I have been the MAPS Vice Dean International (VDI) since April 2015. This was a new role created in every faculty as the UCL Global Engagement Strategy (GES) started to take shape after the appointment of Dame Nicola Brewer as Vice Provost International.
The main objectives that I am working towards are the following:
- Give more opportunities to our students at all levels (undergraduates, PGT, PGR) to become global citizens, through - shorter or longer - learning/training experiences abroad during their time at UCL. This involves several possible avenues, such as: making our students more aware of summer project grants available at our global partners, increasing the uptake of the study abroad option and increasing the number of joint Master’s or PhD programmes;
- Raise awareness amongst MAPS staff about the importance of improving UCL’s reputation in the international arena on research, education, and innovation; and
- Facilitate the flow of information between the Faculty and central UCL about activities and engagement with international partners, as well as funding opportunities connected to various countries or regions.
In the past 18 months I have learnt an enormous amount about very exciting projects that MAPS colleagues are both engaged in and leading worldwide, and the very positive impact that we are having, both globally and locally in the countries or regions where these projects are carried out.
We have a very diverse portfolio of projects, across all MAPS disciplines, running pretty much all around the world, from China and Vietnam, to South Africa and Tanzania, and all the way to Chile.
This is the strength of UCL: its diversity of world leading expertise and impact; but also its weakness. We have been doing great things, but we have not been as good in collecting this information and communicating our success stories, neither within UCL nor to the wider audience.
Collecting this information has become a priority of the Global Engagement Office (GEO), so that we can become better in “telling our impact story to the world”, and I hope that with the help of every colleague in MAPS, our faculty can be the UCL champions in having all the expertise and international collaborations mapped out.
In the academic world, we all understand and appreciate the importance of international collaboration in science for tackling global challenges, be it in fundamental research or in applied science, innovation and technology. I am an experimental particle physicist, and currently the PI of ATLAS-UK, the consortium of UK research teams working on the ATLAS experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. ATLAS-UK is the largest scientific collaboration in the country and ATLAS is perhaps the most multi-national scientific endeavor, with 180 participating institutes from 38 countries, comprising a total of around 3,000 scientists and PhD students that represent nearly 100 different nationalities in the collaboration.
I came from Greece to the UK as a PhD student in the nineties and have been fortunate to benefit from the European research policy, both as a PhD student (I was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship) and as a junior academic (I was joint-coordinator of a European Research Training Network in 2006-10). Like many others, I have been proud to call myself one of the “early citizens of Europe”. Like many others, I am finding it hard to comprehend, or to accept, the recent turn of events in the international scene.
But, as they say, every challenge is an opportunity, and perhaps this is an opportunity for us all to promote science as the ambassador of international cooperation, and I very much hope that the entire UCL community will be at the forefront of this campaign!