Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weeknote #43

Last week Naomi and I travelled down to Bristol for a network meeting of the EPSRC Bridging the Gaps projects. Our NanoInfoBio project has now technically finished, although we do have £50K of continuation funding to take us into 2012. We were hosted by the University of the West of England BTG project, and the meeting went very well. Several projects offered a single slide on "The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful", and ours were as follows:

Good: The use of seed-corn funding (eg. £5K) to nurture ideas from initial "blue sky" sessions, through to prototyping and then subsequent large funding.

Bad: Nobody came to coffee. We had real trouble getting people to socialise and mix on an informal basis. Several projects reported similar problems with both real and virtual interactions.

Beautiful: The realisation of one of our stated aims, which was to "grown our own" researchers. We are now seeing MMU undergrads working on NIB-supported Ph.D. projects, and they will hopefully stay on to become valued members of staff, and help to train a next generation of inter-disciplinary researchers.

It was an inspiring meeting, and it helped me to realise just how much we've accomplished with the project in two short years. The real challenge now is to embed the lessons we've learned into institutional thinking, and the targeted continuation funding will make a significant impact on research activities ahead of the REF in 2014.

On a personal level, it was also a pleasure to catch up with Mike Luck, who's now Head of Department at King's College London (a post recently held by my Ph.D. supervisor, Alan Gibbons, until his retirement). I first met Mike as a potential Ph.D. student, when he was showing around applicants at University College London. When I eventually fetched up at the University of Warwick, Mike had, by then, taken an academic post there, and remembered me from the tour. He does great work on multi-agent systems, and I'm pleased to see him doing so well.

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