September 22, 2011

Social Policy Association

Sue Duncan

Sue Duncan, who was the UK's first chief government social researcher, has been named the new president of the UK Social Policy Association. Professor Duncan, who is currently a visiting professor at the universities of Bristol and Lincoln and an independent consultant in social research, studied sociology at the University of Bath as an undergraduate and originally wanted to be a social worker. However, a work placement put her off the career, and a further placement at a university sparked her love of research.

Professor Duncan spent a year working at a children's home before completing a master's in sociology at the University of Sussex. She joined the government's social research service in 1979, where she remained for more than three decades. In 2009, Professor Duncan received an honorary doctorate from Bath. She said she was aware she was joining the Social Policy Association in "tough times". "Funding cuts threaten the viability of some social policy departments, research careers and the fostering of expertise for the future; while the question of demonstrating impact is a difficult one," she said. However, she added that while tools for measuring the impact of research were "less than perfect", academics should not necessarily dismiss the idea. "I believe that the principle of demonstrating impact is a sound one - ultimately, it could strengthen the reputation of social policy research and researchers."

University of California, Berkeley

Namwali Serpell

A Zambian scholar and author is planning to use the proceeds from a 2011 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award to return to her home country as part of research for a new novel. Namwali Serpell, assistant professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, has been recognised in the awards, which reward female authors for excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers. Professor Serpell left Zambia for the US at an early age, and received her doctorate from Harvard University in 2008. Her first published story, Muzungu, was shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing. For the next academic year, she will be an external faculty Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center. Professor Serpell has said that she returns to Zambia whenever possible, and that she plans to take a break from teaching to continue research for her new novel about three Zambian families, which she described as an epic set over the course of the last century.

Brown University

David Rand

An academic who helped to spearhead the call for Brown University to offer an undergraduate course in computational biology has been named, two decades later, as the director of Brown's Center for Computational Molecular Biology. David Rand, previously professor of biology at Brown, originally gained an undergraduate degree in biology before going into teaching. He returned to academia three years later to complete a doctorate at Yale University. Professor Rand spent a semester as a postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Crete and then returned to Harvard, where he was a postdoctoral Fellow in population genetics. He joined Brown in 1991 as adjunct assistant professor of biology, and has also been assistant and associate professor at the institution before he took up his role as professor in 2003. Professor Rand said his passion for computational biology came from a belief that the subject was crucial to biological studies. "Mining information was a computational problem, but asking the right questions was a biology problem," he said. "Therein lies the crux of the need for computational biology." He said that his aim in his new role was to "open the floodgates" between computer science and the university's Division of Biology and Medicine. As part of that, he plans to recruit four graduate students per academic year.

University of Buckingham

Graham Roos

A writer and performer who describes himself as an "acclaimed tarot reader" has joined the University of Buckingham as creative artist in residence. Graham Roos studied English and history at Buckingham and worked for the British Museum before deciding to concentrate on writing and performance full-time. His first book, Rave, described as "verse for the Ecstasy generation" was published in 1997, and Mr Roos went on to found Large magazine in 2002, which lasted for just three issues before closing because of "creative differences". Mr Roos studied for a master's degree in directing and screenwriting at Northern Media School. He has since released three "cine-poems" and has written, directed and produced an unreleased feature film. Mr Roos' self-confessed "life-long interest" in the paranormal led to his creation of an exhibition on parapsychology for The Royal Institution. Mr Roos said he was "hugely excited" about returning to his alma mater. "I have written a play entitled Her Holiness the Pope, which I would love to get the students involved with. I would also like to start a short-film competition made up of several categories to really engage the students."


Seven academics at Birkbeck, University of London have been promoted to professorships. They are: Eric Kaufmann, currently reader in politics; Naoko Shimazu, currently reader in Japanese history; Zhu Hua, currently reader in applied linguistics and communication; Deborah Mabbett, currently reader in public policy; Trevor Fenner, currently reader in computer science; and Anthony Garratt and Stephen Wright, both currently readers in economics.

Paul Milewski, professor of mathematical sciences at the University of Bath, has received a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

The University of the West of Scotland has appointed Robert Pyper as head of the School of Social Sciences and professor of government and public policy. Professor Pyper has joined from Glasgow Caledonian University, where he held the position of head of the department of social sciences.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering has appointed Beck Smith as its new assistant director. She was previously head of policy at the Biochemical Society.

City University London has appointed Jason Chuah as professor of commercial and maritime law. He joins from the University of Westminster, where he is currently head of the department of advanced legal studies.

Joseph Silk, Savilian professor of astronomy at New College, Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Society, has been awarded the 2011 Balzan Prize.

The Royal Photographic Society has awarded the Saxby Medal for achievement in the field of three-dimensional imaging to David Huson, research Fellow at the Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England.

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