Research visit to the University of Glasgow

by Diana María Gutiérrez Zapata, PhD student at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia (adapted from a post in Spanish available here)

Between July and October 2019 I did a research internship at the University of Glasgow (UofG) in the United Kingdom. The UofG is one of Scotland’s oldest universities with more than 560 years of history. The main campus is a neo-Gothic building located in Gilmorehill, on the west end of the city of Glasgow. The university has a high reputation in research and is in the top 100 of the best universities in the world according to the QS ranking of 2020, it has approximately 29,000 students of which 37% are foreigners from more than 140 countries. Currently, the University of Antioquia does not have any exchange agreement with the UofG; However, this visit was possible thanks to the contact established since 2017 with Dr. Brian Barrett. 

My visit was to the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, the objective was to develop and improve skills in the area of ​​remote sensing and spatial analysis through the use of geographic information systems (GIS). My work experience was very satisfactory because during that time I became familiar with the use and programming language of the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform. This tool allows access to numerous remote sensing data sets that provide information about the land such as climate, geophysical, demographic or social factors. The use of GEE represents a great advantage for the analysis of geographic information, since it makes the loading, processing, visualization and analysis of data more efficient.

When visiting Glasgow it is important to keep in mind that the city is recognized for its architectural and cultural wealth and for the friendliness of its people. In the city and its surroundings there are many gardens and public parks; numerous world-class museums and art galleries that in many cases have free admission, including the Hunterian museum inside the main campus of the university. Public transportation has a wide coverage, but it is expensive, as is the general cost of living in the city. Although there are many foreigners in Glasgow and it is easy to find Spanish speakers at the university, English is essential, especially since some of the accents of the Scottish people can be difficult to understand.

Currently, the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences is related to the UofG through the participation as academic partners of members of the GAMMA research group in the project “Advancing sustainable forage-based livestock production systems in Colombia (CoForLife)”. The project is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in the United Kingdom and the following entities participate: University of Aberystwyth, University of Glasgow, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombian Corporation for Agricultural Research (Agrosavia), Sustainable Livestock (GANSO) and GAMMA Research Group. The objective is to strengthen and develop new multidisciplinary partnerships between experts from Colombia and the UK to improve forage-based tropical farming systems in Colombia. The project started in 2019 and lasts for 2 years, it has an experimental phase that will be carried out on farms in the departments of Antioquia, Meta, Cauca, and Valle de Cauca and represents an opportunity to consolidate relations and establish an agreement that allows academic mobility between the project partners.

For those interested in learning about this university as a postgraduate research student, they should consider that it is required to complete an application form that contains the objective of the visit and the approval by the home university and a supervisor at the UofG, as well as the delivery of a research proposal for the research visit. Once the application is approved, the UofG issues a letter of support for the student visa application and provides all relevant information for registration as a student on its website; the registration is complete once the visa is presented at the UofG service offices, where the card is obtained. This process allows the student to access the facilities, library and some other technological services such as computer equipment; However,

Finally, the author thanks the Mobility Program of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, the GAMMA Research group, COLCIENCIAS and the project “Towards resilient and sustainable tropical livestock production systems in Colombia” for the financial support that made this visit possible. Likewise, the University of Glasgow and Dr. Brian Barrett for hosting and advising me during the three months of my stay there.


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