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University speed dating may help opposites attract

8 December 2005

A speed dating evening for researchers will take place at UCL (University College London) next week. The event includes all the traditional elements of speed dating but with one major difference – researchers are not looking for a love match; they are looking for a perfect research partner. The organisers hope that researchers from medicine and science backgrounds may find a suitable match in an English, anthropology or maths researcher.

The posters that have been distributed around campus to advertise the event carry slogans like: ‘You only love me for my brain’ and ‘Talk about the big bang on your first date’. The event, which will cater for up to a hundred academics and is open to all disciplines, will take place on 9th December 2005 in the Old Refectory at UCL.

The aim is to promote cross-disciplinary research but this promises to be an event far removed from images of fusty academia. Registration entails filling in a form decorated with pink hearts and leaves on a red background. It looks exactly like a speed dating form, except that where you would normally enter details about yourself, the researchers are asked to enter information that makes their research sound attractive.

The Dean of Arts and Humanities at UCL and Chair of the UCL Arts and Humanities Research Board, Jane Fenoulhet, who suggested speed dating at the first inter-disciplinary research meeting, said: “We’re matching the speed dating model as closely as possible. The only thing that doesn’t match it is the lack of alcohol, which will be off-limits until after the event. I hope the evening will galvanise and stimulate young researchers in particular by encouraging them to talk across boundaries more and more. We’re not looking for a love match but who knows what will come of it!”

Dr Louise Harra, a researcher in the UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics who has signed up for the speed dating, said: “When I first heard about it, I laughed. I’ve never seen an event like this that tries to mix sciences with arts and humanities. It’ll be interesting to see how we manage to communicate about our work with researchers from such different backgrounds. We’ll have to avoid using jargon and acronyms! I think people might feel a bit awkward but it’s a really good idea because you hardly ever hear about what other researchers are doing - even in your own faculty. I don’t have any idea what researchers are working on in arts and humanities. If they achieve something through this bizarre concept, it’d be really good.”

Dr David Atkinson, a researcher in the UCL Department of Computer Science, who also registered for the event said: “I’ve never been speed dating myself so I don’t know what to expect. It’s cheesy but it could be a bit of a laugh. It is so easy to get stuck in your own little office focusing on your own research. It’ll be nice to meet new people at UCL.”

He added: “We work in refining images so there may be possibilities with the UCL Petrie Museum or the UCL Slade School of Art. I’d be surprised if I came away from it with a grant application ready to go but I’m hoping there might be some links I could make!”

The event will follow the speed dating model exactly. A whistle will be blown to signal that one researcher must move to the next desk. In charge of whistle-blowing there will be a ‘master and mistress of ceremony’. Researchers then have just eight minutes to swap research stories, make a decision and move on.

Notes for Editors:

  1. To attend the event or for interviews and further information please contact Alex Brew at UCL press office on 020 7679 9726 or a.brew@ucl.ac.uk