Dr. Denis Kramer is currently the Associate Professor within the Engineering and Environment at the The University of Southampton (UoS), which has more than 240 research groups engaged in cutting-edge research in UK. On a one-to-one interaction with HER magazine, Dr. Kramer talks about the attempts made by his research-intensive university to collaborate with other institutions from the developing countries and many more.
Q. Tell us about the research culture which is prevailing in the University of Southampton
A part of Russell group, The University of Southampton is renowned for its research intense culture, which is broadening its links with various other research institutions across the globe. Our department has more than 1600 PhD students and 350 faculty members who pioneer new ways in research by collaborating with inter-disciplinary academics. We foster research activities to the students from their undergrad by ensuring that they pick up projects, which are research intensive and they get an opportunity to work with us. This makes them understand the concepts of research and handling of advanced instruments. We work together on a particular issue, for which we hope to stretch boundaries, challenge traditional ways of thinking, and finding new solutions to our existing problems.
Q. Why students must be encouraged to indulge in research activities?
When our students indulge themselves into research, they find solutions to the existing problems through innovative ideas. So, we emphasise on taking more young researchers into our institute, as they have a different perspective in solving problems. When people start seeing their problems slightly different, they would end up finding new directions in resolving it. But, the young researchers around the globe face difficulty in taking their research forward as the nation's interest in developing technologies are quite different from their own. So, we decided to collaborate with research institutes from different countries, so that the researchers will be able to provide optimum solution in their research activities.
Q. When collaborating with other research institutes, there are various set-backs you will face in the process of transition of knowledge. How do you overcome those challenges?
Quite often students from foreign nations face difficulty in handling the cultural barrier rather than intellectual or knowledge barrier. International students can overcome knowledge barrier as they are intellectually good. So, to overcome the cultural barrier, the UoS has initiated the International Students Office to integrate foreign students to get along with the U.K. environment so that the students can focus on their research activities.
Q. The University of Southampton has tie-ups with other research institutes to promote research activities. Can you elaborate on the positive aspect of having these tie-ups?
We have indulged in enhancing our tie-ups with other research Institutes in developing nations. The students from other research institute can enjoy various facilities from funding to availing of our advanced research apparatus. Our research activities are funded by Russell group. One of the positive aspects of these tie-ups is that the students who are moving from A to B get access to different facilities which are not available in their own research centres and also let them to collaborate with like-minded people. Our University, which has one of the largest research centres in UK, has invited students from developing countries like India, South Africa and so on to provide them access to the advanced research techniques. When people from different institutes work together, they can find creative ends to solve problems. We have various students exchange programs with research institutions in South Africa.
The main focus of this collaboration is to understand global boundary conditions as the technology we develop in UK cannot fit every other country. So, if a nation wants to eliminate technological constrains, then the only solution is to collaborate with other research institutions. The UK government encourages research institutes to collaborate with developing countries because they have earmarked foreign aid budget to support research activities in developing countries. The UK government has recognised that it is not enough to transfer technologies but to transfer skills. With funding and research collaborations, the Government wants to transfer skills and ensure that the people from developing countries will have the ability to develop their own technologies.
Q. The University of Southampton is conducting workshops to bring researchers from Britain and India together. What are the positive implications will this collaboration have on Indian researchers?
These workshops are funded by Newton fund, which supports research activities in other developing countries. We invite research scholars to participate in this workshop where the students have to showcase their research activity and the best will be filtered by our selection committee. The selected students will get an access to work with the large facilities in our University.
Q. What is the advice you want to send out to the aspiring researchers?
The advice for the aspiring researchers is that if they want to do research to make an impact then they have to find a good place to do that, they have to travel to different places to meet like-minded people. Mostly, the researchers should have a maximum tolerance level to accept failure as perseverance is the most important lesson one can learn while doing a research.