Awards and promotions

May 9, 2013

Bishop Grosseteste University

Olivia Sagan

A psychologist whose research focuses on the role played by arts activity in mental well-being is to lead a new degree course in the discipline at Bishop Grosseteste University. Olivia Sagan, a chartered psychologist most recently at University College London, has taken up the position of academic coordinator for psychology and, from September, will oversee a course that combines the field with another subject such as drama, history or sport. “We are really focusing on the arts and therapies and on social, developmental and community psychology,” Dr Sagan said. “That makes it quite distinctive. This focus, with its eye on community applicability, reflects my research and background in art and engagement with disadvantaged groups in the community.” She added that interest in the course has been encouraging. Dr Sagan worked as a psychodynamic counsellor before moving into higher education, holding posts at the University of Bedfordshire, the Institute of Education, University of London (where she gained her PhD) and the University of the Arts London. She called her new appointment “an exciting opportunity” to “bring together my passion for psychology with my experience in pedagogy, the arts and community applications, and provide a stimulating and critical psychology degree course”.

University of Essex

Lorna McGregor

The new director of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex said it was an honour to step into the role, following in the footsteps of “leading figureheads of the human rights movement”. Lorna McGregor is currently director of the university’s master’s course in international human rights law and a professional lawyer with extensive international experience of human rights issues, particularly torture, access to justice and human trafficking. She takes over from Geoff Gilbert, interim director since January. “At Essex, we believe that the theory and practice of human rights are inextricably linked, and this is what made this position and working here so attractive,” Ms McGregor said. “It’s such an honour to step into this role, especially when you consider previous directors such as the late Kevin Boyle, who was one of the figureheads of the human rights movement both at the domestic and international level.” Ms McGregor has served as an international adviser at Redress, a non-profit human rights organisation that helps torture survivors to obtain justice and reparation. This was one of the reasons why she was a “very attractive choice” to take over the directorship of the centre, according to its chair Sir Nigel Rodley. Ms McGregor gained a first-class law degree from the University of Edinburgh before obtaining her master’s from Harvard Law School.

The Open University

Andrea Zisman

A new professor of computing at The Open University said she had no hesitation in accepting the post because she “knew that joining the OU at this stage of my career would be a good thing to do”. Andrea Zisman, who joins from City University London, said she intended to investigate new challenges in her research area, to contribute to society and to “transfer my knowledge and skills to people embarking on an IT education programme or those continuing in this area of work”. She was one of the first researchers to investigate context-based service discovery and adaptation, and has a strong international research reputation in software, service and system engineering. It was while working in the computing industry that she decided to concentrate on academic research, she said. “I started my PhD studies, and an academic career was a natural path after it,” she added. Professor Zisman holds a BSc in computer science from the Catholic University of Pernambuco, Brazil, an MSc in applied mathematics to computer science from the University of Sao Paulo, and a PhD in computer science from Imperial College London.

Princeton University

Pablo Debenedetti

A professor of engineering at an Ivy League institution has been named its new dean for research. Pablo Debenedetti joined Princeton University in 1985 as assistant professor of chemical engineering and has since held numerous senior academic and administrative positions at the university. “It’s a real honour to serve Princeton as dean for research because it is one of the world’s great research universities,” Professor Debenedetti said, adding that his predecessor Stewart Smith “did an excellent job…He has rationalised the university’s research infrastructure, so he provides a very solid basis on which to start”. Professor Debenedetti will be responsible for encouraging innovation and collaboration across campus, promoting Princeton research to potential donors and supporters, ensuring that research meets ethical standards and encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit aiming to transfer research in the laboratory to market and the public. He said that he brings years of experience from both a research and administrative perspective, including an eye for supporting cutting- edge research. Professor Debenedetti studied chemical engineering at the University of Buenos Aires before obtaining a master’s and doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Other changes

The University of Nottingham has named Mary Visser its new chief information officer. Ms Visser, who has more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry, joins Nottingham in July. She has worked at IBM and held senior positions in the IT departments of the universities of Warwick and Leicester, where she was most recently director of IT.

Tim Birkhead, a professor in the University of Sheffield’s department of animal and plant sciences and a long-term Times Higher Education contributor, has been named UK Bioscience Teacher of the Year by the Society of Biology in honour of three decades of inspirational teaching matched by a long-standing passion for research in the field. Sir Keith Burnett, Sheffield’s vice-chancellor, described Professor Birkhead’s approach as “truly inspiring, and flowing from Tim’s absolute commitment to the value and excitement of science which he shares with students in ways that change their perceptions forever”.

Paul Curran, vice-chancellor of City University London, has been named chair of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration. The independent body makes recommendations to the Prime Minister and others on the pay of all doctors and dentists involved in the National Health Service.

Two academics from the University of Bath have been honoured by prestigious bodies in their respective fields. Saiful Islam, professor of computational materials chemistry, has been given a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, and Jean van den Elsen, reader in biochemistry, has been elected a fellow of the Society of Biology. Professor Islam receives his award for his research into new materials for the next generation of green energy devices, while Dr van den Elsen’s fellowship comes in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of biological sciences.

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