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Crossing the pond

Published: 
29 April 2002

Fifty young researchers from top universities in the UK and US are crossing the Atlantic to work with their counterparts in the first exchange programme co-ordinated by the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN).

The scheme focuses on fast-growing, globally important areas of research that depend on collaboration between disciplines and institutions. Climatology, bioinformatics and nanotechnology are among the priority subjects.

The universities of Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and York have teamed up with five American universities to implement the scheme. They believe the international experience, collaboration and contacts available through the programme will benefit both the individuals involved and the research itself.

These initial exchanges are for several months, but longer ones will be developed in future, building up to full joint doctoral programmes.

Anthony Vigor from the University of Manchester was awarded a scholarship to travel to the University of Wisconsin at Madison to research innovative approaches to local economic development. He said: "The WUN studentship enabled me to enhance my UK-based research through a visit to the US. The liaison with academics, and access to resources, in Madison has provided a new perspective on my previous research. I would recommend the scholarship to all."

Richard Ellis from the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Leeds said: "The WUN funding allows me to undertake a pathway of research I would never have considered without the visit to Seattle.

"The Meteorology Faculty at the University of Washington has a number of people with extensive experience in the analysis of satellite imagery. Being able to draw on this pool of experience will reduce dramatically the amount of time I spend assessing which of the data sets may be of use and which to discard."

Antonio Feteira from the University of Sheffield's Department of Engineering Materials said: "I had an excellent opportunity to carry out experiments at Penn State's Materials Research Lab, where I had access to world-class facilities for dielectric characterisation.

"My interaction with faculty members was extremely rewarding and will definitely improve my understanding of specific areas of science. The administration of the exchange programme was flawless."

Andrew Currah from the University of Southampton said: "My WUN scholarship was used to fund a research trip to the Department of Geography, University of Washington. During that time, I investigated the emerging characteristics of the digital economy in Seattle through extensive interviews with companies such as Real Networks and Microsoft.

"Overall, the scheme has provided me with a unique opportunity to exchange research ideas and experience with faculty and students, engage with an innovative research group and further cultivate the WUN link between these two vibrant Geography departments."

WUN will soon be offering a further round of exchange awards. The scheme will be extended to include exchanges for young academic staff and visits by distinguished scholars.

Dr David Pilsbury, Chief Executive of WUN, said: "A cultural shift is taking place towards forms of graduate education and training that transcend geographic and disciplinary boundaries. Our programme supports this change.

"It also contributes to widening student participation and the development of a diverse, globally aware workforce that is geared up for the challenges of the future."

Notes for editors

  1. The Worldwide Universities Network is an international partnership of leading higher education institutions. WUN builds on its partners' commitment to research quality and innovation in order to develop significant research-led collaborations in rapidly developing, interdisciplinary areas of global significance. This includes providing support for student and faculty exchange within the alliance and with corporate partners. In addition, the partners are working together to deliver graduate-level distributed learning. By sharing learning materials, pooling expertise and developing frameworks for quality assurance and accreditation, the alliance will enhance student choice and pedagogical effectiveness.
  2. The members of WUN are:
    University of Bristol
    University of California - San Diego
    University of Illinois
    University of Leeds
    University of Manchester
    Pennsylvania State University
    University of Sheffield
    University of Southampton
    University of Washington, Seattle
    University of Wisconsin - Madison
    University of York
  3. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrates its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £215 million.

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