An important part of the new Inverness College UHI building is its purpose built research hub.
Dr Melanie Smith, 44, head of research and postgraduate development at the college has spent the past four years preparing plans for the new centre at Inverness Campus.
It will create space for up to 30 staff and researchers. This will allow the existing team to expand whilst providing collaborative space for PhD students, staff and industry representatives, as well as partners from across the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Originally from Buckinghamshire, Dr Smith came to the Highlands in 2004 and joined Inverness College UHI after a short spell with Scottish Natural Heritage. An applied ecologist by trade, her research as an undergraduate and post graduate allowed her to build a strong connection with the Highlands, having worked on projects in Lairg and Beinn Eighe in Torridon.
During her time at Inverness College, she has built a 10-stong team of researchers and support staff whilst facilitating the creation of several specialist research centres including the Scottish School of Forestry (SSF), the Rivers and Lochs Institute, the Centre for Remote and Rural Studies and the SEAM (sustainable energy and micro-renewables) Centre.
Dr Smith, who recently won a UHISA teaching award for her support to postgraduate students is not only looking forward to growing the team, she is ambitious to increase the breadth of research currently being undertaken through Inverness College UHI and its University of the Highlands and Islands partners.
She said: “The research hub at the new Inverness College UHI has been designed to encourage collaboration between users, supporting a multidisciplinary approach to research. For example, cross-centre studies between the Centre for Remote and Rural Studies and the Rivers and Lochs Institute or the Scottish School of Forestry could assess the impact of hydro power on rivers and lochs as well as local communities, or the effects of the bio-energy industry on forestry management.
“I’m also keen to see businesses sponsoring industry-based studentships at the Hub as well as staff progressing their own research interests to add to the wealth of knowledge which already exists within the organisation.”
She added: “Many people are unaware of the valuable research currently being undertaken by our students and staff, and much of it relates to important sectors such as fisheries and forestry and modern issues such as rural life and sustainability.
“By establishing larger, purpose built research facilities at the college’s new buildings at Inverness Campus and at the Scottish School of Forestry site in Balloch, we will not only be able to boost the profile of the University of the Highlands and Islands partners as a provider of post-graduate studies, we will be able to increase our contribution to academic research across the UK and beyond.”