Professors at the University of St Andrews has received two large research grants to fund their studies.
Announced on 28 March 2019, Professor Hill Kulu of the School of Geography and Sustainable Development has been awarded 2.5 million euros by the European Research Council (ERC) to examine the lives of immigrants in many European nations including the UK, France, Germany, and Sweden.
This grant is funded by the 540 million euro budget from the European Union set aside to advance scientific research for 222 scientists across the EU.
Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research Science and Innovation, said, “The ERC Advanced Grants back outstanding researchers throughout Europe. Their pioneering work has the potential to make a difference in people’s everyday life and deliver solutions to some of our most urgent challenges.”
Professor Kulu’s study, entitled “Understanding Life Trajectories of Immigrants and Their Descendants in Europe and Projecting Future Trends” (MIGRANTLIFE), plans to follow immigrants through a five-year study to examine how various major life events and transitions such as employment, housing, and family plans, effects the lives of immigrants and their relatives by facilitating testing through a computer simulation process.
When asked about his prestigious achievement, Professor Kulu said, “I am delighted to receive this award. The support by the European Research Council provides the opportunity to answer one of the fundamental questions in migration research in industrialised countries – whether the current differences observed between immigrants and natives in employment, housing and family patterns are short-term outcomes in a long-term process of cultural and economic integration or rather reflections of different pathways and outcomes for immigrants and their descendants.”
Professor Kulu’s research plans aim to answer questions regarding ethnic minority groups and socioeconomic inequalities.
When explaining what his research plans to focus on, Professor Kulu said, “The intra-group heterogeneity in marriage patterns among the Caribbean population in the UK provides a good example. Some individuals form unions with partners of the same origin, some are in relationships with white British, some with partners of other ethnic minority groups, and some do not form a union at all. Itis unclear whether this heterogeneity reflects cultural diversity or socioeconomic inequalities; and whether it is a temporary phase in the long-term cultural and economic integration or rather a sign of persisting socio-ethnic segments within British society.”
Recognising the importance of Professor Kulu’s work, Mr Moedas said, “The ERC gives these bright minds the possibility to follow their most creative ideas and to play a decisive role in the advancement of all domains of knowledge.”
Furthermore, the Royal Society has granted Professor Andrew Brierley from the School of Biology an award of half a million pounds to research fisheries and human-health by Lake Victoria in Africa.
The research period will continue for 30 months in collaboration with the Tanzanian National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO).
Professor Brierley hopes that his research will find new innovative methods to improve fish stock assessment so that fisheries can become a sustainable food source. The research also hopes to investigate the connection between fish and human infection from parasites in Lake Victoria. Overall, this research hopes to explore human-health and fishery connections while also examining the infection rate and sustainable possibilities of Lake Victoria.
As the second largest Lake and home to one of the largest freshwater fisheries in the world, 35 million people rely on Lake Victoria for its fish. As a result, LVFO coordinates its research across the three countries that border Lake Victoria: Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
Professor Brierley’s research will also closely examine Schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, a parasitic infection of humans that is common in poverty-stricken communities that drink insanitary water. This infection occurs when a parasitic worm, present in the water, emerges from their host snails and infects the skin of humans. Though not immediately deadly to humans, the infection can cause severe damage and can prevent many people from these impoverished communities from working.
Considered a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) – diseases that are common in low-income communities in developing countries across Africa, Asia, and the Americas –Schistosomiases infects millions across the world and is the second most prevalent disease in Saharan Africa behind malaria.
When asked about his research, Professor Brierley said, “Fish eat the snails that are the host to part of the schistosomiasis life cycle. It is possible that fishing on Lake Victoria has reduced fish numbers and that that in turn has reduced fish-predation on snails and led to increasing snail abundance. More snails may cause higher human infection. The idea of the newly-funded research is to look for associations between snail numbers, fish stocks, and rates of human schistosomiasis infection amongst communities living beside Lake Victoria in Tanzania.”
Professor Brierley and his colleagues have spent the past 18 months attempting to decipher ways to improve fish stocks to increase sustain-ability across the fisheries on Lake Victoria.
As a part of this research, this has included training sessions for researchers in Jinja, Uganda, and in St Andrews.
These two funding projects are major achievements for the University of St Andrews and although the two projects differ substantially from one another, both bring attention to ongoing issues that are important to highlight.