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National Oceanography Centre, Southampton receives its largest ever gift to support transatlantic exchange

Published: 24 October 2007

An innovative transatlantic student and academic staff exchange programme has been made possible with the largest individual philanthropic gift ever received by the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), the UK's leading centre for marine science.

Through the generosity of Dr Dennis and Joan Gillings, the Gillings Family Foundation will award £250,000 to fund the five-year exchange programme. Dr Gillings is Chairman and CEO of Quintiles Transnational Corp., the world's leading pharmaceutical services company, and is Pro-Chancellor of the University of Southampton. Joan Gillings chairs the University's Development Trust.

The exchange programme was born out of a desire by the Gillingses to enable links between the University of North Carolina Wilmington's (UNCW) Center for Marine Science (CMS) and University of Southampton's School of Ocean & Earth Science, which is based at NOCS. "On behalf of the Gillings Family Foundation, we are pleased and excited about the collaboration between two fine universities that are sharing knowledge and gaining global experience," said Joan Gillings.

The exchange programme was established through a seed gift of £50,000 from the Gillings Family Foundation in 2006. The Gillings Family Foundation's recent gift will expand the programme to five years, to involve postgraduate students, as well as a week of field-based training at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS).

Professor Andrew Roberts, Head of the University of Southampton's School of Ocean & Earth Science, said: "We are thrilled with the Gillings Family Foundation's investment. Students are at the heart of what we do at the University and the Gillingses' generous support will give us the opportunity to internationalise our students' experience and to build a culture of philanthropy at the oceanography centre."

Part of the NOCS strategy is to increase its capacity to develop a new generation of mobile, highly trained researchers and to internationalise its undergraduate and postgraduate training. NOCS' vibrant research environment and technological capability, coupled with CMS's expertise in coastal ecology and marine biology, will serve as a catalyst to generate new research collaboration.

"We are pleased to be working with our colleagues at UNCW in educating the next generation of ocean scientists and collaborating in areas of mutual scientific interest," said Professor Roberts.

The first students from Southampton to participate in the exchange programme will travel to UNCW in early 2008. Martyn Papworth and Kris Stevenson, are enrolled on the Masters of Oceanography with Study in North America programme at Southampton.

Meanwhile the forthcoming research cruise from NOCS to the Caribbean to assess the impact of volcanic eruptions from Montserrat on seawater will carry a researcher from CMS. Dr Bongkeun Song, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Biology & Marine Biology, will join the expedition aboard the recently named Royal Research Vessel James Cook in early December.

Dr Dan Baden, William R Kenan Distinguished Professor of Marine Science and Director of the UNCW Center for Marine Science, said "With generous funding from the Gillings Family Foundation, CMS and NOCS will combine forces to create a unique transatlantic research and education opportunity. Complementing each other's strengths, the two centres will capitalize on integrated concepts and global ocean science opportunities for students and faculty. Collaboration and interdisciplinary teamwork are mantras of today's great science engines; serendipitous discovery coming from such opportunities."

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