Birmingham and Illinois recruiting top researchers to tackle global challenges

The University of Birmingham and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are jointly recruiting top postdoctoral researchers in areas of common interest that also address major global challenges.

The Birmingham-Illinois BRIDGE Fellowship programme brings together international research teams in the UK and USA to recruit high-potential, early-career researchers and contribute to the research and academic excellence of both institutions in six key areas:

  • Cognition and Ageing
  • Brain Trauma
  • Computational Genomics
  • Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Economic Development
  • Diversity, Race and Education
  • International High Speed Rail

The three-year BRIDGE Fellowship begins in September 2016 with the first and third years spent at Birmingham and the middle year at Illinois. Fellows will spend the time conducting high-quality research before assuming an academic lecturer post at Birmingham.

Tim Softley l'scape

Professor Tim Softley, University of Birmingham Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer - pictured above - said: “In establishing the unique BRIDGE Fellowships, we will develop research collaborations that will both produce outstanding results and help to address the global challenges of our time.

“These are research areas of world-wide importance where both universities have demonstrable excellence. For example, traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability for people under 45 and is predicted to become the third largest cause of global disability by 2020.

“We are looking for researchers with the potential to reach the top of their field, as well as enhancing both universities’ existing academic strengths and contributing to the growing culture of collaboration and interdisciplinary research that exists at both institutions.”

Peter Schiffer

Peter Schiffer, Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - pictured above - said: “This partnership builds on the strengths of two comprehensive, research-intensive universities.

“The grand challenges facing society are inherently global, and tackling them requires scholarly collaboration across borders. Illinois has a long history of collaborative, interdisciplinary work, and this program strongly supports those efforts. We are delighted to partner with Birmingham to advance knowledge in these high impact research areas.”

The two universities signed a strategic agreement, known as the BRIDGE (BiRmingham-Illinois Partnership for Discovery, EnGagement and Education) Alliance, in March 2014. This builds on a four-year partnership and agreement to invest resources in strengthening research and teaching links. It enhances the city of Birmingham’s sister city relationship with Chicago, Illinois, of more than 20 years.

Stephen Bridges, British Consul General in Chicago said: "I’d like to offer my support and congratulations to the University of Birmingham and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign on the launch of this innovative Birmingham-Illinois BRIDGE fellows scheme.

“This fellowship scheme is just the latest development in this exemplary US-UK higher education partnership which is already showing impressive results. I have no doubt that the opportunities this scheme provides for outstanding early career researchers to join research groups at two leading global universities will result in the generation of further impactful research." 

ENDS

Notes for editors 

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ranks consistently among the top 50 higher education institutions world-wide, and is currently ranked #4 in the area of Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences in the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). Many of the technologies that enabled the modern electronic era were developed at the U of I, and the university has lead the nation in NSF R&D awards for the last five years running.  Illinois at is currently home to more than 10,000 international students and more than 2,000 international faculty and visiting scholars. 
  • More information on applying for the Birmingham-Illinois BRIDGE Fellowship programme can be found at http://www.birminghamillinoisbridge.org/fellows/. The closing date for applications is 13 May 2016.
  • The programme’s six areas of research have been chosen because they are of common interest to the University of Birmingham and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but also have a global significance:

-        Cognition and Ageing is an area of existing excellence across the School of Psychology at Birmingham, and the Department of Psychology, the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and the Center on Health, Ageing and Disability at Illinois. The proportion of older adults in the population of most developed countries is expected to increase dramatically over the next 40 years, fuelling fears about escalating healthcare costs due to a greater prevalence of age-related diseases and impairments, including cognitive decline. 

-        Brain Trauma is an area of existing excellence across the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at Birmingham, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is responsible for astonishing socio-economic costs, as it disproportionately affects people of working age. In the US alone, TBI is estimated to cost the economy over $60 billion annually. In developing countries, where its incidence is rising even more rapidly, TBI is a leading cause of destitution when the main bread-winner of a family is involved in an accident. In addition, mild TBI has been dubbed the signature injury of recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, whilst sport concussion has become a major public concern leading to reduce sport participation in younger age groups.

-        Computational genomics research will involve the Institute of Applied Health Research (IAHR) at Birmingham and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) at Illinois.The intrauterine environment shapes an individual’s health and disease. Adverse pregnancy outcomes are the major causes of perinatal and infant morbidity and mortality, and environmental exposures during pregnancy such as lead, cigarette smoke, alcohol, and nutritional stress have all been linked to long term dysfunction in neuronal, cardiovascular, and metabolic systems. 

-        The BRIDGE Fellowship in Cultural Heritage Studies builds on strong existing collaborative research and cooperative educational activities. Research will join the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage (IIICH) at Birmingham and the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management Policy (CHAMP) at Illinois. In both urban and rural environments, impacted by social and economic change, cultural heritage, configured in both its tangible and intangible forms, can aid regeneration and revitalisation of local communities with varying degrees of success. 

-        The BRIDGE Fellow in Diversity, Race and Education will be based in the Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE) at the University of Birmingham. Launched in 2013, CRRE is England’s only university-based research centre that puts a focus on combating racism in education at the heart of its work. It works to close gaps in educational achievement and improve the educational experiences and career prospects for people from racial minorities. 

-        International High Speed Rail research joins the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) and the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) at Illinois. The fellowship will be sponsored by Atkins, a leading international consultancy that works in the rail sector. The worldwide growth of High Speed passenger rail has transformed many countries’ and populations’ perception of the mode of transport. However, the emergence of different modes of High Speed operation leaves governments and development agencies with a bewildering array of choices – for example, whether to apply European, Japanese or hybrid technologies or how to apply a technical system approved in one country in another with different laws and regulations. The joint research will help to address such issues.

For more information or interviews, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or  +44 (0)782 783 2312 or t.moran@bham.ac.uk