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£1.8M for St Andrews researchers

Two researchers from the University of St Andrews have been awarded some of the first prestigious grants from the European Research Council.

Dr Michael E. Smith from the School of International Relations and Dr Felix Baumberger from the School of Physics and Astronomy were both successful in their proposals for ERC Starting Grants.  The researchers expect to benefit from around £1.8 million between them.

The first “starting independent research grants” competition is designed to boost the careers of researchers, who may be working in any area of science or scholarship, at the time they are establishing themselves as independent research leaders.

The ERC award stirred great interest throughout the research community and the two St Andrews researchers were amongst forty-one UK researchers to achieve funding. Only 3% of the original 9167 applicants were successful.

Dr Michael E. Smith is to receive £760,000, the largest award ever made to the School of International Relations.

His proposal, entitled, “A European Approach to Conflict Resolution? Institutional Learning and the ESDP” aims to develop a theory of institutional learning within the EU’s foreign/security policy.

The ambitious project chooses four military/peacekeeping missions to investigate and compare in depth.  The Institutions, Behaviours, Values and Beliefs panel maintained that Dr Smith’s research is well situated in the School of International Relations in St Andrews.  They commented that, “The project is of very high importance both academically and in relation to practical concerns.  The idea of developing and using theory on learning in this respect is very valuable.”

In the School of Physics and Astronomy, Dr Felix Baumberger has been awarded recommended funding of over £1 million to develop a novel instrument for angular resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (ARPES) by combining a laser based ultraviolet light source with a state-of-the-art electron spectrometer.

The combination in Dr Baumberger’s project, “Laser based photoemission: revolutionising the spectroscopy of correlated electrons (Laser-APRES)” will be unique in Europe, pushing this important technique to a new level.  His proposal was submitted in the “Condensed matter in physic and chemistry” category.

Dr Baumberger explained, “This instrument will allow an unprecedented lookat the intriguing quantum many-body states in modern materials.”

The ERC expects roughly 300 up-and-coming research leaders, all between two and nine years after their doctorate, to be funded overall.  The greatest number of grants went to German researchers, followed by Italian, French and British candidates.

In total, the successful researchers represent over 30 nationalities and are based in some 170 host institutions in 21 different countries.  The grants will provide between ¿500,000 (around £350,000) and ¿2 million (around £1.5m) over five years for researchers to study at institutions of their choice.  The ERC Scientific Council will evaluate the process and the outcome in order to fine-tune this grant scheme for the next Starting Grant call, which will be published by the summer of 2008.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

The researchers are available for interview:

Dr Michael E. Smith – mesmith@st-andrews.ac.uk

Dr Felix Baumberger – felix.baumberger@st-andrews.ac.uk

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona Armstrong, Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 462529, mobile 07730415015, email fa12@st-andrews.ac.uk
Ref:  ERCGrants 250208
View the latest University press releases at www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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