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Celebrating Birkbeck's research culture

Last month, an event was held to recognise the impact the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) Awards have made to Birkbeck’s research culture.

Catherine Heard, Senior Research Fellow at Birkbeck’s Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research, delivering a presentation on public engagement with her prisons research

Birkbeck’s most recent Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) Award, which has seen the College awarded and match fund £1.8 million in research funding since October 2016, closed last month. 

The contribution the funding has made to Birkbeck’s research culture has been transformative and on 29 March an event was held in Birkbeck Central, to recognise and celebrate this. 

The event included a welcome by Professor David Latchman, Vice-Chancellor of Birkbeck; lunch and poster presentations; awardee presentations; a panel discussion and a drinks reception.  

Professor David Latchman commented: “Birkbeck was awarded ISSF funding in 2014. ISSF funding was awarded to the 30 institutions who had received the largest amounts of funding from the Wellcome Trust, which is a great achievement for a small institution without a medical school, and emphasises our position as a research-intensive university.  

“Since 2014, Birkbeck has received two ISSF awards, and we have used those funds primarily to invest in our researchers, to allow them time to develop excellence in their research. With the second award, we funded 171 awards to Birkbeck staff and students. The world leading research outputs and engagement activities that the funding contributed to, and the wholescale rethinking of how Birkbeck can provide an environment which allows our researchers to do the best research that they possibly can, delivered a transformative return on investment.   

“This event was a really positive occasion, that brought our researchers together to highlight effective work and discuss new directions and collaborations moving forward.” 

Speakers at the event included Catherine Heard, Senior Research Fellow at Birkbeck’s Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research, who spoke on public engagement with her prisons research; Dr Louise Hide, who shared insights into her life as an ISSF Career Development Fellow researching historic understandings of madness; and Sanjib Bhakta, Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Biochemistry, who spoke on public engagement with his research tackling antimicrobial drug resistance. 

As part of the celebration event, an ISSF poster competition was held for award holders, which tasked them with designing a poster to explain their ISSF sponsored research, competing for a prize of a £200 contribution to their research. Dr Joanna Farr, Lecturer in Psychology, won the competition with her poster entitled ‘Understanding the pressures and self-management strategies of adolescent girls in their daily lives’.  

Joanna said: “Receiving an early career award from the ISSF provided me with a fantastic opportunity to advance my research on young people’s mental health. The award was given to pilot an innovative interdisciplinary project that explored the everyday experiences of adolescent girls. The project has led to methodological advances in accessing daily experiences and has contributed insights to the field of adolescent wellbeing.  

Professor Julian Swann, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research at Birkbeck added, “We are incredibly thankful for the support provided by the Wellcome Trust since 2014 which has been a tremendous support to our public engagement work and to our early career researchers. The second award was initially to cover a five-year period until 2021, however, this was extended to March 2023 to enable us to manage activities that had been delayed due to the pandemic. With the support of the Wellcome Trust, we have been able to conduct major research activities in all Birkbeck Schools, with three longer-term fellows undertaking research in Philosophy and Psychiatry: personal perceptions of madness; the Regulatory Mechanisms of Cellular Signalling Pathways, and Contemporary Literature and the Medicalisation of Attention. 

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