Driving our research themes forward

Leaders have been now appointed to develop our six interdisciplinary research themes, which will be formally launched at Sussex this summer.

The six research themes, originally set out in the University's strategic plan Making the future, are central to the way in which the University plans and co-ordinates research. The themes will provide a forum to foster collaborative working, and allow individual academic staff to play a role in tackling complex research challenges that, working alone, they would not be able to address. The themes are interpreted broadly, and should be seen as evolving entities.

Professor Bob Allison, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), said: 'These themes will be an important part of setting out Sussex's research identity nationally and internationally, vital as we approach our 50th anniversary in 2011 and look ahead to the next 50 years.'

Environment and health

Enhancing lifelong health and wellbeing by promoting illness prevention and improving the management of disease

Professor Jackie Cassell, an epidemiologist working in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), will lead the research theme of environment and health. She said: 'I see the role of the theme leader as an arranger of marriages, in the shadows on days of celebration.

'So far I have learned most about health-related research in informatics, social science and engineering. Now I look forward to discovering the world of environmental research, and helping it connect across the campus.'

Citizenship and democratisation

Freedom, violence and reconciling conflict in an insecure world

Professor Stephen Burman, Professor of American Politics and History, is to develop the theme of citizenship and democratisation. He said: 'Issues of freedom, security and reconciliation of conflict are at the top of the national and international social and political agenda. My research colleagues at Sussex are at the forefront of critical thinking on a host of issues that inform these concerns.

'This field demands work that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries and is socially and politically engaged, qualities that define the Sussex tradition.'

Culture and heritage

Constructing identity and culture through notions of memory and place

Art historian Professor Maurice Howard has been appointed research theme leader for culture and heritage. He said: 'Green issues have raised the profile of the wider subject of heritage into something in which everyone can participate.

'I want to use my experience of national and local heritage organisations to make new links and strengthen old ties between the University and these bodies.'

Mind and brain

Unravelling the mind, brain and consciousness - from cell to self and personal identity

Professor Daniel Osorio, a neuroscientist, will lead the mind and brain research theme. He said: 'Understanding the nature of the human mind is central to how we see ourselves and our place in nature. This question motivated many of the University's early leaders, including Margaret Boden, and indeed the organisation of the University's schools.

'I tremendously look forward to getting to know the individuals and their work, and maybe helping them to achieve their own goals, making the University a stimulating and successful place to work.'

Digital and social media

Applying digital media to construct and communicate across space and society

Dr Caroline Bassett, Reader in Media and Film Studies and Director of the Centre for Material Digital Culture, will lead the research theme of digital and social media. She said: 'There is already exciting collaborative work around digital media across the University.

'I hope that the theme can build on these connections and inaugurate new ones within and across the arts and sciences - and also between creative practice and more traditional areas.'

Global transformations

Rethinking social adaptation in the context of changing environments and the global economy

Professor Alan Lester, Professor of Historical Geography and Co-Director of the Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, has been chosen to lead the global transformations theme. He said: 'I am genuinely interested in finding out more about what my colleagues do and excited about trying to facilitate connections that might not otherwise have happened.

'One example, among many, is the worldleading but, until recently, disparate work that is being conducted on climate change in both Arts and Sciences, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research and also the Institute of Development Studies.'

Junior Research Associate
(JRA) student Emily Lewis using eye tracker

Junior Research Associate (JRA) student Emily Lewis, studying the relationship between eye movements and memory.

Nick Skidmore reading a book

Nick Skidmore, who used the unique Kipling collection at Sussex to research the impact of the Great War on the author's literature for his Junior Research Associate (JRA) summer research project.

DPhil student Alexandra

DPhil student Alexandra Loske, using colour theory to analyse the interiors of the Royal Pavilion.

JRA student Lee
Cooper in lab

JRA student Lee Cooper, studying fly genetics to identify molecular pathways affected in human muscular dystrophy

(Research) Bob Allison, pictured
with the new research theme
heads: Daniel Osorio,
Maurice Howard, Alan Lester,
Caroline Bassett, Stephen Burman,
and Jackie Cassell.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) Bob Allison, pictured with the new research theme heads (left to right): Daniel Osorio, Maurice Howard, Alan Lester, Caroline Bassett, Stephen Burman, and Jackie Cassell.