Four professors have been named and the program is now open for applications for the next cohort.
Launched last year by Imperial’s Senior Professor Ian Walmsley, the Provost Visiting Professor program aims to bring leading scholars to Imperial who will contribute to the community through scholarships, teaching and programs aligned with their research.
The program is specifically designed to recruit women and scholars from black heritage and other underrepresented backgrounds, with the long-term goal of increasing the number of faculty at Imperial among underrepresented groups. . The program is part of Imperial’s broader plans to increase the number of its academics from underrepresented groups.
Applications are now open for the next cohort of Provost Visiting Professors and will close on January 9, 2023.
Four Provost visiting professors were recruited from the first round of applications last year and will join Imperial in the coming months.
Imperial’s provost, Professor Ian Walmsley, said: “I am delighted to welcome our four new professors to Imperial, and I hope that their time with us will be the start of ongoing research collaborations and deeper relationships between our institutions. I know that we at Imperial will benefit from their expertise and experience, whether on statistics or infectious diseases.”
Below, we meet the four newly appointed Provost Visiting Professors.
Julie Makani, Provost’s Visiting Professor in Hematology
I am based at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) in Tanzania. In 2023, I will join Imperial College London for a year as Visiting Professor of Haematology.
My research focuses on hematology and blood transfusion, particularly sickle cell disease, how genomics can be used to understand disease and improve health, and how gene therapy can be used to cure disease.
I am one of the Principal Investigators of SickleInAfrica, a consortium working in eight countries in Africa and collaborating with colleagues around the world. SickleInAfrica conducts research in the clinical, social and implementation sciences, while improving the standards of healthcare and education of scientists, healthcare providers and the community. Another area I focus on is research involving transplantation and gene therapy for sickle cell disease. Imperial is one of the few institutions in the UK to be involved in gene and cell therapy.
In 1988 I worked as a senior officer at Hammersmith Hospital. This followed a postgraduate course in internal medicine at what was then the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, which later became part of Imperial. My experience as a physician at Hammersmith Hospital, which included a hematology rotation, gave me insight into how clinical and scientific work could be combined.
The Provost Visiting Professor program is not just about me, as an individual. I see it as part of a larger whole that will involve student, faculty and staff exchanges. I intend for the program to be the start of a long-term partnership between Imperial Oil and MUHAS.
Such opportunities for “brain circulation” (as opposed to brain drain) are important for Africa and bring benefits to the institutions involved. Most training and exchange programs focus on early- or mid-career scholars, but programs like this one for seasoned faculty are new and innovative.
I am excited about the program and since Imperial is a multidisciplinary institution, I will engage with scholars beyond medicine and natural sciences. Gene therapy for sickle cell disease is expensive, and I hope to work with the business school to examine health financing and the economics of making health interventions accessible and affordable.
Omu Anzala, Provost Visiting Professor of Virology and Immunology
I am currently a Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and a Senior Researcher at the KAVI-Institute of Clinical Research at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. I will join Imperial for six months from January 2023.
I am a doctor by training with a specialization in infectious diseases, in particular in immunology and virology. My job in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology involves teaching undergraduate and masters students various aspects of infectious agents, immunology, and vaccines.
KAVI-Institute of Clinical Research, an institute of the University of Nairobi, is where I conduct all my research, including supervising and mentoring MSc, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. My research work spans over 25 years, beginning with basic HIV research, vaccine discovery and clinical trials.
Over the years I began to focus on the intersection between humans, animals and the environment. My current research projects draw funding from Europe, North America and philanthropic organizations, and involve many global collaborators.
While at Imperial, I hope to work on a project related to vaccines in pregnancy and maternal immunity, looking at what we can do during pregnancy to transfer immunity to the fetus.
I hope that my stay at Imperial will be the beginning of continued collaborations between our two institutions, and perhaps exchange opportunities for students and lecturers as well as for professors. I am passionate about mentoring and training the next generation of research scientists.
We live in a changing environment and we have seen the emergence of new infectious agents with COVID-19 and monkeypox and the re-emergence of Ebola and Marburg viruses. The need to work collaboratively on all continents is more urgent than ever, and I want to work on epidemic preparedness and surveillance.
Alessandra Luati, Provost’s Visiting Professor of Statistics
I am currently a professor of statistics at the University of Bologna in Italy, and will join Imperial for a year from November 2022.
My research focuses on time series analysis, including nonlinear modeling of time-varying parameters. My work on spatio-temporal patterns has applications in neuroscience, and I collaborated with colleagues at the University of Cambridge to develop a model of spontaneous resting brain activations.
I have already spent some time at Imperial, as I had previously completed a short research period at the Business School to complete a joint research project. The dynamic atmosphere at Imperial that I experienced was one of my motivations for applying, as well as the willingness of Imperial academics to collaborate across departments.
I had a lot of discussions with the head of the statistics section about my time at Imperial. Teaching is important – that’s how we get students excited about what we do – and I’ll probably be leading a PhD module and supervising MSc research projects. And I have a number of possible research projects in mind that I will explore further once I arrive. Imperial’s math department specializes heavily in time series research, and I’ve met several Imperial mathematicians at conferences.
Pallab Maulik, Provost’s Visiting Professor of Mental Health
I am currently Deputy Director and Director of Research at the George Institute for Global Health India, Professor at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India, and I am also an Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia. I will be joining Imperial later in October for a year.
My research focuses on the provision of mental health services to the most disadvantaged communities in low- and middle-income countries, and particularly in India – which includes people living in remote rural areas and urban slums, and those who are incarcerated. I use technology and technology-enabled services to help the healthcare system work better.
I also work to reduce the stigma associated with mental health. I am the commissioner of a new Lancet Commission on Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination which will be launched on October 10, and I was co-chair of one of the drafting groups.
The opportunity to network and collaborate is what led me to apply for the program, and I hope it will be a two-way process. I look forward to working with Imperial scholars in the fields of medicine, public health, engineering and design to advance my research, and also hope to be able to provide opportunities for Imperial scholars to connect to my network in low- and middle-income countries. My research in India has implications for deprived areas of the UK, particularly those with South Asian communities.
I am already in contact with academics at Imperial about potential projects, including addiction and mental health, and technology solutions. I also look forward to getting as involved in teaching as possible and participating in institution-wide public engagement activities to share my research experiences.