Health and medical research will get a boost at the University of Wollongong, with internationally renowned neuroscientist Mike Calford set to take up an executive position.
Professor Calford is currently the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Newcastle, where he has been instrumental in building up the medical research capacity of that university and associated health outcomes for the community.
He hopes to do the same in Wollongong when he takes up the new position of Pro Vice-Chancellor (Health and Medical Research) on July 1.
He will also serve as the executive director of the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), a joint initiative of UOW and the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.
"I've been at Newcastle university for 13 years and it has come out extremely well in recent rankings of universities, and I feel I've reached the point where it's time to move on," Prof Calford said.
"[UOW Vice-Chancellor] Professor [Paul] Wellings has now presented me with a wonderful opportunity to come down and help cement the place of the IHMRI, both in the town and in the community of medical research in Australia."
Prof Calford said investing in health and medical research was important for Australian universities, with about "half of the total research effort and funding in the country conducted in this area".
"The move by UOW to introduce a medical degree about eight years ago set it on a path to having significant benefits in terms of medical research, which has been boosted by funding from the federal government to build the institute, which was completed about 18 months ago," he said.
"And that puts it on a significant path to really get a good alliance between university-based researchers, who are traditionally in the basic sciences, and those in the health service who are looking for applications at the clinical end.
"It's pulling these together that's the job of the institute over the next few years."
In announcing the new position yesterday, Prof Wellings said there was a "critical need" to appoint a dedicated leader to drive the health and medical research strategy at the university.
It's no secret Prof Wellings wants to see UOW ranked in the top 1 per cent of universities worldwide, and boosting research is critical to achieving that aim.
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper said the faculty restructure, which started this year, made the new role possible.
"Under the restructure, medical and allied health and science now all come under the one faculty, which is overseen by Professor Don Iverson as the executive dean," she said.
"We have now recruited [Prof Calford] to look at the medical and health research strategy.
"He has experience in both research management and clinical medical research and it's going to be a real delight to have him on board."