July 15, 2010

University of East Anglia

Bob Watson

A professor of environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia, Bob Watson, is one of the winners of this year's Blue Planet Prize, an international environmental award sometimes described as the Japanese equivalent of the Nobel prize. After completing a PhD on free radicals at the University of London in 1973, he played a key role in assembling the evidence on stratospheric ozone depletion that led to the 1987 Montreal Protocol banning chlorofluorocarbons - something he described as "the ultimate environmental success story". He has also been honoured for his part in combating global warming while chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from 1997 to 2002. Now chief scientific adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK, Professor Watson has previously served as chief scientist at the World Bank and environmental adviser to the Clinton administration in the US. Winning the prize is "an incredible honour", he said, "particularly considering who has won it before": previous winners include London School of Economics stalwart Lord Stern. He had known about the award for two months "but had to keep it secret - I told only my partner, my mother and my private secretary". Professor Watson said he was cautiously optimistic about the governmental policies he has helped to shape: "We are moving in the right direction on climate change and biodiversity, but there is a long way to go."

University of Toronto

Cristina Amon

Cristina Amon has been reappointed dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto for a further five-year term, beginning 1 July 2011. After completing an engineering degree at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela, and undertaking further study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she served as director of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems at Carnegie Mellon University before joining Toronto in 2006. Highlighting the key challenges of her first term, Professor Amon pointed to "the financial component of managing the faculty during the downturn, with smaller growth from the endowment affecting our income stream". She said the university had "taken the opportunity to raise our profile and increase the proportion of international students, especially at the undergraduate level". This led to the creation of a year-long transitional programme for those needing to improve their English-language skills, as well as a coaching programme provided by the faculty and mentoring for freshmen by student volunteers. Other major projects include the development of the Identity, Privacy and Security Institute, which works in collaboration with policymakers, regulatory agencies and industry, plus multidisciplinary centres in sustainable energy and global engineering.

ETH Zurich

Gerald H. Haug

A professor of climate geology at ETH Zurich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Gerald H. Haug, has been awarded this year's Max Rossler Prize. The prize was established with a donation of SFr10 million (£6.26 million) by Dr Rossler, a mathematician who studied at the institution and later became chief analyst for Credit Suisse. It is designed to help young researchers at the ETH accelerate their careers in basic research or applied technology. The award will enable Professor Haug to develop his understanding of the palaeoclimate and the links between climate and civilisation. Although he is not a "climate determinist", he said, he does believe in "the catalysing role of climate and environment" and has argued that changes in the tropical rain belt may have been significant factors in "the decline of both the Tang Dynasty in China and the Classic Maya in Central America". He believes his analysis of the so-called "Pliocene warm interval", when the northern hemisphere was ice-free, offers a good analogue to the situation today and may help to develop ways of reversing climate-change processes.

Cardiff University

Ole Petersen

The director of Cardiff University's School of Biosciences has won a lifetime achievement award from the European Pancreatic Club at its 42nd annual meeting in Stockholm. Ole Petersen received the award from Peter Hegyi, the club's former president, who acclaimed him as "the most recognised basic scientist in the field", adding that he was "not aware of anyone else who has come close to his achievements". Professor Petersen was born in Denmark and began to publish research papers while still studying for a medical degree. "I was lucky to grow up in a very liberal world where I never had to ask permission for anything," he recalled. "I've never had a supervisor in my life. You make a lot of mistakes, but you learn from them - which is something we forget when PhDs are over-supervised." His early work looked at how calcium ions can trigger events within cells. More recently, he has focused on how enzymes and excessive alcohol consumption can cause acute pancreatitis. He was appointed professor of physiology at the University of Aberdeen aged just 31, and then worked at the University of Liverpool from 1981 to 2009. He was recently reappointed chair of the European Research Council's Physiology, Pathophysiology and Endocrinology panel.

Other changes

Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry has appointed Anthony Warrens dean for education. He joins from Imperial College London, where he has led the graduate-entry programme since establishing the course in 2005.

The University of Salford's Trevor Cox has been named president of the Institute of Acoustics. The professor of acoustic engineering will hold the post for a two-year term.

Mike Thomas has been appointed pro vice-chancellor (academic) at the University of Chester. He takes up the post on 1 August and will retain some of his responsibilities as Chester's executive dean of health and social care.

James Dickins has been named professor of Arabic at the University of Leeds, where he will develop computer language-based approaches to the analysis of Arabic and English translations. Also at the institution, Dawn Freshwater, professor of mental health and head of the School of Healthcare, has been elected to Health UK's council of deans as the representative for nursing.

The UK's Science Community Representing Education has named Graham Hutchings as its new chair. The professor of physical chemistry at Cardiff University has taken over from Sir Alan Wilson, former vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds, and will serve for three years.

Barry Potter, professor of medicinal and biological chemistry at the University of Bath, has been awarded the 2010 Interdisciplinary Prize and Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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