'It's an opportunity to play a leadership role in a different

November 30, 2007

Durham's St Mary's College welcomes its first male principal: a researcher passionate about teaching. Philip Gilmartin is stepping into a new and pioneering role when he becomes the first male principal of Durham University's St Mary's College.

The college was founded in 1899 as the Women's Hostel, four years after women were first allowed to receive degrees at the university. It adopted its current name in 1920 and opened its doors to male students in 2005.

Professor Gilmartin, 45, is currently pro dean for research in the faculty of biological science at Leeds University and was formerly director of the Centre for Plant Sciences.

He told The Times Higher that he wanted a new career challenge and in particular one that would see him take on responsibility for developing the student experience. He recalled being inspired by the teaching of David Cove at Leeds, where he took his first degree. "He taught the whole first year, and for me that said how important he thought it was to spend time on the subject. I want to be able to contribute to that tradition."

In his role as principal of St Mary's he will have, among other roles, overall responsibility for admissions. He says he is looking forward to having greater involvement with students.

This opportunity, coupled with Durham's strong reputation for research in the field of plant molecular genetics, helped to persuade him to make the move from Leeds.

"If I were to move anywhere, it had to be somewhere that has the support for my research in plant sciences and is a strong research group with a large number of colleagues," Professor Gilmartin said.

"The big difference is going from managing research here in Leeds with 160-odd academic staff within the faculty to moving into a non-research management role where I will have to learn new skills and build on the skills I have."

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