global activity we might not ordinarily be aware of?
Sure, below is a sample showing our wide geographical reach in terms of institutions we have collaborated with. UCL has collaborated with around 1,000 institutions worldwide.

UCL collaborations infographic
Also, since I am from Mexico, here you can see the places where Mexican institutions have downloaded UCL e-books though JStor:

Mexico infographic
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on mapping the collaborations that UCL has with China, and which faculties collaborate in which city:

China infographic

Contact Alejandro on:

a.moreno@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7789 / internal 57789

Hola Colombia!

AbdulElmi17 August 2017

abdul-elmi_testAbdul is a fourth-year UCL medical student and President of the UCLU Somali Society

I’m sitting here writing my first ever blog thinking about where should I start. I suppose the logical place to start is the point at when this opportunity became a reality.

A few weeks ago, I was in Saudi, trying to withstand the blazing heat, feeling tired, fasting and doing all of this without Wi-Fi. I returned to my hotel room from the Great Holy Mosque of Saudi to an email notifying me that I had been selected to represent UCL at the One Young World (OYW) Summit in Bogotá, Colombia in October.

One Young World

Attending the summit has been a burning desire of mine this past year. One Young World brings together young leaders from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and with this in mind I would like to take this opportunity to thank UCL for making this possible.

February Fundraiser

My desire to effect positive change in the world really took flight earlier this year when I became heavily involved in a range of fundraising initiatives and events to raise money for the Somali Drought Appeal. Through the February Fundraiser, a student-led initiative organised by Somali Youth for Integrity (SYFI) bringing together Somali societies from different institutions, including UCL, we managed to raise £120,000 for the Somali drought. The organisations united under a common goal, to provide aid to those suffering at the hands of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.

UCLU Somali Society, in particular, organised a series of successful fundraising initiatives for the February Fundraiser. The highlight was Inspire, where we managed to raise £40,000, in collaboration with Elays Network and Bright Education Centre. After this event, I was surprised to see how many UCL students got involved with the cause.

The UCL BME (Black & Minority Ethnic) Students’ Network allowed the Somali Society to fundraise at the end of the Black Lives Matter events. As a result of this opportunity, we managed to raise an extra £2,000. This was an eye-opening experience as it allowed me to see first-hand the potential we possess as students and that if we work together we can achieve anything.

Copyright Human Appeal, which ran the provided emergency food relief to drought affected internally displaced people
The outcome

The money raised during the February Fundraiser, in collaboration with UK charity Human Appeal, provided emergency food relief to drought affected internally displaced people and host communities. It also provided clean and safe water to vulnerable households in Dolow and Luuq districts. The project will rehabilitate community owned water infrastructure to improve suitability and ownership as well as improve hygiene awareness and enhance the food security of vulnerable households.

One thing that is clear from all the amazing work done by students on campus is that more and more young people are discussing important global issues. Not only with regards to humanitarian affairs, but also political matters such as the current debacle regarding university tuition fees and the NHS.

The future

My hope is that I will return from the summit with a clear vision of how I would like to use my newly elected position, as the next President of the UCLU Somali Society as well as the Vice-President of SYFI, to start discussions regarding some of the world’s most pressing issues. I would also work to provide plenty of opportunities for individuals to make a difference.

I feel that it is of utmost importance to involve students in these discussions so they can provide a unique insight into potential solutions. I want to inspire students to do more for those in need. I would like more people to become motivated and involved. We are the generation that should solve a lot of the world’s issues so it is really important for us to work together effectively to make strides to overcome them.

Last but not least, I’ve enrolled myself onto a Spanish language course and have already started to practise my salsa dancing with ‘Despacito’ on loud. Hola Colombia, I’m ready for you!

Images © Human Appeal

Second Year of UK – Mexico Visiting Chair Mobility Grants

ClareBurke30 May 2017

The Consortium of Higher Education Institutions that are part of the United Kingdom-Mexico Visiting Chair (UK-MX Visiting Chair) are pleased to announce the launch of this year’s Mobility Grants scheme.

The UK – Mexico Visiting Chair scheme provides mobility funding for a research visit of up to two weeks to visit a new potential collaborator within a Consortium of 12 Mexican and 12 UK universities. A full list of participating Mexican institutions can be found in the Guidance Notes.

The scheme was created with the support of Mexican and UK governments to increase research collaboration and strengthen relations between HEIs in Mexico and the UK. UCL researchers interested in working with partners in Mexico can apply for funding to support their collaboration.

To be eligible, applicants need to hold a doctorate degree in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or Social Sciences and Humanities as well as being employed by any of the HEIs included in the scheme.

Activities accepted and encouraged include attendance at workshops, research symposia and conferences, as well as meetings to scope collaboration, share best practice or develop new initiatives. Please note: there is a minimum requirement to spend at least four days at the allocated HEI.

Costs covered under the scheme include flights, accommodation, workspace, insurance, internal travel and incidental expenses.

How to apply

Applicants must read the Guidance Notes in full before completing the research project proposal form. They will need to list their top three possible destinations for their proposed visit to Mexico – this should include confirmation from the host academic/department in each institution.

Applications should be submitted to Clare Burke by 17.00 on Friday 18 August 2017. They must be made in English and include the documents below:

a.    A completed research project proposal form
b.    Curriculum vitae, including relevant publications
c.    Confirmation from the host institution

The results will be announced on Monday 2 October by email and published online thereafter.

Applicants should be aware that if successful, the location of their placement will depend on finalisation by the Commissions of both their home country and that of their partner.

UCL Research Catalyst Award Winners – 2016/17

JasonLewis4 April 2017

UCL Research Catalyst Award Winners – 2016/17

Congratulations to this year’s winners of the Santander Universities Research Catalyst Awards!

We wish our UCL colleagues best of luck, and look forwarding to seeing the outcomes of these exciting collaborations.

Here’s the full list of winners:

UCL Award Winner      UCL Department           Partner Institution(s)
Arroyo-Kalin, Manuel Institute of Archaeology Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Attanasio, Orazio Economics Universidad de Los Andes
Beeken, Rebecca Behavioural Science & Health University of Guadalajara
Boano, Camillo Development Planning Unit Universidad Católica del Norte; Universidad de Chile;  Universidad Alberto Hurtado
Drinot, Paulo Institute of the Americas Universidad Nacional de Quilmes
Edwards, Stephen Earth Sciences La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Heinrich, Michael School of Pharmacy UNAM, Méxcio, D.F; Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición “Salvador Zubirán”
Heywood, Wendy ICH Genetics & Genomic Medicine, UCL GOS Institute of Child Health Universidade Federal de Pernambuco;  Real Hospital Português; GSK – Latin America & Caribbean; Hospital das Clínicas de Porto Alegre
Mindell, Jennifer Epidemiology & Public Health Various (Brazil; Chile; Colombia)
Murcio, Roberto Geography UNAM; Universidad de Pamplona
Ortiz, Catalina Bartlett Development Planning Unit National University of Colombia;  University of Los Andes
Phelps, Nicholas Bartlett School of Planning Universidad Catolica del Norte
Prieto-Garcia, Jose School of Pharmacy Universidad de La Plata
Schuster, Christian Political Science National School of Public Administration (ENAP); Federal University of Minas Gerais and National School of Public Administration (ENAP)
Sulu, Michael Biochemical Engineering Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua

 

The Santander Universities Research Catalyst Awards, in line with UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy, seeks to engender innovative research collaborations between UCL and universities and research institutions abroad.

While the Research Catalyst Awards focuses solely on collaborations with universities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, UCL provides various other global engagement funding opportunities for its academics and researchers.

 

Ask GEO: Ciaran Moynihan, Senior Partnership Manager (North and Latin America)

SophieVinter25 January 2017

Ciaran Moynihan, Senior Partnerships Manager (North and Latin America)Ciaran is GEO’s Senior Partnerships Manager for North and Latin America. Here he shares some key updates and opportunities from both regions with us.

Tell us more about your role in GEO and activity in your regions

I work closely with UCL faculties and departments, as well as other Professional Services, to manage and develop partnerships with institutions in North and Latin America. As you can imagine, UCL has a very wide range of activity in both regions, ranging from research collaborations and student exchanges to dual degrees and beyond. Some interesting partnerships I work on would be the Yale UCL Collaborative; an emerging priority partnership with Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; and another emerging partnership with the University of Toronto (to name but a few!)

One challenge I face in my role is around capturing the full breadth of activity that UCL colleagues have underway with partners in North and Latin America – I am always interested to hear about links in the regions which I may not be aware of – so please do get in touch to tell me about your research and education links in both regions. There may be ways I can support you in your endeavours!

Map showing a sample of UCL collaborations in North and Latin America, by metropolitan areaWhat are the UCL Research Catalyst Awards?

The UCL Research Catalyst Awards, sponsored by Santander Universities, have successfully run since 2011. The scheme has enabled more than 40 visits to Latin American universities to support development of research collaboration.

The purpose of the awards is to foster research collaboration between UCL and key partner universities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The awards are available to cover travel, accommodation and subsistence costs associated with focused visits to potential research collaborators, and are aimed at achieving a specific outcome that will support future research collaboration.

We have recently extended the deadline for this year’s applications to Monday 13 February 2017 at 10am. If you’d like to apply, find out more on GEO’s website.

Why do you think UCL’s partnership with Santander Universities is so successful?

UCL began its partnership with Santander Universities in 2007 and was one of the very first UK universities to become a member of the Santander Universities network. The partnership provides UCL students and staff with numerous benefits and opportunities, ranging from study abroad experiences, to research travel grants for staff, to Masters scholarships for incoming students from Latin America.

The partnership with Santander Universities is a strong one for UCL – this year marks the ten-year anniversary of the relationship, which has gone from strength to strength. Not only does Santander Universities provide funding to UCL, but we also work closely with them on support for student entrepreneurship and on helping students to gain internships in small and medium enterprises to enable them to be better prepared for global careers and lives.

UCL will shortly sign a new partnership agreement with Santander Universities, renewing our strong relationship through to 2019, so watch this space for updates on opportunities for staff and students!

What are you working on at the moment?

One of my big areas of focus right now is developing a potentially important partnership with the University of Toronto (U of T). UCL already has strong collaborative links with U of T in a range of areas including child health, education, big data and cancer research, to name a few. We also have a large undergraduate student exchange programme with them. I am currently working with UCL faculties and U of T, under the leadership of the Vice-Provost (International), to explore other areas in which we might collaborate together. Most specifically right now, we are organising a joint workshop on ‘cities’ at UCL, to discuss research collaboration in this area.

U of T is a similar institution to UCL – located in a global city, similarly placed in world league tables, research intensive and with strong educational underpinnings for our students. We are excited at UCL with the opportunity this developing partnership presents, to enable us to work together to deliver excellence in research that will potentially have global impact while also supporting our students as global citizens.

What benefits would joining the North and Latin America networks bring to UCL academics?

Both networks essentially act as ‘communities of interest’ for UCL academics working on topics related to the region, with partners in the region or from the region. We hold termly meetings to bring academics together to hear about institutional initiatives in these regions, while also providing a forum for academics to network with each other and discuss their work regarding partners from North and Latin America.

We also utilise the networks to share regular region-specific funding opportunities that may be of interest to academics, and we are planning to run some academic led events over the coming months. In fact, it would be wonderful to hear from UCL academics on themes, topics etc. for possible events which colleagues would like to see run via the networks!

Contact Ciaran on:

ciaran.moynihan@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7777 / internal 57777

UCL Research Catalyst Awards: tackling rare diseases in Brazil

Chris E CCook23 January 2017

28 February 2017 is the tenth international Rare Disease Day, focusing on the theme of research. We take a look at how the UCL Research Catalyst Awards have enabled an international collaboration tackling rare diseases to go from strength to strength.

In 2014 UCL Professor Jim Owen (Emeritus Professor of Molecular Medicine) and Professor David Abraham (Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology) travelled to Brazil thanks to a £5,000 Santander Universities-funded Research Catalyst Award.

Their visit identified research on rare disease (RD) as a significant area that could be jointly developed between UCL and institutions in north-east Brazil – a centre of global rare disease.

The partnerships formed went on to help with students and post-doctoral researchers coming to UCL via Brazil’s Science without Borders (SwB) mobility programme.

International Symposium on Rare Diseases 2016Collaboration on rare disease

Professor Owen said the area of RD was identified due to two compelling reasons: (i) that it is now Brazilian National Policy to introduce early and accurate diagnosis of RD plus treatments for affected individuals into the public health system; and (ii) that genetic clusters of RD are concentrated in north-east Brazil due to centuries of colonisation and crossbreeding between natives, Europeans (Portuguese, Dutch) and African slaves.

Building on links with Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE), this joint goal progressed further with Brazilian researchers from LIKA [the leading biomedical centre in north-east Brazil situated on the UFPE campus] visiting UCL Departments and the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH) in September 2014. In turn, this led to a highly successful Rare Diseases symposium (RDis-2015) the following April attended by seven UCL researchers, including three from ICH.

The Zika virus outbreak slowed progress in 2016, but a second symposium ran in March 2016 with the clear aim of sustaining emerging partnerships between UK-Brazil laboratories and developing new ones. UCL links with five universities (UFPE, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco,  Universidade Federal do Ceará, Universidade de Fortaleza and Universidade Federal da Bahia) in north-east Brazil are now in place, with a vision for UFPE and associated Recife Hospitals to form a Reference Centre for RD in line with recent National and Interfarma recommendations. At the same time the partnership will seek to widen this consortium to encompass Brazil’s leading universities.

Rare diseases debate held at the Legislative Assembly of Pernambuco StateProf Owen highlighted a further strong positive note as the involvement of GlaxoSmithKline at the 2016 symposium – it is hoped this tentative partnership will be developed in the months ahead, along with involvement of further pharmaceutical companies.

These research links are now beginning to show tangible evidence of success, through publications (a 2015 PLoS One article, two submitted and others in preparation) and also through grant funding (with UCL researchers included grants of £185,000 and £144,000 to UFC and UFPE, respectively), while UFPE was named on a £20,000 grant awarded to Drug Discovery, UCL School of Pharmacy.

Links help foster mobility

Thanks to links fostered by the original visit and subsequent collaborations, a number of Brazilian students and post-doctoral researchers have come to UCL via SwB.

Dr Ayrles Brandão da Silva (a post-doc SwB fellow from Fortaleza) spent a year in UCL’s Institute for Liver and Digestive Health working with Dr Raj Mookerjee, while Isabella Cantanhede (a UFPE medical student and undergraduate SwB fellow) undertook a five-month research project in UCL’s Department of Clinical Neurosciences with Dr Jan-Willem Taanmen. While in the UK they had the opportunity to meet Professor Sir John Gurdon when he gave the UCL Clinical Science Prize lecture.

Brazilian students met Professor Sir John Gurdon when he gave the UCL Clinical Science Prize lectureSandwich PhD student Felipe Domingos de Sousa investigated the therapeutic potential of plant lectins in healing processes and other related skin diseases under the supervision of Professor David Abraham (UCL Centre for Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Diseases). In Brazil, Felipe has dual positions in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Universidade Federal do Ceará and in the Centre of Experimental Biology (Nubex), Universidade de Fortaleza. Before leaving UFC, he successfully cloned and expressed Frutapin, a lectin from Artocarpus incisa seeds, in milligram amounts from E coli cultures.

Two further SwB sponsored students from north-east Brazil have also spent periods at UCL: Victor Passos (UFPE) who worked with Professor Steve Hart at ICH and Kildere Marques-Canuto, who received training in the Division of Medicine, RFC.  Though the SwB programme is currently suspended, three other UFPE researchers are currently seeking fellowships to come to UCL: Dr Luiz Alberto Mattos to spend a year at UCL Department of Clinical Trials, Dr Carolina Córdula for a proteomics study at ICH (Dr Kevin Mills) and a PhD student, Andriu Catena who will extend Dr Ayrles Brandão da Silva’s project.