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Professor Donal Bradley became Head of Division for MPLS last month. He is a Professor of Engineering Science and Physics, and joined us from Imperial College London. We interviewed him at the end of his first month in the role.

Professor Donal Bradley © MPLS
Professor Donal Bradley

It’s been a very enjoyable experience meeting people and finding out what’s going on in the Division and its departments. From what I have seen so far I am very impressed by the quality of activity in research, teaching and administration.

It’s great that we have a single Division that includes the sciences and engineering because these disciplines are often separated by boundaries in other institutions. We should take full advantage of the benefits that ensue.

As the Vice Chancellor noted in his annual Oration this week, there are concerns about the impending Comprehensive Spending Review. We will need to work together to ensure that, whatever the outcome, we continue to focus on what we want to achieve and how we get there. This applies equally to research and teaching, and to working externally with business, industry and society more generally.

We need to plan for the Division as a whole and in order to remain competitive we need the right infrastructure; clearly there are parts of the estate that need to be developed. This is a long-term objective because we must generate the resource to enable it to happen through our own fundraising coupled with University capital support.

It’s clear that the Mathematical Institute sets a very high standard. It demonstrates the benefits of having high quality space in which to carry out research and teaching. Our ambition should be to bring all of the estate up to the level of the Mathematical Institute.

We have many disciplinary strengths at Oxford, which was confirmed by the REF results. This is excellent in its own right but also forms a strong foundation for interdisciplinary research and this week I attended the annual Oxford Energy Conference, organised by the Oxford Energy Network, bringing together academics and researchers from across the University. The Network is an excellent example of what can be done to foster interdisciplinary research and we should be striving to identify additional opportunities to draw people together from across the MPLS Division and beyond to focus on major societal challenges and to identify and promote emerging research opportunities.

Our links with industry and commerce are also important. By working closely with industrial collaborators we can identify interesting issues and challenges to apply our expertise to, leading, in addition, to a more diversified funding portfolio and enhanced opportunities to demonstrate impact. These interactions can also be good for the employment prospects of students and early career researchers and it can be very fulfilling to see products on the high street that owe more than a little to the results of one’s own research.

As Head of Division, I will be seeking ways to have an effective impact in the short term, but this role is a five-year appointment so it’s not about quick fixes. It’s about helping the Division as a whole to become stronger and I very much hope to hear your views on what will make a difference.