The new director of the Medical Research Council Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) at the University of Oxford has called it an honour to be chosen to head what is seen as "the birthplace of molecular medicine in the UK". Douglas Higgs, formerly director of the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit at the WIMM, took up the role at the beginning of the month after the retirement of Sir Andrew McMichael. Professor Higgs said that it would be hard to improve on the institute's work, but added that it would "not rest on its laurels". "A successful institute continuously needs to recruit exciting new scientists, and I plan to recruit a new chair of molecular medicine and new MRC-funded research fellows over the next few years," he said. "I also plan to strengthen our links to the clinical service in the adjacent John Radcliffe Hospital and develop key aspects of the WIMM infrastructure that will enable our researchers to apply state-of-the-art technology to all aspects of our research." Professor Higgs said he hoped to build on the institute's international reputation to attract new students and researchers, and develop it as a UK centre for advanced cellular imaging. Professor Higgs, who trained in medicine at King's College London, took up the post of professor of medical haematology at Oxford in 1996.
A renowned sociologist has joined the University of Luxembourg as part of the multimillion-euro Excellence Programme for Research in Luxembourg (PEARL) programme. Louis Chauvel, previously professor of sociology at the Institut d'etudes Politiques (Sciences Po), said that in joining PEARL he hoped to fulfil his professional responsibility to do the job in the "best creative way". Professor Chauvel said his aims were to uncover the advantages and disadvantages experienced by different generations, since he believes the young are generally the first victims of economic and social crises. "The comparative sociology of crises shows that the worst thing for the future of a society is to accept mass unemployment for today's young: they will pay forever [for] our lack of responsibility today," he argued. He said that one of his aims for the programme was to develop new formulae to measure inequality that could replace the Gini coefficient. Professor Chauvel studied for his undergraduate degree at the ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Administration economique before completing his research master's at the ecole des Hautes etudes en Sciences Sociales and the ecole Normale Superieure. He gained his PhD from the University of Lille but said he wrote almost all his thesis at Sciences Po, where he was first appointed to the post of lecturer.
A pioneer in the field of silicon photonics has moved the research group he set up at the University of Surrey in 1989 to the University of Southampton. Graham Reed attributed his decision to the South Coast institution's eagerness to develop the field, and the facilities it had on offer. "The main draw was that Southampton has a new fabrication facility," he said. "We can make our own devices now and have a lot more control over them, so that was a huge attraction. Plus we fit really well." He and his team will use facilities in the new Mountbatten Institute, where they are based, and he is already reaping the rewards. "Southampton has a huge reputation for optical fibre work and that spills over into silicon photonics," he said. "We've been there only a few months and we've already published many papers with new colleagues as co-authors." Professor Reed graduated from Surrey with a BSc and a PhD and worked in industry before returning to the academy in 1989 as a lecturer. He later became professor of optoelectronics and head of Surrey's department of electronic engineering.
The new writer-in-residence and professor of creative writing at the University of Nottingham said he felt privileged to be offered the position but had "lots of concerns and anxieties" before starting. Jon McGregor, an award-winning novelist and short story writer, said he had "tended to steer clear" of such roles in the past because "I felt I didn't have the vocabulary and experience to talk to a room full of students about the nuts and bolts of the craft of writing". However, he said the Nottingham job was "framed slightly differently" from his previous offers. "The job title is writer-in-residence and the hours are only a day a week so the majority of my time is still spent in a room on my own doing my writing. (But) for that one day a week I get to come up for air and talk to other people and meet students and talk about writing in a much more experiential way - 'this is what I'm doing, it might work for you'." Professor McGregor studied for a BSc in media technology and production at the University of Bradford. Although he completed his degree, he confessed that he "slacked off" halfway in order to concentrate on his writing. He was previously a guest lecturer at Nottingham, and the institution awarded him an honorary degree in 2010.
Paul McDonald, course leader for the creative and professional writing department at the University of Wolverhampton, has scooped top prize in a national poetry competition. Dr McDonald took first place in the annual John Clare Poetry Competition, which is run by the John Clare Trust to promote the work and legacy of the 19th-century English poet.
Dinos Arcoumanis, City University's deputy vice-chancellor (international and development), has been named Greece's ambassador-at-large with responsibility for energy policy and new technologies. Professor Arcoumanis will be based in London, continuing in his role at City and advising the government of the Hellenic Republic on its energy policy on a pro bono basis.
The University of Edinburgh has appointed Ian Clarke, former director of Newcastle University Business School, as dean of its business school. Prior to joining Newcastle, Professor Clarke worked for seven years as chair in marketing and strategic management at Lancaster University Management School.
The Royal College of Art has appointed Ruth Noack as head of curating contemporary art. Ms Noack is an art historian, art critic, lecturer, writer and independent curator. She studied feminist theory, audiovisual media and art history in the US, England, Germany and Austria, completing a degree in art history in 1999 at the University of Vienna.
Sara Chandler, former director of pro bono at the College of Law, has joined London South Bank University's Legal Advice Clinic as visiting professor in clinical legal education. Professor Chandler, who has a lengthy history of working in law centres and legal aid firms, has spent 38 years doing rights-based work for vulnerable people who cannot afford to pay for legal services.