Hello and welcome back to the new academic year which I’m sure you are approaching with vitality and vigour!I joined the University of Edinburgh in May as Director of the Research Support Office. I have a very talented team and my priority is to provide the best support for our researchers throughout the research pipeline. Today though, I’d thought I’d give a little information about me, and how I see our team developing over the coming months and years.
I think of myself as a frustrated researcher at heart! My background is in chemistry – originally forensic chemistry before moving on to a PhD in inorganic chemistry where I used very reactive alkali metals in combination with transition metals to create molecules which could carry out fast and selective reactions. It was exciting, much of my work was air sensitive (catching fire if exposed to oxygen!) but I reached a point where I couldn’t see how my research would deliver impact so I left the bench.
However, I love research and being involved in cutting edge research remained a passion of mine. So, after working in industry and in the charity sector, I eventually found myself in research management where I have worked in School, College and university level roles. I strive to help those with the same passion for their research to deliver their work. I have worked closely with researchers as projects are nurtured from concept to delivery. I think it is incredibly satisfying to see commercialisation, policy change, public engagement or public impact from research.
Most recently, I led the development of a Research Strategy for King’s College London. I focused very much on actions – how to create an environment which supports excellent research and nurtures the best research talent. I also spent significant time developing and writing large research grant applications – which I find an exciting and challenging part of the job. I have worked closely with academic colleagues to pull together and co-write various applications, where my focus tends to be resource justification, management, governance, staff development and impact & engagement but I think I also have an eye for a good scientific story – making sure the ‘pitch’ comes across. I worked on the Wellcome Centre application at King’s – a £12M multi-faculty bid and incredibly satisfying to see awarded earlier this year before I left to join Edinburgh.
My job is to understand how we can provide the right expertise to help with research funding, delivery and impact whilst the environment is rapidly changing. We must be agile in our approach to take advantage of new opportunities. The team within RSO has vast expertise across funders, schemes and application development. One of my key aims is to increase awareness of RSO and perception of how the team can support research. We certainly aren’t here to introduce red tape – I will make sure the process is as seamless as possible – but we can help with quality, applicability and delivery of applications.
My intention to create an environment which supports excellent research and nurtures the best research talent remains. Over the coming months I will engage with academic colleagues to understand how we can best support their research endeavour and make sure Research Support at Edinburgh is high quality, efficient and effective.
This is an exciting time for research and the research support office will develop to ensure we can enable your research at all stages.
Dr Lorna Thomson is Director of the Research Support Office at the University of Edinburgh.