A musical man hailing most recently from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the US has been named professor of church history and head of the department of theology, philosophy and religious studies at Liverpool Hope University in the UK. Raised on a farm in central California, Eric Saak said he was often asked how he had entered his field of research. "It was my undergraduate professors at the University of Southern California who ignited the fire," he said. "In many ways, I was a typical USC fraternity boy, but I began to be captivated by Augustine of Hippo and his influence." Professor Saak said that for academics it could be "awe-inspiring and humbling" to see that "the influence of special teachers can shape who we become as scholars, teachers and individuals". Having majored in music composition as an undergraduate, he said his passion for music was outweighed only by his enthusiasm for his discipline. "Being a church historian is not unlike being a composer and symphony conductor. It is this passion that I hope to bring to my new position in composing, orchestrating and conducting a thing of beauty indeed: the interdisciplinary workings of theology, philosophy and religious studies," he said.
John O. Dabiri
An expert on fluid dynamics who studies jellyfish at the California Institute of Technology has been named a MacArthur Fellow and awarded a five-year, $500,000 (£317,000) grant with no strings attached. Unlike most MacArthur recipients, who are awakened with an early morning phone call informing them of the honour, John O. Dabiri, associate professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at Caltech, received an email. "The foundation had one of the digits wrong in my phone number, so it called the wrong guy," he explained. "The email asked me to call immediately, but since I had heard that winners always receive a phone call, I assumed that it wanted my help getting in touch with a colleague. I was completely shocked! Between proposal deadlines, papers and preparing lecture notes, this wasn't at all on my radar." Professor Dabiri is head of Caltech's Biological Propulsion Laboratory, where he and his colleagues examine the mechanics and dynamics of schooling fish, among other things. A non-swimmer, he admits to sinking "like a stone" when he enters the water, even though much of his work is focused on jellyfish, which he studies in an 8,000-gallon water tunnel.
Queen Mary, University of London
A research scientist who took an unusual career path from the laboratory to the study of the history of medicine is to join Queen Mary, University of London, thanks to a fellowship from the Wellcome Trust. Tilli Tansey, currently professor of history of modern medical sciences at University College London, originally worked in neuroscience and was based in labs for the Medical Research Council in Edinburgh, the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples, as well as serving as a Multiple Sclerosis Society research Fellow at St Thomas' Hospital in London. It was when she took a three-month sabbatical from St Thomas' that her career trajectory changed. "I got a grant to do a little project on the history of chemical neurotransmission at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine at UCL. I never went back," she said. Although Professor Tansey has switched her main focus, she is still active in the medical community, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London. She said this can be something of a juggling act. "I was explaining to a colleague how difficult it was being in the middle of several disciplines," she recalled. "He said: 'Well, your job is to be a bridge. If you're going to be a bridge, you're going to have to expect to be walked over!'"
How do you follow a job at The Open University? Brigid Heywood, who has just left her role as pro vice-chancellor (research and enterprise) at the institution, has discovered one solution: move to the other side of the globe. "It had to be something as big and as exciting," Professor Heywood said of her move to New Zealand's Massey University as assistant vice-chancellor (research). She started her career by studying for a PhD at the University of Liverpool before moving to the US to become a Fellow at the National Institutes of Health. She then returned to the UK, first as a research Fellow at the University of Bath and then as lecturer in chemistry at the University of Salford. From there she went to Keele University, where she was appointed to a chair in chemistry and later to the post of pro vice-chancellor for research. She admitted that before applying to Massey she had never been to New Zealand. "I've seen the film The Piano and Sam Neill comes from New Zealand - so you can't knock it," she joked. "The country is amazing, but it had to be the job that was going to give me the same excitement and challenge that I got from The Open University."
Hazel Roddam, principal lecturer in research in the School of Public Health and Clinical Sciences at the University of Central Lancashire, has been elected chair of council at the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
Bob Doherty has been named the new head of Liverpool Hope University's Business School in the Faculty of Sciences and Social Sciences. Dr Doherty has written extensively on the subject of fair-trade companies.
Christian Gericke has joined the Peninsula Medical School as professor of public health, and the Peninsula Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care as deputy director. He was previously professor of public health policy and director of the Centre for Health Services Research at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
The British Psychological Society has named Ray Bull, professor of forensic psychology at the University of Leicester, an honorary Fellow.
Liverpool Hope University has named Michael Mulqueen associate professor and head of the department of politics, history, media and communication. He joins from the University of Limerick, where he was a lecturer in the School of Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication.
Sports lawyer and agent Mel Stein has been appointed visiting professor in sports law at Coventry University's Centre for the International Business of Sport.
Sir David Weatherall, emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, has won a Lasker Award, the only person outside the US to do so this year. The honour, America's top prize for medical research, recognises his work on genetic diseases of the blood and his role in improving clinical care for children with thalassaemia in the developing world.