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My Cardiff

Professor Nick Topley

Professor Nick Topley, the Sub-Dean for Research operations at the School of Medicine and Director of the Healing Foundation UK Centre for Burns Research recalls his first days as a student at Cardiff University

Professor Nick Topley

Professor Nick Topley

I first came to Cardiff University (from Aberystwyth) in 1979 to study a Microbiology degree. For the first 3 months it seemed to rain all the time although spending most of the time in the pub we hardly noticed. In those days a full grant went a long way!

There were only 22 people in our honours year, (small but perfectly formed) and we were made to feel special - being out in Newport Road and having our own refectory helped with the isolation. I recall the “merger” of University College Cardiff with University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology being a big deal at the time, but as students it seemed an irrelevance to us. During my time as an undergraduate the most important social experience was the opening of the “Club” in the Students Union. It was the first student nightclub experience in the UK that had everything including a disco, bar, food and cinema (that one usually ended up asleep in at the end of the night).

After my degree I crossed the road (literally) to study in the Nephrology Department in Cardiff Royal Infirmary and then spent two years in Hannover as part of my postdoctoral training. This was a formative experience (not to mention a 200% salary increase). I came back to Cardiff in 1989 to the Nephrology Department to head up a group working on peritoneal inflammation, which has been my major research theme ever since. As well as continuing my research, I have become more involved in the administrative side of the School of Medicine. Initially developing our core facilities portfolio as Central Biotechnology Services and more recently to a research operations role within the deanery within the Schools Research Management Group.

Over a year ago, we put together a large cross University bid to become the site of the Healing Foundation UK Centre for Burns research. I became its first Director in November 2008. This is only centre of its kind in the UK with an aspiration was to cover all aspects of burns injury from research to treatment and rehabilitation, including the physical and mental scars suffered by thousands of burns victims every year. Cardiff University has a very strong infection and immunity interdisciplinary research group and that was the bedrock of the success of this bid.

The merger between Cardiff University and the University of Wales College of Medicine in 2004 has provided challenges but overall has been immensely good for the School of Medicine; it has given us a tremendous focus and provided us with a number of fresh challenges. We now have to work within a much larger corporate organisation. The stakes are now much bigger for us; we are responsible for more than 50% of research income for University which we are extremely proud but we are also mindful of our responsibility to continue the research excellence trajectory.

Cardiff University has an enormous amount to be proud of, it’s an expanding institution and it has huge potential. Our aspirations should be to be one of the best universities in the UK and there’s no reason that we can’t be that. Cardiff University is the powerhouse academic institution in Wales and must remain so. The principality needs Cardiff University to be strong to support and drive the knowledge economy in Wales and beyond.

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