Farewell and thanks to Head of Researcher Development and chair of BAME network Dr Maria Arruda

May 24th, 2023

Head of Researcher Development and chair of the BAME network Dr Maria Arruda’s contribution to the University of Nottingham has been hailed by friends and colleagues as she prepares for a new challenge in her native Brazil. 

Dr Arruda, of the Researcher Academy, has been appointed as Director of the National Biosciences Laboratory, part of CNPEM, a multidisciplinary centre overseen by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation that brings together highly specialised teams and cutting-edge facilities to take advantage of opportunities for development in the areas of health, renewable energy, renewable materials, sustainable agriculture and quantum technologies. 

Dr Arruda’s association with the University of Nottingham began as a director with Brazil’s Ministry of Health, responsible for development of new technologies for drug discovery. With Nottingham’s Professor Steve Hill and Professor Barrie Kellam, she led the Brazil-Nottingham Partnership in Drug Discovery, which was dedicated to building her country’s capacity for identifying new medicines through research collaboration and training. 

Maria’s experience as an academic and manager of transnational projects informed her next role, as manager the University of Nottingham’s UKRI portfolio, working closely with then Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Research and Innovation Director Pip Peakman, and other senior colleagues in managing Nottingham’s strategic relationship with UKRI research councils and guiding the development of major strategic bids. 

Within this role Maria also lead the Research Development Network, which brings together research, business and development professionals from across the university to share good practice and promote personal and team development. 

Maria went on to become the strategic lead for the university’s Covid-19 research portfolio, helping coordinate our response to the virus, which saw researchers from across disciplines come together to contribute to the national effort to better understand, detect and fight Covid, advise government and healthcare partners and ultimately help people back to work. 

“It was humbling and a privilege to support colleagues who worked together with amazing dedication and compassion in such exceptional circumstances,” she said. “It showed how research can truly make a difference.” 

Next up for Maria was her current “dream job” as Head of Researcher Development with the Researcher Academy. 

She said Director Jane Wellens and Professor Lucy Donaldson, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Researcher Academy and Researcher Career Development, are “re-imagining the way we support our researchers, taking development beyond postgraduate research to every stage of the career. Here at the Research Academy, we see the research career as a continuum.” 

With Dr Sara Sleigh of Life Sciences, Maria instigated the Excel in Science Internship Programme. One of the first of its kind in the UK, the programme is designed to help budding researchers, particularly from under-represented backgrounds, to make informed decisions about future research careers. Excel in Science interns (who are from all disciplines) gain hands-on research experience of a research project, working with an academic supervisor and often with postdoctoral researchers, research technicians and PhD students. Maria and Sara received the VC’s medal in recognition of the programme. 

Maria was also instrumental in relaunching the Nottingham Research Leadership Programme. She said: “I strongly believe that empathy is an essential tool of research, and by developing highly-skilled, engaged, collaborative and committed colleagues we will strengthen our networks of outstanding people who pursue excellent research.” 

Jane Wellens said: “Maria has played a highly valuable role in developing the Researcher Academy’s trailblazing researcher development provision and has been instrumental in delivering an evolving, sector-leading programme that supports our researchers to achieve their potential. With Maria’s leadership our researcher training provision has been re-conceived and now incorporates fundamentals such as ethics and research methodologies, through to public engagement and research communications, knowledge exchange and engaging with policymakers and taking in coaching and peer mentoring.”  

Professor Donaldson added: “Fairness and inclusion lies at the heart of our collective effort to build a thriving, supportive and ambitious research culture. Maria is an inspirational champion of these values and as head of Researcher Development her contribution is truly significant, not least in working with our community to design and deliver effective programmes and interventions from the ground up. She has made a unique and valuable contribution to the Researcher Academy and our researchers.”  

Maria is also chair of the university’s Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network and Nottingham’s co-lead for ICARE (Intersectional and comparative advancement of racial equity), a transnational program bringing together scholars and practitioners to establish a global strategy for advancing equity for racially and ethnically minoritised communities in education research, praxis and policy.  

Pearl Agyakwa, an Anne McLaren Research Fellow and member of the BAME network, said: “Maria leaves an indelible mark on both the BAME staff community and the university. She has been an inspiring, empathic and supportive leader and mentor to many of us. She should be commended for how she supported the network as we collectively navigated the emotional and mental trauma of several distressing events- including the Covid-19 pandemic which affected our communities disproportionally, the murder of George Floyd, the publication of Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report in 2021.  

“Maria is naturally an agent of change, with an incredible talent and intuition for building relationships and connecting people in ways that lead to transformational outcomes.  

“We are inspired by her vision for a better world and how she always found ways to inch us closer to achieving this. The impacts of her advocacy and sponsorship will be felt for years to come by us all. She certainly leaves some giant shoes to fill!” 

Dr Arruda added: “My heart will always be ‘Nottingham’!  

“At the Researcher Academy it has been a delight to be alongside colleagues such as Researcher Training and Development Managers Dr Victoria Sedman, Dr Eleanor Forward, Alison Johnson, Dr Katherine Morgan, Dr Nicola Middleton, Dr Sally Zhou, Dr Barrie Edmonds and Dr Andrew Rowe. The whole team are supporting the career journeys of our researchers in such new and inspiring ways.” 

Maria’s last day at Nottingham will be at the Research Culture Conference on Thursday 6 July 2023. 

She said: “It’s fitting for me but more importantly underlines that as our efforts to build a healthy research culture are embedded in everything we do. It will be an opportunity to look at how we are reinventing our research ecosystem to empower everyone involved in research to achieve their ambitions.” 

Applications for the post of Head of Researcher Development are open until Monday 29 May 2023. 

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One Comment

May 25th, 2023 at 12:26 pm

Judy Muthuri

Thank you Dr Arruda for the amazing contribution at Nottingham. Thank you for being a great human too! We can all learn something from how you have engaged with each one of us in the BAME network. You will remain forever in our hearts. Best wishes in your next role. It fits you perfectly. Your country is lucky to have you!

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