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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!

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.

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.

UCL academics supporting developing countries to tackle corruption

SophieVinter19 February 2016

UCL academics helping developing countries to combat corruption have secured British Academy funding to support their research.

Professor Alena Ledeneva (School of Slavonic and East European Studies) and Dr Christian Schuster (Department of Political Science) are part of teams that recently secured grants from the Academy’s £4 million global anti-corruption research scheme.

Run in partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID), the scheme funds projects that will identify new initiatives that can help developing countries tackle corruption and the negative impact it has on millions of people’s lives.

Professor Ledeneva is working with academics at the Basel Institute on Governance (Switzerland) and SOAS on a project proposing to emphasise the role that informality plays in fuelling corruption and stifling anti-corruption policies in East Africa.

Drawing on a global network of scholars, Dr Schuster is co-investigator on a project researching civil service reform and anti-corruption in developing countries. The initiative will obtain tools and evidence from eight countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, investigating the impact of civil service practices in key areas such as recruitment, dismissal and integrity management.

Their research will provide new evidence for use by DFID and its partners.

Lord Stern, President of the British Academy said: “Endemic corruption is an enormous international challenge that blights far too many countries and research such as this is one of the most worthwhile ways that the UK can offer practical support.”

UCL and Chile: Visit by the Chilean Minister for Finance and the Minister for Mining

KerryMilton18 November 2015

UCL’s relationship with Chile continues to develop and deepen following a number of high level visits to UCL over recent months.

Chilean Minister for Finance and Chile Day 2015

The Chilean Minister for Finance, Rodrigo Valdés Pulido was welcomed to UCL by Professor Michael Arthur, President and Provost on 7 September 2015. Minister Valdés Pulido’s visit began with a private meeting with Professor Arthur and Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International) to discuss UCL’s strengthening relationship with Chile and the challenges Chile’s economy is currently facing. The Minister was joined by H.E. Fiona Clouder, British Ambassador to Chile and H.E. Rolando Drago Rodríguez, Chilean Ambassador to Great Britain.

The private meeting was followed by a public lecture given by the Minister and introduced by Professor Arthur. The lecture, titled ‘Chilean Economy: challenges ahead’, had an audience of over 150 people, formed of UCL staff and students as well as senior colleagues from the Chilean and British finance sectors attending Chile Day 2015 events across London.

The visit was a fantastic opportunity for the Minister to also engage with Chilean students studying at UCL and academic colleagues with an interest in developing collaborations to support Chile’s economic development.

Chilean Minister for Mining

The Minister for Mining, Government of Chile was welcomed to UCL on 13 October 2015 by Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International). The Minister visited UCL to discuss the challenges facing Chile in relation to the Mining sector and to explore ways in which UCL could support development of solutions to these challenges.

In addition to meeting with Dame Nicola, the Minister held a roundtable discussion with UCL academics and students from Faculty of Engineering Sciences, Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences. During the discussion the Minister outlined specific issues facing the mining sector broadly related to energy and water supply, environmental rights and mine tailings with UCL colleagues noting the expertise at UCL which could support development of solutions to these challenges. As a result, a follow up meeting will be held in Santiago with Dame Nicola Brewer and academic colleagues on the UCL delegation visit to Chile, 3-4 December 2015 to discuss next steps in developing collaboration.

Dame Nicola has said of the developing relationship with Chile ‘Chile is one of UCL’s priority countries in Latin America. We welcome increasing numbers of Chilean students to study here every year – UCL now being the number one destination in the UK for Chilean students. We are committed to developing strong partnerships of equivalence with Chile and will undertake an institutional visit there from 3-4 December in order to build on the growing number of engagements from Chilean national agencies and universities.’