IBM Watson partners with top universities through its cognitive computing academic initiative

IBM Watson is an artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed in IBM’s DeepQA project by a research team which was led by principal investigator David Ferrucci[i] IBM Watson first appeared the game show Jeopardy! competing and winning against the two of the most successful contestants on the show, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

In 2011 IBM announced it was collaborating with eight leading technology universities to advance the question answering technology of Watson. These universities were[ii]:

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • University at Albany
  • University of Trento (Italy)
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst

IBM intended to market the DeepQA software to large corporations with a very high price[iii] in the millions of dollars, which was expected to decrease as the technology improved.  However in 2013, it was reported that there were three companies who were working with IBM to create apps embedded with Watson technology[iv]. In November of that year, IBM announced it would make Watson’s API available to software application providers, enabling them to build apps and services that are embedded with Watson’s capabilities[v].

There are several ways universities can get involved with Watson – from full semester courses with unprecedented access to Watson, to weekend Hackathons and Case Competitions. All designed so that students can engage with cognitive services, access IBM resources, and broaden portfolios[vi].

On 15th January 2015 IBM announced the first winner of its Watson University Competition which is part of the company’s partnership with top universities through its cognitive computing academic initiative. The winning team of student entrepreneurs, which in this case were from the University of Texas at Austin, receive $100,000 in total in seed funding to help launch a business based on their Watson app, which offers the promise of improved citizen services.









L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science UK & Ireland Fellowships


There has been a lot of discussion to support more students to study STEM subjects in the UK and Ireland, as a special efforts to support long term economic growth. It is the same with many other countries around the world.

However, how to support women to play a more active role in STEM subjects never seems to be easy.

I used to sit on the Education Committee of the UK National Commission For UNESCO. I recently come across this prestigous international fellowship to women in science. I thought I should do a short blog about it so that people who are interested in it could find out more.

Hope you will find it useful.

Best regards,

Dr. Christina Yan Zhang



2014 L’Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland Fellowships For Women In Science

1.      Introduction
The L’Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland Fellowships For Women In Science are awards offered by a partnership between L’Oréal UK & Ireland, the UK National Commission for UNESCO and the Irish National Commission for UNESCO, with the support of the Royal Society, to promote, enhance and encourage the contribution of women pursuing their research careers in the UK or Ireland in the fields of the life and physical sciences.

The National Fellowships are offered under the umbrella of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Programme, which has promoted women in scientific research on a global scale since 1998.

Four Fellowships will be awarded in 2014 to outstanding women scientists in the early stages of their career to enable and/or facilitate promising scientific research. The Fellowships are tenable at any UK or Irish university or research institute to support a 12-month period of postdoctoral research in any area of the life or physical sciences.

The value of each fellowship is £15,000 (equivalent € for candidates in Ireland). The Fellowships are designed to provide flexible support. The prize money can be spent in innovative ways to enable women scientists to pursue and continue their research careers – such as buying equipment, paying for childcare or funding travel costs to an overseas conference.



2.  Who is Eligible?


  • Candidates must be female postdoctoral level researchers who have already been awarded their research doctorate in the fields of life or physical science.
  • Candidates must have no more than 10 years’ active full-time equivalent postdoctoral experience (discounting career breaks, but including teaching experience and/or time spent in industry).
  • Candidates must not currently hold a permanent academic post, or have ever held a permanent academic post in the past, or have received, before the start date of the award, the promise of a permanent academic post.
  • Candidates must be undertaking research in the life or physical sciences. Computer science, engineering, mathematics, psychology, science education and social sciences are not eligible for this Fellowship.
  • Candidates must be conducting their research at a UK or Irish university or research institute.
  • Candidates must be a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA), or a Swiss citizen, or have permanent residence status in the UK or Ireland; and must be residing in the UK or Ireland at the time of application.
  • Applications are welcomed from candidates who wish to establish/re-establish themselves after a career break or other period of absence from active research or where the candidate is establishing a research career as a mature entrant or after experience in other fields.



3.     Application and Deadline
We can only accept applications made online. You will need to visit to create an account and complete an application.

Closing date: 14th March 2014 at midnight (BST)




4. Criteria are as follows:
1) Intellectual merit of candidate
· Academic records
· Ability to interpret and communicate research findings
· Evidence of originality, initiative and productivity
· Strong recommendation in reference letters (two requested)

2) Clearly articulated research proposal
· The relevance of the research and its impact
· The originality of the research proposal
· The proposal should be presented in a clear and compelling way

3) How the fellowship will enhance the candidate’s career and/or assist with a successful return to scientific research
· Whether the candidate has made a convincing case for the difference that this fellowship will make to her.



5.  Key Dates
· Applications website will be open from the 1st February – 14th March 2014 (Midnight)
· Reader assessment of applications takes place between 28th March – 8th May 2014
· Jury assessment of applications takes place between 9th May – 29th May 2014
· Shortlisted candidates will be contacted by phone and by email on Friday 30th May 2014
· Assessment day and awards ceremony takes place on Thursday 19th June 2014
2014 L’Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland Fellowships For Women In Science Application Terms & Conditions



6. Further Information
For further information, visit or email


HE News Brief 30.11.10

by Abby Chau

  • From Palermo to Milan, students in Italy are protesting  budget cuts as well as what some are calling drastic and tumultuous higher education reforms that has swept across the country in the last few years. There has been 1,371 different new laws and bills regarding higher education between 1996-2006. New initiatives have cropped up fast and furious with new and sometimes erratic new laws calling for the merging of universities, the standardisation of degree recognition, as well as the introduction of new degree courses. The newest set of bills however is causing civil unrest. Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini introduced a bill that many are saying would dismantle public universities because of its far-reaching proposals to change the system of recruiting teachers and effectively changing the governance of institutions.
    Full Story: Seattle Times
    More: New York Times

  • Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the UK government will be cutting the quota of international students for non-degree level courses by 120,000. International students generate a substantial amount of money for institutions and the British economy as they are charged three, sometimes four times the amount of tuition fees. It is clear that the government’s aim to further reduce immigration by 2015 will include a plan to tackle the number of international students entering the country. Net migration stands at approximately 200,000 at the moment with two-thirds of non-EU migrants entering the country as students. May said that the government will be creating 1,000 places for exceptional talents, including academics, artists, and scientists.  Institutions warn that with budget cuts looming, and tuition fee hikes, losing another stream of money could only worsen the situation.
    Full Story: the Guardian
    Read more