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Ask an Academic: Dr Adriana Silva De Albuquerque

Sian EGardiner22 March 2019

Dr Adriana Silva De Albuquerque is a Research Associate at the UCL Division of Infection and Immunity. Her research interests broadly relate to the study of clinical models of human immunodeficiency.

She was among recent recipients of the UCL Global Engagement Funds, and last year used the seed funding to travel to a lab at the Karolinska Institutet in Solna, Sweden. We caught up with her to find out more about her research and her partnership with scientists in Sweden.

What are you working on at the moment?

My current project aim is to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of a group of rare, inherited conditions where individual components of the immune system are missing – known as ‘primary immunodeficiency syndromes’.

Our clinical team cares for the largest UK cohort of adults with primary immunodeficiencies for which whole genome sequencing has been performed. I’m developing new immune assays on patients’ cells as well as in cell lines and genetically modified cells, in order to assess the impact of novel genetic variants on immune cell function. With this project, we hope to expand our understanding of the underlying causes of primary immunodeficiencies, as well as to contribute to the development of new diagnostic tests that will hopefully lead to improved treatment of patients.

You were among recent recipients of UCL’s Global Engagement Funds (GEF). What led you to apply for the funds?

The possibility of visiting another lab [at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden] and the chance to become involved in the cutting-edge research they are doing. Having a curious mind and being very enthusiastic to learn more about immunology, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me on a professional level.

 Could you give a brief summary of the project that the funds supported?

We are interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying ‘LRBA deficiency’. LPS-responsive beige-like anchor (LRBA) deficiency is a severe primary immunodeficiency characterised by increased susceptibility to infections associated with autoimmune and inflammatory complications. The immune dysregulation caused by this disease results in a significant morbidity and mortality. The only curative approach is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, which has only been done in a small number of cases.

How did your partnership with the Karolinska Institutet work?

UCL’s Global Engagement Funds enabled me to visit Dr Lisa Westerberg lab at the Karolinska Institutet, our collaborators on this project. Dr Westerberg has a strong expertise in primary immunodeficiencies and I was able to learn and exchange experiences with the PhD students and Post-Docs working in her lab. The time I spent in their lab was very rewarding as I was able to learn new techniques important for our current projects. I also had the opportunity to discuss our data with them, which contributed to the development of new research ideas.

During my stay in Sweden, I also visited the clinical lab based at the Karolinska University Hospital that does all the immunological tests for the diagnosis of primary immunodeficiencies. This was very interesting as I was able to learn some of the tests they are performing and also participate in the daily routine of a top level diagnostic lab.

How did you find the experience of collaborating overseas?

The experience of spending some time in the Karolinska Institute was very positive for me. What contributed most for the success of my stay was that I was able to analyse the LRBA knock-down cells we have genetically modified by electron microscopy, as the Karolinska Institute has a strong expertise in this technique and it was key for this project.

What would your advice be to anyone else hoping to collaborate globally?

Try to identify specific groups you might be interested because of their expertise, knowledge of specific techniques you want to learn or specific projects and ideas you would like to discuss with them. I would say the best way of approaching them would be in international conferences. Try to engage in discussions with scientists of different backgrounds and different levels of expertise. From my experience, scientists are very receptive to this kind of approach.

New book by UCL Qatar’s Dr Jane Humphris brings Sudan’s heritage to young audience

Sian EGardiner23 July 2018

Dr Jane Humphris, Head of UCL Qatar Research in Sudan, has published a children’s book intended to raise awareness about archaeological work in Sudan among local children.

The book, ‘Sudan’s Ancient History: Hwida and Maawia Investigate Meroe’s Iron’, illustrates the groundbreaking archaeological work currently underway in the Royal City of Meroe, as part of the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP), for a younger audience.

Funded by Qatar Museums, QSAP is an extensive, targeted initiative by to support the exploration and protection of Sudan’s culture and history.

Led by the states of Sudan and Qatar, this international project has over 40 missions engaged in the excavation and conservation of ancient sites in Sudan.

Distributed in Doha libraries

The new book follows two young children, Hwida and Maawia, as they discover how the ancient Sudanese produced iron, demonstrating the significant role this played in the history of the Kingdom of Kush.

Following its publication, copies of the book are to be placed in the Museum of Islamic Art library and the Qatar National Library for children and families from across Qatar to learn about this aspect of Sudan’s rich heritage.

As part of the ongoing community outreach programme in Sudan, hundreds of copies have been also handed out to children living around Meroe and placed in the libraries of local schools.

Inspiring the next generation

Speaking at a ceremony hosted by Qatar National Library, Jane said: “Here at UCL Qatar, we believe that the role of archaeologists is not just to discover the past through archaeological excavations, but also to make sure that the work we are doing is accessible.

“We hope that the book continues to be used as an educational tool – both in Sudan and Qatar – so that we can inspire the next generation to become more interested in preserving, protecting, and promoting cultural heritage.”

Ongoing archaeological work

For the last six years, UCL Qatar has been carrying out archaeological work at the ancient Royal City of Meroe, on the east bank of the river Nile.

UCL Qatar’s most recent work as part of QSAP includes the discovery of early iron production workshops, and extensive research and conservation at the Apedemak Temple, one of the most import religious locations at the Royal City.

Bartlett team hosts ‘Flash-back City’ architecture workshop in Riyadh

Sian EGardiner23 May 2018

Flashback city workshop in RiyadhA team from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture has run its first interactive workshop for architecture students in Riyadh, at Al Faisal University, in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian art organisation Minhaj.

Co-organised by Director of Short Courses at The Bartlett, Sabine Storp, along with first year teaching staff and The Bakerloos, a collective made up of four Bartlett alumni, the ‘Flash-back City’ workshop explored the power of collaboration and collective imagination in urban architecture.

Explaining the structure of the workshop, Sabine said, “Through a gamified interface, participants collectively drew an urban fabric based on crowdsourced memories – creating large scale propositional, collaborative drawings through the collation of personal memories of a city or culture.”Architecture workshop in Riyadh

She added, “The co-founder of Minhaj, Fahad Al Saud, is a Bartlett alumni. Minhaj and I saw an opportunity to expand workshops and short-courses to Riyadh, where the local architectural education is becoming more diverse and exciting.”

Tailored to the unique historic context of Old Riyadh and Ad Diriyah, the workshop was well received by Al Faisal students, with one participant commenting: “It’s exciting and different to any workshop we’ve participated in locally before.”

As a result of the successful collaboration, Sabine and team are now planning a new series of workshops about art, architecture and design, to take place later in 2018.

Ask GEO: Professor Gudrun Moore

Sian EGardiner22 May 2018

Gudrun is Professor of Clinical and Molecular Genetics at UCL’s Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and GEO’s Pro-Vice-Provost International.

Here, she talks about her work as co-chair of the ‘Personalised Academic Global Excellence Student Support’ (PAGESS) working group, alongside Dr Clare Goudy, Director of Education Planning at the Office of the Vice-Provost Education & Student Affairs (OVPESA).

The group was set up with the aim of increasing integrated academic language skills support for students across UCL.

What existing support is there for UCL students looking for help with academic writing?

At the moment, the provision of academic communication support is spread across the university: the Faculty of Arts & Humanities has pioneered the set-up of the ‘Writing Lab’, primarily a peer-support service; the Centre for Languages & International Education runs several courses for students, and also supports on-programme teaching by academic staff in a number of faculties. The Institute of Education has the best-developed provision, with its own Academic Writing Centre, and there is also support at the Students’ Union.

So, although excellent, writing support at UCL is found in pockets, with some faculties extremely well-served and others with limited support for teaching staff and students.

Through close analysis of the provision, as well as consultation with academic staff, we identified that the present set-up wasn’t sufficient to meet demand. Comparative analysis of other Russell Group universities also showed that UCL’s provision was lower than the standard across the sector.

And this led to setting up the ‘PAGESS’ working group…

Yes – through our institutional surveys, we’ve been aware that student requests for academic writing support have been increasing over time, particularly from international students, but also from home and EU students too.

The 2016-21 Education Strategy identifies this as a key area of development for UCL, and the proposed expansion of our capacity in this area also dovetailed with the Global Engagement Strategy, with its strategic aim of ‘cultivating our global outlook to offer our students the best possible preparation for global lives and careers’.

The working group includes representatives from across UCL. What are the benefits of cross-departmental working?

Our intention is to develop a service that works for all faculties at UCL, and so cross-departmental working has been vital to the success of the project. We brought together representatives from all existing academic communication support services, from Library Services and from a number of faculties.

We also consulted with faculty tutors and used existing survey data to corroborate our working assumptions. One of the strengths of the project has been the collaboration between OVPESA and GEO. We’ve both enjoyed working together very much, and have brought different perspectives to bear, with Clare helping me to understand the complexity of policy-making and institutional projects, and me helping Clare to understand the potential impact on departments and the intricacies of the lives of academics and the pressures they are facing.

Given our existing dispersed provision, this has been a complex project with many different interests to reconcile – but having an excellent collaborative relationship has allowed us to make progress with good humour!

What support will the new Academic Communications Support Centre provide?

The support centre will first provide initial ‘triage’ support to students, helping them to identify the problem with communication that they need help with. They’ll then be directed to one of a number of options for developing their ability to communicate in an academic context.

The centre will offer programmes and workshops to students, as well as supporting academic staff in departments to integrate academic writing support into their existing programmes. Under the centre umbrella, the Writing Lab will expand its peer-support provision across all faculties, and we will also be developing the online resources that students can access without a referral.

What are next steps for the project?

We’re currently advertising for a Director of the Centre for Academic Communication Support (a working title, to be reviewed once the director is in post).

We’re hoping that they will be able to start in September to develop and start to implement the business plan, so that we can start to increase our provision in this area from the 18-19 academic session. We’ll keep faculty and department staff updated on our progress through our regular GEO and OVPESA communications.

What does gender equality have to do with global engagement?

Sian EGardiner11 May 2018

This blog post is an extract taken from a speech that UCL’s Vice-Provost International Dr Dame Nicola Brewer gave at a joint UCL alumni/British High Commission reception in Singapore in March 2018.

At UCL, global engagement and global citizenship are things that we take seriously. The first strategic driver of our Global Engagement Strategy is to offer our students the best possible preparation for global lives and careers.

And we have a flourishing Global Citizenship Programme for our students that takes place in the summer term and which enables them to work in interdisciplinary teams on global challenges. That programme is (of course!) open equally to female and male students.

In my family, we were lucky to be able to give our own children (one girl, one boy) a good education, a global outlook, the appetite and confidence to travel and learn about other countries other cultures and to be comfortable with diversity.

Those are things that an in ideal world every child would be able to experience. I want every student at UCL – actually, I want every child in the world, but you have to start somewhere – to have the opportunities I was able to give our children. So how can that equal, global access be achieved?

One of the critical starting points in achieving real equality is finding male allies. In the home (where I was lucky, again, to have such a supportive partner), and at work (the new Director of the LSE, Dame Minouche Shafik, talks about the ‘holy trinity’ for working women: a supportive partner, a supportive boss and good childcare). Men and women need to work together for equality. It’s a cause that’s most effectively advanced by creating solutions together.

We need to reach out across countries, too. I think you need to start with the local, at home. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a hero of mine, advocates that you should, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

So, start local but then go global. Or, as UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy says, ‘Think global, act together’. And the way we act, and what we choose to act on, is equally important.

Sometimes people ask me how they can do that. Professor Dame Athene Donald, Master of Churchill College Cambridge, gave some great tips on International Women’s day this year.

Her blog started with a quote from one of my favourite novelists, George Eliot. In her 1876 novel Daniel Deronda, she wrote, “And when a woman’s will is as strong as the man’s who wants to govern her, half her strength must be concealment.”

Professor Donald continued, “Many women need to live their lives like that, even today… a strong woman may be seen as a threat.” And her blog then listed three things that everyone can do:

  • Amplify the voices of a timid person, not necessarily a woman, though it might be, who makes a sensible comment that is talked over or ignored.
  • Support someone you see being victimised or fretting over something.
  • Be an active bystander; don’t ignore other people’s uncomfortable actions. If it’s clear things are getting out of hand, step in if it’s safe for you to do so.

Professor Donald finished her blog by referring to how far we’ve come. But I don’t think it’s far enough, and each of us has a role to play in making sure we keep moving forward.

At UCL, we call ourselves London’s Global University, and we can be a beacon for equality, as well as for world-class education and world-leading research.

Nicola is the Gender Equality Champion on UCL’s Senior Management Team and Co-Chair of UCL’s 50:50 Gender Equality Group 

CEU head endorses academic freedom for the wider good in UCL speech 

Sian EGardiner23 April 2018

Prog Michael Igantieff speech at CGHE conferenceIn an increasingly authoritarian era, it is more important than ever to defend academic freedom as a right with huge benefits for wider society, rather than merely a “privilege for professors,” the Central European University (CEU)’s Professor Michael Ignatieff has argued in a speech at the annual Centre for Global Higher Education conference at UCL.

Appearing as the conference’s 2018 Burton R. Clark lecturer on 11 April, the Rector and President of the CEU in Budapest used the platform to urge people to see universities as “counter-majoritarian institutions,” just as a free press and an independent judiciary are seen as essential to counteracting majority governments.

Following an introduction from Dame Nicola Brewer, UCL’s Vice-Provost International, the CEU head’s speech touched on authoritarian turns to higher education in countries including Russia, China and Turkey, with Ignatieff warning of an emerging picture in which “single party regimes are everywhere privileging control over academic quality and openness to international academic life because they see academic freedom as a regime threat.”

Fighting back

Professor Ignatieff and the CEU have experienced the threat he referenced first hand. The institution is embroiled in an ongoing battle with the Hungarian government over its location in Hungary after it passed a law in April 2017 imposing varying restrictions on overseas universities in the country, including the mandate to maintain a campus in their home country.

Michael Igantieff and Nicola BrewerIgnatieff explained however that the subsequent outpouring of support for the CEU, which has included 75,000 marching through the streets of Hungary in opposition to the government decision, taught him that “universities should not underestimate their public support [nor] the power of their networks.”

Importantly, he realised, despite the institutional disposition of universities to be quiet, thoughtful and avoid conflict, “You sometimes have to fight a political battle to defend academic freedom.”

Academic freedom matters

Professor Ignatieff went on to admit that before this threat to the CEU, so close to home, he had “never really thought that hard about academic freedom. It seemed to be one of those little perks that middle-class educated people get to have.”

Now, however, he has realised, “We are not just fighting for a corporate privilege for ourselves; we are defending a counter majoritarian institution whose function is to serve and protect and defend the whole society’s capacity to know anything at all. That’s why academic freedom matters. If we defend it as a corporate privilege, we are done for. And that’s a central message that I have learned.”

Uncertain future for CEU

Professor Ignatieff said that the “thumping two-thirds majority” for Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary’s recent parliamentary election means that the prime minister “now holds all the cards” when it comes to the CEU’s future.

The CEU boss added however that the outcome will depend on whether closing the university “turns out to be sufficiently unpopular inside his own party”.

Search for truth 

Professor Ignatieff closed his speech by urging universities across the world to continue with its “unpopular job”. Institutions, he said, “have to train students that knowledge is extremely hard, that it’s a discipline you have to follow and once you’ve got it you have access to the most important thing a democratic system needs, which is the capacity to find out what is true.”

“It is an unpopular job and it’s a job that people may not want to hear. But it is our job and we have to defend it with courage and without any embarrassment. This is the moment when we really, really have to believe in what we do.”

Speaking to UCL’s global student body on International Women’s Day 2018

Sian EGardiner8 March 2018

To celebrate International Women’s Day, this month the GEO spoke to women from across UCL’s student population to find out what they make of studying at London’s Global University.

See the original series on Instagram: @UCL_Global.

Carly, MA Archaeology

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia in the US, Carly says: “Before I came to UCL I went to Princeton which is quite cut off from things in New Jersey, and I much prefer studying here – there’s just so much happening.

“I’m from Atlanta which is also a big city, but one of my favourite things about London is the markets: Borough, Spitalfields, Maltby Street… I also live right by Regents Park, so I can walk to class in 20 minutes.”

Vandita, MA Computer Graphics, Vision and Imaging

Originally from Delhi, India, Vandita says: “I came to London back in September. I chose UCL because of the faculty of Computer Science: I’d heard a lot about the facilities here; the labs and the teachers.

“I love London! In the past few years Delhi hasn’t been the safest place for women, but here I have a lot of freedom of movement. I can come here at 11 at night and stay in the grad hub listening to music and doing my work and I love that freedom so much. I love being able to move around without having to worry too much about my safety.

“I feel like London is a global city. You meet people from all over the place: in my class I have friends from China, from Ghana, from Europe. It really is global! If I get a chance I’d love to stay.”

Risa, third year Anthropology

Risa is now in her third year of Anthropology. “This is my third year in London. Before moving to London I lived in Jakarta, because my parents are diplomats.

“I knew I wanted to study either in the UK or the States and I chose UCL because it has a big name, and for Anthropology it’s one of the leading departments.

“I really like London – other than the weather! I love that there are so many things to do here; you’re never bored.”

Saskia, third year Biomedical Science

Saskia is originally from Germany, near Frankfurt. “I chose London first, and then UCL! I just love to be in an international setting; it’s a great way to meet different people. I live with two French people and most of the people on my course are international.

“When I graduate I’m going to take a year off to do some internships and hopefully combine it with some travelling. My first internship is in Cyprus and I’d like to go to Barcelona. In Cyprus, I’m going to be working for a stem cell bank; they collect the umbilical cords from all over the world and extract culture the stem cells.”

Explaining her subject choice, Saskia said: “I was always into biology. I work in a lab where there are almost only women. My supervisor is a woman too.”

She also joked, “The last lab that I worked in had an internship at the Cancer Institute and there were only one or two men working there – I’ve been lucky!”

Afikah, second year Medicine

Asked what she makes of UCL so far, second year Medicine student Afikah says: “Well, it’s in London and I don’t think there’s a better city! It’s also one of the best places to study Medicine. The research here is innovative and beyond anywhere else – especially in neuroscience, which is an area I’m really interested in.

“I keep changing what I want to specialise in. In sixth form it was paediatrics. In my next year I’ll be intercalating and I’ve chosen oncology, so I don’t know what I’ll end up doing.

“I live in North West London. I love the multiculturalism in London. Being a person of colour, it’s so nice seeing other people from different ethnic backgrounds and being able to connect with them. The diversity is absolutely amazing.

“You can do anything you want here; everything is around. I’d love to travel – that’s something I’m really interested in – but London’s where it’s at!”

Pauline, MA Financial Mathematics

“I did my undergrad in France, close to Paris, at an engineering school called Centrale Supelec,” says Pauline. “There’s a joint diploma between my school and UCL and so instead of going back to my school for the last year, I decided to come to UCL.

“I’ve lived in London since September. What I like about UCL is how huge it is! It’s like a campus within the city. You always have loads of students all around and there’s such diversity. I love the fact that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want; it’s completely different to France, which is a lot stricter. Here I like that I have more time to study by myself.

“I’d like to start my career in London and then eventually move back to Paris. In the industry I work in, finance, it’s moving a lot, and there are lots of opportunities here.”

Global Health 50/50 report launch set for International Women’s Day

Sian EGardiner2 February 2018

Global health 50 50This International Women’s Day, the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health will launch the inaugural report of Global Health 50/50 at UCL.

The launch event, in collaboration with UNAIDS, will take place on 8 March at UCL’s Kennedy Lecture Theatre in London, from 18.30-19.45.

Hosted by UCL’s Vice-Provost (International) Dame Nicola Brewer, the event will showcase key findings from the Global Health 50/50 initiative, which aims to promote gender equality in global health. The first report of its kind, it will take an in-depth look at the gender policies and practices of the world’s most influential global health organisations.

140 organisations

The extensive report takes a unique, 360 degree approach to the topic, analysing both the gender-responsiveness of external programmes and operations, as well as the internal workplace policies and practices of over 140 organisations.

Global Health 50/50 will also look at the extent to which organisations commit and take action to promote gender equality, help identify where change is needed and share examples of best practice for effecting this.

Driving action and accountability

The event next month will feature an interactive panel with speakers including Jocalyn Clark, Executive Editor of medical journal The Lancet, and Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, with discussions set to cover the steps needed to advance gender equality in global health.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Sarah Hawkes, Professor of Global Public Health, said, “Global Health 50/50 is much more than just a report.

“Global Health 50/50 is a policy initiative that will help drive action and accountability for gender across global health through advocacy based on evidence, transparency for accountability, and a core belief that progress is both possible and necessary.”

Later this month, Professor Hawkes is also set to join Difficult Dialogues 2018, a three-day event in Goa which will see academics from UCL’s Institute of Global Health join global media, policymakers and practitioners to address challenges to gender equality in India and beyond.

UCL secures flagship training contract with Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Sian EGardiner10 December 2017

Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeUCL has won a flagship contract to train the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s staff and diplomats around the world in economics, with specialist subject matter to include how different markets and exchange rates operate, the economics of the environment and more.

In a significant coup for the university’s Economics department, UCL will train up to 300 FCO staff a year over four years. UCL won the contract through an open competition in which it scored particularly highly on content and focus on learner needs.

Shamik Dhar, FCO Chief Economist and Head of the Diplomatic Academy Economics and Prosperity Faculty, said: “UCL won the contract by really thinking through what our diplomats need in their day jobs and are designing a course that is accessible to the whole of the FCO’s global network.”

Bespoke online courses

The bespoke courses, aimed at degree level learners, will be predominantly delivered online. They will modernise the FCO’s current economics teaching and provide FCO staff with practical insights on the markets and economies in which they are posted.

The programme has been designed to suit staff out in the field who might be studying after the working day, and includes video on demand elements. Teaching will be broken into 15 to 20 minute sections, along with live interactive webinar sessions, to ensure staff can work at their own pace.

“We will be introducing learners to cutting edge research,” said Parama Chaudhury, a principal teaching fellow at UCL. “Learners in this programme will be equipped with the knowledge of the most reliable and current research on pressing issues, and what the experts in the field are presently recommending in terms of policy.”

Specialist subject matter

The course will consist of two main parts, with one billed as Core Learning (CL) and one as Job Specific Learning (JSL). Both will be practical in nature, enabling learners to see how the course subject matter can be applied practically in both their individual roles and the markets in which they work.

The specialist subject matter will include the macroeconomic crises, economics data, regulating markets, economic growth and development and more.Image

Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (credit: p_a_h, source: Flickr)

Explore GEO’s new interactive data dashboard

AlejandroMoreno24 November 2017

My role in the Global Engagement Office (GEO) involves mapping UCL’s collaborations around the world, to help us tell our global story better. But as you can imagine at a university of UCL’s size, this is no mean feat!

Thanks to the work of the many academics collaborating internationally who have shared details of their work with GEO, we’ve been able to compile an interactive dashboard showcasing some of this activity.

You can take a look around the dashboard, created in Tableau public, here.

The motivation behind this new resource is to show the collaborations that GEO is aware of UCL having in certain countries. It is arranged by UCL faculty.

For example, let’s say we want to use the dashboard to find out what collaborations UCL has in Brazil.

We just select ‘Brazil’ on the right hand side, then we can see in the matrix below the map the faculties and departments that collaborate in Brazil, while in the rows we’ll see the Brazilian institutions that we collaborate with, as shown in the image here:

Picture1We can see that GEO is aware of UCL’s School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS) in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities having a collaboration with the “Casa de Rui Barbosa Foundation.”

Picture2

Another way the dynamic dashboard can be used is by navigating by Faculty. For example, let’s have look into Brain Sciences. If we select the faculty on the left hand side, we can can see the location of their collaborations:

Picture3
We’re keen to keep this dashboard as up to date as possible, so if you are a UCL academic collaborating with colleagues overseas and you can’t find your work listed here, please contact me and we can add this in.