GCU researchers impress UK's top scientist

08 May 2018

Sir Mark Walport, Professor Cam Donaldson and Professor Jim Woodburn with GCU's graduate students

Sir Mark Walport, Professor Cam Donaldson and Professor Jim Woodburn with GCU's graduate students

One of the UK’s leading scientists heard from GCU’s researchers and graduate students about their wide-ranging work. Sir Mark Waplort, Chief Executive Designate of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), was on campus to meet with staff and students before attending the Scottish launch of the new organisation in Edinburgh. 

Sir Mark, who assumed responsibility for the UK’s Research Councils and Innovate UK last month, said: “Our business is to support research and innovation in the best places, wherever they are, and I always enjoy meeting early researchers and graduate students to find out what they are doing. I’ve been really impressed by them.”

The University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research and Enterprise, Professor Cam Donaldson, welcomed the UKRI’s decision to build the Scottish launch around the visit to GCU. “Sir Mark is a role model, and it’s important for our researchers to meet role models like him who are major national and international figures,” he said.

“For our researchers to be able to spend time with Sir Mark here on campus, and for him to start a conversation with them and encourage them to apply to the various different research bodies he is going to be heading up, is a major boost.

“Sir Mark’s visit sets us up perfectly for our research week next month which I hope will offer everyone a chance to get involved.”

Professor Donaldson’s enthusiasm was shared by the early-career researchers. Dr Catherine Wright, a lecturer in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, said: “It just shows how importantly GCU is taking early-career research right now. To have somebody as prestigious as Sir Mark here to speak to us has been great and to show us the direction of travel that he sees UK research going has been invaluable.”

Dr Duncan McCormick, who lecturers in Construction and Surveying, said: “As someone who is new to research, to hear from someone who has lots of experience and understands how it all works is the kind of person I need to hear from about what the good opportunities are.”

During his visit to Scotland, Sir Mark pressed the case for continued and increased public investment in research and innovation and he advised researchers to focus on asking interesting questions where the results are potentially important.

“We are about making knowledge that people discover useful and so it’s about how we apply it for human wellbeing, for prosperity, for all the cultural benefits that knowledge brings,” he said. “We also need to look for economic benefit, for improving health outcomes and all the other benefits that citizens hope for because we are funded through the taxpayer’s money.”