A Change of Direction for the Bristol Doctoral College

terryFrom 1st August 2015 the Bristol Doctoral College will enter a new chapter as we wish good luck and farewell to Prof Sally Heslop and welcome Dr Terry McMaster as the newly appointed BDC Director.

Terry brings with him a wealth of experience and plenty of ideas for the development of the BDC and the vision for postgraduate research at the University of Bristol. We interviewed Terry to find out more about his plans…

Tell us about yourself… who is Terry McMaster?

I am a Reader in the School of Physics and my research interests are in Biophysics and Nanoscience – applying physical measurements to biological molecules and systems. The label “Interdisciplinary” works very well for me because all of my work in Research, Teaching and Postgraduate Training has been at the interfaces of disciplines and specialisms: Physics-Biology, academia-industry etc.

The last 10 years have seen me focus on how to train effectively mixed cohorts of students at these interdisciplinary boundaries, first with an EU ITN scheme with colleagues in Earth Sciences, Chemistry and the IAC, and then for the past 7 years, as Director of the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials. It has been a great challenge but also a hugely rewarding experience, trying to innovate with modes of training that emphasise skills development and personal confidence and leadership skills, alongside research excellence.

It was a privilege to be involved in the working group that led to the creation of the Bristol Doctoral College (BDC) and it has been really exciting to see all the work done in the last 2 years, for example in developing coherent training programmes for Postgraduate Researchers – so it is really exciting to get the opportunity to build on this substantial work and lead the BDC for the next 4 years. We’re very fortunate to have a dynamic team of Oksana, Loriel, Emily and Sophie to help drive the project along.

What do you think the BDC brings to the University?

The BDC operates at several very important interfaces: undergraduate-postgraduate, teaching-research, academia-industry and student-employability. If we can build up a truly dynamic and supportive PGR environment across the whole University, then it can be a tremendously powerful driver for the research life and culture of the University. For example, if we look after the skills needs of the PGR students, then they can be much more productive in terms of their own research (and outputs for REF!), and also much more able to deliver impact and social and economic engagement.

What is your vision for the BDC?

The BDC is the champion for the PGR environment and the PGR students at the University level, working in harmony with the Faculties, Graduate Deans, the Students Union and the various professional services of the University. I think the BDC has a major role in connecting the PGR community with international and national funding bodies on academic partnerships, and links with major stakeholder institutes, companies and charities. If we can grow the quality of the research and training and cultural experience for all PGR students, then a growth in numbers of PGR students will follow.