The University has announced that Professor John McCarthy of the University of Manchester is to become the head of the new School of Life Sciences.
McCarthy has recently led a cross-disciplinary research initiative between biological sciences, chemistry, physics, engineering and mathematics at the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB). He is keen to promote similar interdisciplinary research here at Warwick, stating in a recent University press release that he was looking forward to taking up the role at the new
department: “Major priorities will include building an institute that promotes research at the interfaces between biology, the physical sciences and engineering, and integration of all parts of the School.”
McCarthy’s appointment follows months of controversy regarding the merger of the Department of Biological Sciences with Warwick Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), which resulted in the loss of nearly one third of academic staff across both departments. Many are still apprehensive about the effect of this merger on current undergraduate and postgraduate students. John Lapage, the Undergraduate science faculty representative for the SU, said that he had major concerns about the impact on undergraduate Biological Science courses, and wants the new Life Sciences department to “deliver, and keep the promises it has made to its students.” He also wants the new head to “appreciate undergraduates as part of the community of the department.”
Robert Gardner, a PhD student in Systems Biology, works in an interdisciplinary environment and can see the benefits of the new appointment. He indicates that it is beneficial to keep all science disciplines in one locality, but is also sceptical about how well the new department will function following the recent redundancies: “In the short term he [McCarthy] will have to work hard to improve the morale of the whole department.” Likewise, Steven Kiddle, a second year PhD student from Warwick HRI, still has reservations about the merger of the two departments, highlighting that McCarthy will have difficulty balancing teaching and research in the department with such a reduced number of staff.
Professor McCarthy is due to begin his post at Warwick on 1st October 2010.