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Introduction Annual Report 2015

2016-05-31

The activities of the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University Faculty of Medicine continue to cover a broad range of basic and clinical research as well as education about the nervous system. During 2015 the Department had around 170 employees excluding PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and clinically active researchers. In total approximately 300 people are active at the department. More than one-fourth of the staff is of overseas origin, enhancing the Department’s international profile. Moreover, the clinical research groups engage numerous clinicians; these are employed by the University Hospital, but have their teaching and research affiliated to the Neuroscience Department. The pre-clinical research groups are concentrated within the facilities of Uppsala University Biomedical Center, while clinical research groups are distributed in different buildings in the main University Hospital campus including the House of Psychiatry, which from 2015 also offer space for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The Department of Neuroscience is the result of a merger of 14 independent departments in 1998. One prime purpose of forming a joint Department of Neuroscience, from several preclinical and clinical neuroscience-oriented departments, was to strengthen interactions within neuroscience research in the clinical and preclinical disciplines in Uppsala. With time and despite different academic cultures in administration, teaching and research, we now are of the opinion that the Department has been able to consolidate a unified organization, and found synergies in teaching and areas for cooperative research, without losing the identity of each clinical and preclinical discipline.

Research

In the Department’s effort to focus its activities it was decided to identify and support strategic research areas of common interest and significance: i) to build upon already existing strong and promising research areas; ii) to build workable bridges between preclinical and clinical research; and iii) to create opportunities for innovation by bringing together research groups from a wide range of disciplines. The importance of conceptual focus on strategies, combined with pro-active measures by the Department is identified as being important for strengthening the scientific impact, increasing national and international recognition as well as for increasing success rates in the competition for major national and international funding.

Despite substantial cut-backs in national funding we were awarded nearly the same amount of external grants as previous years, offering good hope of continued success in our research for the years to come. The Department of Neuroscience is one out of twelve Departments in the disciplinary domain of Medicine and Pharmacy. During the year 2015 we increased our research activities from 10.8 % to 11.2 % of the total activity estimated within the Disciplinary Domain and the financial result for the research sector was in large balanced as reviewed.

The Department has faced challenges when three group leaders were appointed positions at other departments and moved both their groups and research from the Department. It is of course enormously satisfying when members of the Department are able to get prestigious positions against national and international competition and we wish our former Department colleagues all the best luck and that this will open up for extended collaborations. We acknowledge that the Department must be a dynamic arena and that we must work as a stepping stone for continued careers of our staff and students at all levels. In this perspective we are particularly pleased to see that two of our young colleagues who are active at the department were granted the prestigious “Young investigator grant/Unga forskare” from the Swedish Research Council.

Information and Department retreats

The annual “Neuroscience” day with information and scientific presentations was as usual held in March, to spread information and support intra departmental contacts. The topics were research at the department and how to write a winning grant application. As usual newly recruited researchers presented themselves and their research and the event ended with a banquette. The newly inaugurated pedagogic award “Neuropriset för bättre lärande” was awarded for the first time.

In August the Department again held a local one-day Uppsala retreat, this time at the new Hotel von Kraemer in conjunction with the new national resource Skandion Clinic for proton beam cancer therapy. The spectacular building formed an inspiring setting for this one-day event focusing on Department organization and leadership with connection to the shift of head of the Department that occurred later in October 2015.

The annual Teaching conference “Lärarhalvdag” was also held in August 2015. The half-day conference invited all staff involved in teaching, both teachers and course administrators, and focus was on examination and criteria-based evaluation of students. The successful meeting was held in the main auditorium of the new House of Psychiatry.

The media presence of the Department’s researchers has been high and daily updates regarding the Department’s activities in various areas have continued to be presented on the Department website during 2015. These updates are often based on internet searches, mainly in national and international media websites, of material published elsewhere on the activities of the Department’s scientists and teachers in the community. This news service has become popular for increasing in-house information on the external activities of the Department. The homepage has also been appreciated as a resource by the media and other institutions within the community as a source of expert advice from researchers within different areas of neuroscience.

Undergraduate and Graduate Education

The teaching responsibilities of the Department have increased substantially over the last few years. The Department of Neuroscience continued to receive the largest budget for teaching within the Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy during 2015, amounting to 17 % of the total budget. The Department’s courses for medical students in 2015 have been fully adapted to the “new” medical curriculum. Education in neuroscience is introduced from the start of the new curriculum, largely as case-oriented and student-activating teaching in groups of 8-10 students, with emphasis on integrating basic and clinical sciences.

The Department has extensive responsibilities within the Physiotherapy and Speech Pathology and Therapy programmes. The Physiotherapy has adapted a revised curriculum and launched a new version of the program during 2015, where Behavioural Medicine is integrated with Physiotherapy. The Department has also considerable commitments within the Biomedicine, Nursing and Pharmacy programmes, and plays an active role in the efforts of the faculty to modernize the content and improve the teaching methods of these programmes. In addition, the Department hosts an international Masters Programme in Biomedicine, which was given for the sixth time in the autumn of 2015. This Masters programme has been developed by the Department in collaboration with other departments within the medical and pharmaceutical faculties and is one of the most appreciated Master programs at the faculty with a high international popularity. It attracted more than one third of international tuition fee students that were also successful in achieving study-stipends in completion among both national and Uppsala University stipends. The program has a high success rate with as many as 33 out of 36 students who received their Master Degree during 2015.

In total we educate more than 600 full-year student equivalents at the Department and 15 students received their doctoral degrees at the Department during 2015. Of these, 9 were males and 6 females, 7 students were from the clinical research areas and 8 students were from the preclinical research area.

Conclusions

The year 2015 has continued as a fruitful but challenging period thanks to the work of the qualified and dedicated staff of the Department. Our continuing efforts to increase cross-collaborations of research in a supportive departmental milieu and to facilitate teaching as well as administration have been particularly rewarding.

Uppsala, February 2016

Finn Hallböök, Ph D, Professor, Head of Department (from October 1st, 2015)

Ted Ebendal, Ph D, Professor, Head of Department PhD (emeritus Oct 1st 2015)          

Click here to find the hole Annual Report 2015