Highlights from first three years

 
Outputs:

Publications: New potential treatment for influenza which was reported in PNAS (Taylor), new mechanism for N2 glycoprotein published in Blood (Stewart) and reconstitution of active ion channel published in Science Signaling (Pitt).

Awards: Election as Fellow of the Royal Society (Naismith), L’Oreal for Woman in Science award (Gloster), Senior Scientist Royal Society of Edinburgh Prize for Public Engagement (Whiten) for Living Links and a commendation for Junior Scientist (Cross).

Strategic facilities:

We have invested heavily in structural biology (700 MHz NMR and crystallisation facilities). Within BSRC structural biology has proven the most durable and effective bridge between physical and biological science. We note that structural biology is recognised as a particular strength at St Andrews with Gloster (Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow), Taylor (founder and organiser of the biennial post-graduate Summer School), Schwarz-Linek (protein NMR) and Naismith. Almost every group in BSRC is engaged in a collaboration with structural biology.

These facilities have allowed us to attract a new high profile group leader (in enzymology) from the USA (contract to be signed in July when notice given). In a similar vein we used ISSF to invest in bioinformatics supporting Paracchini (Royal Society URF) with a post and equipment (MiSeq and computing hardware). The School of Medicine (a member of BSRC) has built on this investment and appointed Dr Matt Holden (ex Sanger). This group has expanded and with its own identity is establishing a strong profile across the University. Within BSRC we have centralised both mass spectrometry and imaging. Our investment in a new confocal microscope in our facility allowed us to recruit two new group leaders (Drs Bischoff & Ferreira).

Seedcorn:

We have been awarded three (Naismith, Randall & Elliott) Senior Investigator Awards (Elliott subsequently moved to Glasgow). Terry Smith was rejected at interview for a Senior Award. In addition we have made a further 2 senior and 6 new investigator applications.

Whilst our process for senior awards is robust, we are reshaping our mentoring scheme and have identified weaknesses in how we have approached new investigator awards.

We have also secured an ERC Advanced Investigator (Naismith) and a Templeton award (Whiten & Laland). Further Naismith led the bid and secured WT and RCUK bid for funding for the UK involvement at the Hamburg X-FEL.

Spencer secured a BBSRC grant, MacNeill an MRC grant and Taylor an MRC DTP with data from ISSF.

Several other grants are pending (White, Miles, Stewart, Taylor, Gloster, Ferreira, Bischoff, Brown). New hire Goss has secured an ERC consolidator.

People:

We have successful bridged funding for the following scientists to an independent career (Dr Pitt secured an independent fellowship at St Andrews; Dr Zhang an independent Chancellors Fellowship at Edinburgh).

The following scientists were bridged into funding on a new grant (Drs Ackermann, Connaris, McMahon, King, Zimmer). As per an agreement with WT we used ISSF funds to support post-graduate training at a week-long intensive Summer School run by Gloster, Naismith and Taylor.

University strategy:

The focus on IBANS and BSRC has driven the University research strategy; both IBANS and BSRC have seen significant further investments in academic posts (at a time when overall there has been little investment).

This is because the University has seen that ISSF has provided a virtuous circle, by investing in and centralising strategic facilities the effectiveness of younger group leaders has increased and ensured more senior scientists can win very large highly competitive grants.

ISSF encouraged the University to recruit Goss, Ferreira & Bischoff to the BSRC.

Public engagement:

St Andrews has had a relatively ad hoc public engagement policy with no fixed University strategy. Engagement with WT over the ISSF has catalysed a strategic dialogue and a University strategy is now being developed. Despite the lack of a formal structural we have in fact had some very impactful activities.

The most high profile of these is Living Links at Edinburgh Zoo part funded by the WT ISSF; this is seen as one of the UK’s and in fact Europe’s most successful such efforts. It combines rigorous science (behaviour of apes) with citizen involvement (people carry out observations), is wildly popular with all ages and has been instrumental in a rethink of the role of zoos. As the project has progressed, it has become possible to study the people who visit it (part of the grant application from Whiten to WT) so we can learn about people and not just apes.

With ISSF funds we have imposed professional training to all WT supported labs (including those with ISSF) in using humour to engage non-scientists with our work. This has directly led to the St Andrews Bright Clubs, which are currently supported by ISSF