'Durham needs to show the world the wonderful things going on here'

April 27, 2007

With its top scholarship and students, Durham could be the 'Princeton of Europe', says its new vice-chancellor

Last week, Christopher Higgins became the 23rd vice-chancellor of Durham University. The previous week, he published a major research paper in the journal Nature . "Hopefully, that's showing Durham that I really value research and scholarship and have an understanding of it, because that is Durham's real strength," he said.

Professor Higgins has longstanding links with the university: his father was head of mathematics and his daughter graduated in politics from Durham two years ago.

Professor Higgins studied the violin, but then read botany at Durham and graduated with a first-class degree and a PhD. He moved into biomedical science in the US, and he discovered a family of protein cells that underpin the development and diagnosis of diseases including cystic fibrosis.

He comes to Durham from Imperial College London, where he was director of the Medical Research Council's Clinical Sciences Centre. "I'm sad not to be running my own research lab, but I need to move on to something innovative," he said.

Professor Higgins said that Durham's profile needed to be raised, adding that it had the potential to become the "Princeton of Europe". "We have world leaders in scholarship, research and teaching, and we get among the best students in the country. We need to show the world the wonderful things that are going on."

This includes Project Sri Lanka, which brings together Durham staff and students with community and regional groups to help rebuild tsunami-devasted communities in southern Sri Lanka.

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