UCL Grand Challenges


Academic leads appointed for the first of the new UCL Grand Challenges Themes

25 October 2023

Professor Essi Viding and Professor Argyris Stringaris have been appointed as Pro-Vice-Provosts to lead the first of the new UCL Grand Challenges Themes, Mental Health & Wellbeing.


Two academic leads have been appointed as Pro-Vice-Provosts to set the strategic direction of the new UCL Grand Challenges Theme of Mental Health & WellbeingProfessor Essi Viding (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) and Professor Argyris Stringaris (UCL Psychiatry) will jointly lead the programme, the first of the new Themes to launch, from 1 November 2023.

The UCL Grand Challenges programme was established in 2008, with the aim of bringing a cross-disciplinary, thematic approach to tackling some of the most pressing social problems. The UCL Strategic Plan 2022–2027 sets out the university’s commitment to grow the scope and scale of the Grand Challenges programme, covering not only research and knowledge exchange but also UCL’s approach to education and its institutional operations. The programme will develop an integral approach to how UCL understands and responds to the biggest issues facing humanity, inform and enable our partnerships, and offer context and critique for how universities can make a positive impact on the world.
The Strategic Plan identifies five new Grand Challenges Themes: Mental Health & Wellbeing, Climate Crisis, Data-Empowered Societies, Inequalities and Intercultural Communication, to be launched sequentially over the next four years. 

Professor Viding is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, with a background in child and adolescent mental health. Her current projects use interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to develop school-based interventions to improve wellbeing and reduce emergence of mental ill health. She chaired the development of UCL’s Mental Health Strategy, launched in 2019, and has led its implementation in the domain of children and young people’s mental health for the past five years.

Professor Stringaris is Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He works closely with young people with lived experience and colleagues from ethics and philosophy alongside psychologists, psychiatrists and computational neuroscientists. He recently chaired the Greek Government’s interdisciplinary committee on mental health, was President of the International Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology and was until recently the Director of the Section of Clinical and Computational Psychiatry at the National Institutes of Health in the USA.

As joint Pro-Vice-Provosts, they will provide academic leadership to the new Theme, and support new collaborations, both within UCL and with external partners. In a joint statement, they said: 

We are united by our passion for mental health and wellbeing and excited to work together with colleagues across UCL on this Grand Challenges Theme. UCL has rich collective expertise in this area and our hope is that the activities supported by the Theme will enable us to harness this expertise for the benefit of our own university community and the society at large. We firmly believe that we need to work across disciplines to achieve this goal: human beings are complex and embedded in different communities, so no single discipline will have the definitive answers for mental health and wellbeing.”

 Professor Geraint Rees, Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said:

I’m delighted to welcome Professors Viding and Stringaris to their new roles leading the Grand Challenges Theme of Mental Health & Wellbeing. When we consider the challenges facing humanity, it’s clear that improving mental health outcomes is an urgent and pressing need, and one to which UCL can make an important contribution through our research, education and academic expertise, and through our partnerships across healthcare, industry and policy. This Theme is also charged with identifying ways in which our institutional operations can enhance our community's mental health and wellbeing.”  

Related links

•    Professor Essi Viding bio
•    Professor Argyris Stringaris bio
•    Read the UCL Strategic Plan’s description of the evolved Grand Challenges.
•    Applications invited for Pro-Vice-Provost (Climate Crisis): deadline 3 November 2023