News round-up

Read our news in brief

Professor Richard Thompson awarded an OBE

One of the University’s foremost scientists has received an Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to marine science. Professor Richard Thompson was named in the 2018 New Year’s Honours list after he was nominated by the Natural Environment Research Council, with support from the University. 

Professor Thompson has made a global contribution to the debate around plastic pollution in our oceans, and was the first scientist to use the word microplastics’ to describe microscopic particles, coining it in a paper published in Science in 2004. More recently, his public profile has grown with contributions to major governmental enquiries, in both the UK and internationally. He has also continued to publish high-impact research, such as the amount of microbeads contained in certain cosmetics, and the number of plastic fibres released by washing machines. Professor Thompson has also established the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University, and its publications have included papers coauthored with academics from the University of California, the University of Sydney, the Natural History Museum, and numerous UK governmental organisations.

Novelist and creative writing academic shortlisted for prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Tom Vowler – alumnus, award-winning novelist and Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing in the School of Humanities and Performing Arts – has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The quasi science fiction work, An Enquiry into Morality, is taken from his collection of short  stories, Dazzling the Gods, due to be published later this year. It focuses on morality and “what makes humans human”. He is one of just 21 writers to be selected from 6,000 entries for the prestigious, international writing prize in the category ‘Best piece of unpublished short fiction in English’. Tom’s debut story collection, The Method, won the Scott Prize and the Edge Hill Readers’ Prize, while his novels What Lies Within and That Dark Remembered Day both received critical acclaim.

Closer ties with Hong Kong SPACE

The partnership between Plymouth and the University of Hong Kong School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU SPACE) has been strengthened with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). 

The two institutions have been working closely since 2009 to extend lifelong learning opportunities and enable students to study Plymouth courses in their home country. 

The range of available courses currently includes BSc (Hons) Business Management, BSc (Hons) Computer and Information Security, BSc (Hons) International Trade and Operations Management, BSc (Hons) Maritime Transport and Logistics, BSc (Hons) International Supply Chain and Shipping Management and BSc (Hons) Tourism Management. The new MOU will enable both parties to explore new collaborative programmes that might be offered in Hong Kong, as well as pave the way for new research opportunities and exchanges.

Athena SWAN success for science and medicine

Athena SWAN success for science and medicine 

A commitment to fostering a culture of equality, fairness and equal opportunity has earned the University two prestigious awards from the Athena SWAN Charter. The Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PU PSMD) received a Silver Award thanks to their wide-ranging efforts, including improving the gender balance in meetings and interviews for prospective staff and students; creating mechanisms for promotion which are fair to all genders; and providing crèche facilities for important faculty events.

Athena SWAN Bronze Award

The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, meanwhile, received a Bronze Award in recognition of its work, which included surveys and analysis of the school’s working culture and support for staff aspirations; the organisation of the annual ‘Girls into Geosciences’ event for schools; equality and diversity training for staff; and the creation of networking groups. 

Established in 2005, the Athena SWAN Charter is part of the Equality Challenge Unit, and encourages and recognises commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.

Funding for STEM opportunities

A two-year project focusing on how disability can be a strong factor in affecting the outcomes of STEM students in higher education has been launched in Plymouth. Working with the Open University and the University of Leeds, the initiative will look to share and promote inclusive educational practices, including developments in fieldwork, lab work and online learning, and will bring together staff and students to further embed the values and practices of inclusive education. The project is part of a £7.5 million Catalyst Fund from the Higher Education Funding Council in England.

New School of Engineering

A dedicated School of Engineering launched in May 2017, with a promise to offer new opportunities to students, academics and industry. 

Building on the University’s existing reputation for world-leading research across marine renewable energy, coastal engineering, autonomous marine systems, structures and materials, the school will seek to develop new commercial partnerships and research collaborations. There are also plans in the pipeline to enhance the academic programme, which currently sees around 1,000 students working across subjects including civil and coastal engineering; mechanical, marine and materials engineering; and navigation and maritime science.

Deborah Greaves, Professor of Engineering, writes about the challenges facing our planet, and how the creation of a new School of Engineering can make a powerful contribution to regional, national and international priorities.