Professor Zulf Ali
Professor Zulfiqur Ali is the Dean of Teesside University’s Graduate Research School.
‘Generally, my role is to help support research across the University. Within the University we are concentrating on our research strengths but at the same time encouraging a broader culture of research, all of which informs teaching.’
‘We are a business facing University so most of our research is oriented towards practical benefits to society. These benefits could be in terms of economic, health, environmental, social or cultural.’
deep vein thrombosis
One such development is Professor Ali’s own research into deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism. ‘These are the most common cause of death in hospitalised patients.
‘With my team, I have been looking into developing an easy and inexpensive test for patients at risk. Current ultrasound tests are expensive and take a long time to get the results.
‘Patients are put on blood thinning drugs while they await the results – this means they could be taking medication they don’t actually need as well as being a cost to the health care system.
We have developed a cartridge and a reader which would allow a nurse or a paramedic to carry out the test and would represent a reduction in cost to the healthcare system. We have come to the end of the research phase now and are looking to test the device.
‘If that goes well, we will then look for commercial partners to take the device to market. The approach and technology that we have been developing could also be used in a range of different conditions to help with early diagnosis before a person develops physical symptoms of a disease.’
speeding up the drug discovery process
Professor Ali believes the technology used in the development of the DVT detection device will also be useful in the drug discovery process.
‘How an individual responds to a drug depends on their genetics, most prescribed drugs are only effective in around half of patients. For a candidate drug compound, if we can identify those individuals that will not respond to the drug then we can exclude these individuals from clinical trials. This will provide a better measure of the effectiveness of a drug and speed up the drug discovery process.
research at Teesside
‘Within the University we have organised our research through five Research Institutes, this is where the highest quality of research is carried out’
The Graduate Research School particularly provides support for the nearly two hundred full and part-time PhD students and around 170 members of our five Research Institutes.
‘It’s important that we work with the users of research and develop partnerships with other organisations, this increases the quality of our work. We make as much as is possible of our research results freely available through TeesRep our institutional repository. This is important for delivering the wider benefits of our research. We want to create a supportive environment for research, it is important that our students are exposed to leading edge research as part of their learning.’
areas of research strength at Teesside
‘Computing, health, social policy, business, engineering, history and art and design are all areas of research strengths at Teesside.
Says Professor Ali: ‘Teesside is one of the main chemicals clusters within Europe and so our Engineering research reflects some of this. Digital innovation is becoming increasingly important for our region and Teesside is leading the field. Professor Marc Cavazza, in the School of Computing is a world leader in the field of interactive story telling. We are also carrying out research with important social and policy implications. Examples of our work include research by Professors Tracy Shildrick and Rob MacDonald on perception of worklessness, Professor Nigel Copsey on right-wing extremism and Professor Michael Macaulay’s work on corruption, ethics and standards. ’
‘We have excellent potential here for inter-disciplinary research. We can bring together people from different disciplines to solve real world problems.’
An example is the collaboration of researchers who have developed an exergaming system – a high intensity exercise video game to help users get fit. It has been developed by Dr Iain Spears, whose background is in biomechanics in sport and exercise with Professor Alan Batterham from the University’s Health and Social Care Institute, Dr Wen Tang from the Digital Futures Institute and Dr Paul Crawshaw, a sociologist with expertise in health.
Zulf, as he is generally known, was born in Pakistan but grew up in Huddersfield. He is married with two grown up children. Zulf obtained a first degree in applied chemistry from Thames Polytechnic and a PhD in instrumentation and analytical science from the University of Manchester.
‘I was previously in the Department of Pharmacy at Brighton University but my wife is from this area and we would travel here for holidays.’
So Zulf was delighted when he got a position as a senior lecturer in chemistry at Teesside in 1996. He went on to become a Reader then Professor and Assistant Dean in the School of Science & Engineering responsible first for enterprise and subsequently Research and Innovation.
In 2010 he became Dean of Teesside University’s Graduate Research School.
It’s important that we create a supportive environment for research within the University.