University hosts national event celebrating interdisciplinary research and global impact

The University of Leicester hosted 50 Rutherford Fellows representing 15 countries in an event facilitating interdisciplinary research and enhancing impact.

The Leicester Institute for Advanced Studies welcomed 50 attendees, including representatives from Universities UK International (UUKi) and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, to College Court for the event ‘Interdisciplinary Futures: Enhancing research and impact through collaboration’ last month. The event brought together globally diverse Rutherford Fellows currently undertaking their Fellowships at various universities in the UK.

Rutherford Fellows draw on expertise from areas of design, engineering and disaster to contribute to the overarching theme of resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities. The LIAS currently hosts three Rutherford Fellows, who are working with academics from across the University to tackle global urban challenges and empower cities to drive change.

The event, funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), offered an opportunity for authentic interdisciplinary collaborations and networking. Showcased were academics building research careers in disparate disciplines, sharing a common focus on overcoming global challenges. Diverse thematic interests were highlighted, from childhood to economic stability, and archaeology to cancer.

Tom Child, Deputy Director of Global Science and Innovation in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “The UK’s research community is highly international and has a truly global outlook. The Rutherford Fellows event hosted by the University of Leicester was an opportunity to bring together a diverse group of 50 Rutherford Fellows to celebrate their achievements, forge new links across institutions and borders, and provide them with support in developing interdisciplinary approaches.

“I was impressed by the researchers’ enthusiasm to network, learn and share experiences, and delighted that I was able to hear first-hand how £13 million of Rutherford funding from BEIS had enabled almost 300 individuals to progress their ambitions here in the UK.” The event consisted of three sessions, delivered by high-calibre academics with varied expertise in interdisciplinary research.

An interactive masterclass delivered by Dr Laura Meagher, Research Explorer at the University of Edinburgh and Senior Partner of the Technology Development Group, sparked important discussions surrounding the importance of fostering a shared language in interdisciplinary teams.

Dr Meagher said: “I see interdisciplinarity, generation of non-academic impacts, and international collaboration as having quite a bit in common: they are all processes that benefit from understanding, dedicated effort and building genuine relationships of mutual respect.

“Furthermore, all three processes are necessary if we are to tackle inevitably global challenges. I was particularly pleased therefore to see the lively engagement of International Rutherford Fellows at the day-long event on interdisciplinarity hosted by LIAS in February; their enthusiasm bodes well for the future.”

Professor Ross Parry, University of Leicester's Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Digital) and Professor of Museum Studies, led an ideathon focused on the academic individual, building on emergent themes such as confidence to read ‘between the spaces’ with complex challenges, and how to obtain clear conceptual frameworks when publishing interdisciplinary material.

The keynote lecture, ‘(Mathematics + Computation) x Biology + Sociology = adventures in interdisciplinary research’, was delivered by Professor Dov Stekel, Professor of Computational Biology at the University of Nottingham.

Professor Lisa Smith, Director of the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies, said: “The Leicester Institute for Advanced Studies was delighted to have the opportunity to host the UK-based Rutherford Fellows for this unique event.

“We learned so much from spending the day with this diverse group of global scholars, and our invited speakers and facilitators challenged everyone to think imaginatively about how interdisciplinary approaches can enhance research and impact.”

The Leicester Institute for Advanced Studies is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence. Dedicated to creating a collaborative and inspiring environment, it brings together researchers from across all disciplines to deliver ambitious, transformative and impactful research.