Internationalisation of the Human Sciences Research Unit in PESS – Brian Carson

Research and innovation have increasingly expanded beyond national borders to become fully internationalised. The creation, accumulation of knowledge and their innovative outputs are nurtured by international networks of academic and technological cooperation. Research units are no exception to this evolution and have progressively extended the scope of their activities outside their country of origin to fulfil their core mission of producing high impact research.

In the Human Sciences Research Unit (HSRU), our interests lie in how human physiology is regulated by both exercise and nutrition independently, and the interaction between the two. It takes a broad skill set to deliver on any one project investigating these physiological processes. Within our team and collaborators, we have access to a broad and diverse expertise including sport and exercise sciences, exercise physiology, dietetics, nutrition, cell and molecular biology, clinical nursing, medicine and the clinical therapies to deliver on these projects. Recruiting and building a team with such a diverse background can take time and requires a search beyond the immediate locality. Luckily, we operate in a global society and research community. We have been able to cast the net wide and recruit and cultivate a young dynamic research team. We have researchers at all levels from the Principal Investigators (PIs) who occupy faculty positions, clinical and postdoctoral fellows, research assistants, PhD candidates, MSc students and undergraduate interns and volunteers. This team is drawn from a diverse background. Currently in the HSRU and associate members in UL we have researchers from India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Finland, Croatia, Poland, Wales, England, Spain, Greece, United States and of course a smattering of Irish in there too…what an eclectic mix!

We profit in many ways from such a diverse group. Principally, we benefit from their expertise and their unique skill sets within their disciplines. This enables each to make their unique contribution to the successful completion of high quality projects which result in publications and have societal impact. This enhances the HSRU and PESS department’s reputation internationally. We also gain from their experiences of other labs and institutions, the practices at some of the top research institutions in the world. This helps us to develop our own practices and procedures to deliver cutting edge science. Furthermore, it develops a connection with these labs and institutions internationally, thus expanding our network. Each member of the team also broadens our horizons both socially and culturally, making the HSRU a stimulating and friendly place to work!

This all aligns with UL’s international strategy. Recently the editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings said the following on UL’s top 200 ranking “An institution’s global outlook is one of the key markers of a prestigious university. The top institutions hire faculty from all over the world, attract students from a global market of top talent and collaborate with leading departments wherever they happen to be based. It is great news for all the institutions in the list of the most international universities in the world. It is a sign of great potential, competitiveness and dynamism.”

Building this type of critical mass and network in research is essential to be a competitive and attractive partner at the international level. Our aim is to be competitive and produce research which has impact across the globe. This requires funding structures to sustain this effort. Fortunately, the HSRU has been successful at gaining funding from Food for Health Ireland (FHI), the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine (DAFM), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and international industry partners including Dairygold and Carbery Food Ingredients. Without this funding, it would not have been possible to build this team who enable us to conduct high quality and impactful research. This in turn, positions us to access more international funding sources including EU programmes such as Horizon 2020.

The Team: Prof Phil Jakeman (adopted Irish but of British extraction!), Dr Brian Carson (Ireland), Dr Catherine Norton (Ireland), Dr Ioannis Zabetakis (Greece), Dr Pat Kiely (Ireland), Prof Dick Fitzgerald (Ireland), Dr Matt Herring (USA), Dr Martina Pauk (Croatia), Dr Sunil Kumar (India), Dr Manjula Hettiarachchi (Sri Lanka), Dr Miryam Amigo-Benevant (Spain), Dr Bijal Patel (England), Senayon Desmennu (Nigeria), Roisin McGinely (Ireland), Robert Davies (Wales), Sylvia Murphy (Ireland), Jenny Higgins (Ireland), Arthur Lynch (Ireland), Tom Aird (Ireland), Marta Kozior (Poland), Hilkka Kontro (Finland), Grainne Whelehan (Ireland), Rachel Cooke (Ireland), Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ireland), Sinéad Mullin (Ireland).

Dr. Brian Carson is a Lecturer in Exercise Physiology and is Course Director for the BSc. Sport and Exercise Sciences. View Brian’s profile here

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