Daniel Spielman, professor of computer science and applied mathematics at Yale University, has won the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize, one of the highest honours in his field. The prize is awarded every four years during the International Congress of Mathematicians, which was held this year in Hyderabad, India. "The same way that physicists grow up dreaming about winning the Nobel Prize, I've dreamed of winning the Nevanlinna Prize ever since I was a graduate student," Professor Spielman said. "I was in shock when Laszlo Lovasz, president of the International Mathematical Union, called me up to tell me that I had won. I had to hear him say it a few times before I believed him." Professor Spielman attended Yale for his undergraduate degree before studying for a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also won the 2002 IEEE Information Theory Paper Award, the 2008 Godel Prize and the 2009 Fulkerson Prize. But he said that he was proudest of this latest award. "It is an incredible honour," he said. "Many of my heroes have won this prize."
A champion of the use of social media in higher education has been named the Learning Technologist of the Year by the Association for Learning Technology. Cristina Costa works with doctoral students at the University of Salford to help them use blogs, wikis and Twitter, among other tools, for networking and collaboration and to improve the dissemination of their research. "Many PhD students use social media on a daily basis and social network sites such as Facebook are common practice in their personal lives," she explained. "However, there is a need to improve understanding about the advantages and implications that these communication channels can have on their professional and academic lives." Ms Costa recently helped students in the Centre for Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies in Salford's School of Languages to organise the first student-led online conference on translation and interpreting studies, which brought together researchers from across Europe. She also works with the university's researchers to help them make use of new web technologies as they work with colleagues at other institutions. She said that promoting digital literacy in the research community was vital as it "provides them with new and open forms of sharing their work and engaging with the wider community".
Research can often involve throwing yourself in at the deep end - and that is literally what one sociologist has done after swimming from England to France as part of her research into the cross-channel swimming community. Karen Throsby, associate professor of sociology at the University of Warwick, trained for two years for the feat, and said that the time she took was "a huge and necessary confidence-builder". She explained how her journey towards the swim began during her research. "I spent just a little bit too long talking to channel swimmers during a trip to Turkey to swim the Hellespont," she said. "Before I knew it, my deposit was paid and the countdown to my long swim began." Before working at Warwick, Dr Throsby was a lecturer in sociology at the London School of Economics and received her PhD from its Gender Institute. Of her swim, she said: "I learned that on that day, all but three boats (supporting swimmers) had to turn back because of the difficult conditions and I began to realise how lucky I had been to be able to get through it at all, and how lucky I had been to have such a great crew and skilled pilot. Because of that luck, their skill, plus all the training and preparation and a bit of good old-fashioned determination towards the end, I was, at last, a channel swimmer."
Matthew Pateman will be bringing his passion for cult television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the pop star David Bowie to Kingston University as its professor of contemporary popular aesthetics. Professor Pateman studied for a PhD in contemporary fiction at the University of Leeds and then lectured at University College Scarborough, which was incorporated into the University of Hull. He went on to became head of media, culture and society and then head of media and film during his 16 years at the university. Professor Pateman said that he was fortunate that his job enabled him to "seriously and critically investigate those things that I also happen to enjoy and love. I happen to be a huge fan of and believe in the cultural significance of people such as David Bowie and Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy and its spin-off show Angel)." Professor Pateman said that he "absolutely, fundamentally" believed in the need to study classic texts such as Homer's Iliad and Milton's Paradise Lost, but that this should not come at the expense of ignoring more recent cultural phenomena. "Understanding contemporary British, European and world culture requires similar attention to things such as Buffy, Angel and Bowie," he said.
Carsten Maple has been appointed pro vice-chancellor (research and enterprise) at the University of Bedfordshire. Professor Maple was formerly head of the department of computer science and technology.
Chris Reilly has taken up post as chief financial officer at the University of Hull. He was previously managing director of the Italian operations of entertainment firm Blockbuster.
UHI, the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands, has appointed Michael Rayner dean of research. Mr Rayner was previously assistant director of research policy and strategy at the Scottish Funding Council.
Cranfield University's National Soil Resources Institute has appointed Thomas Mayr as its new director. Dr Mayr has more than 10 years' experience in climate change impact studies and digital soil mapping.
Lucy Hodges, formerly editor of The Independent's education section, has been appointed director of communications at the University of Buckingham.
Cardiff University has appointed its first female deputy vice-chancellor. Elizabeth Treasure takes up the post after stepping down as dean of the School of Dentistry.
Phil Sykes, university librarian at the University of Liverpool, has been elected chair of the Research Libraries UK board. Mr Sykes takes over from Mark Brown, university librarian at the University of Southampton, who stepped down as chair earlier this year.