Campus Round-Up

January 24, 2013

University of Bedfordshire

Hearts on sleeves wear out fast

Social workers who get too involved with the problems of their clients report higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, which can lead to premature burnout, researchers have found. A University of Bedfordshire study has discovered that social workers who fail to engage emotionally with their clients risk alienating them, but also reveals that those who “wear their hearts on their sleeves” may find it difficult to manage their own emotions. The findings were presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology earlier this month. It is thought that they could be used to design an “emotional curriculum” to be taught alongside the academic curriculum to enhance the emotional resilience of social workers.

University College London

Born to run things?

Leadership can be an inherited trait, research has suggested. A study from University College London found that genetic differences are significantly associated with the likelihood that people take on managerial responsibilities. Using two large-scale surveys and working with collaborators at Harvard University, New York University and the University of California, the UCL team compared genetic samples from around 4,000 individuals with information about their jobs and relationships, finding that in both surveys there was a significant association between the genotype rs4950 and leadership. They estimate that a quarter of the observed variation in leadership behaviour can be explained genetically.

University for the Creative Arts

Animated response

A University for the Creative Arts graduate has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Chris Butler, who graduated with a bachelor’s in animation in 1995 from what was then the West Surrey College of Art and Design, has been shortlisted for his film ParaNorman, which has also been nominated for a Bafta. The stop-motion zombie comedy is Mr Butler’s debut as a writer and director, having previously worked on films including Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005) and Henry Selick’s Coraline (2009). UCA graduates also worked on other films nominated for Oscars this year, including Frankenweenie, Skyfall and Anna Karenina. If Mr Butler triumphs at the awards ceremony on 24 February, he will be the fifth UCA alumnus to win one of the coveted trophies.

University of Bath

Ways of unseeing

People who lose their vision later in life use a different method of following directions from those who are born without sight. Research from the University of Bath looked at which methods people use to remember where things are. It found that patients born blind use an “egocentric” reference frame, in which the locations of all places are remembered in relation to a single spot, whereas blindfolded sighted and previously sighted participants follow an “allocentric” method, remembering locations as they are positioned relative to one another. Follow-ups to the research, which was led by Michael Proulx, senior lecturer in Bath’s department of psychology, could lead to the development of improved Braille maps.

Kingston/St George’s

Nursing grievances

Swift action must be taken to reverse the decline in funding for community nursing to avoid seriously weakening the service, a healthcare academic has warned. Fiona Ross, dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences - run jointly by Kingston University and St George’s, University of London - made the plea while being accepted as a fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, the body that supports district nurses. The best, most appropriate and arguably cheapest care can often be provided to patients in their own homes, Professor Ross argued, but a failure to train more community nurses was undermining the service.

Bangor/Kent/Kingston

Badger cull’s dicey responses

More than one in 10 livestock farmers in Wales have illegally killed badgers in the past year to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis, a study indicates. A team from Bangor University, the University of Kent and Kingston University was able to convince farmers to answer this sensitive question by using a randomised response technique. Each farmer was asked to privately roll two dice before answering. For some dice rolls they were instructed to answer “yes” or “no”, and for others they were asked to answer truthfully. The technique meant that data were obtained without researchers being able to identify which farmers answered truthfully, although the scientists stress that the figures uncovered can only ever be an estimate.

University of East Anglia

Crowd atlas

A zoological world map showing all known mammals, birds and amphibians has been updated for the first time in more than a century. Ben Holt, lecturer at the University of East Anglia’s School of Biological Sciences, has produced a “next generation” version of a map originally published in 1876 by Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection also known as the “father of biogeography”. The map revolutionised the way people thought about the distribution of life on Earth and formed the basis for human understanding of global biodiversity. Dr Holt’s version, which was produced with help from the University of Copenhagen, involved combining evolutionary and geographical information for all known mammals, birds and amphibians - more than 20,000 species. The map was published in the journal Science.

Trinity Laban

Offa’s song and dance about it

A conservatoire has been praised by the Office for Fair Access for its community outreach work in South London. Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, based in Greenwich, was highlighted as an example of good practice in Offa’s access agreements guidance report, published on 17 January. More than 16,000 people sang, danced, played, created or performed in live music and dance activities organised by Trinity Laban in 2011-12, the report notes. More than 7,500 were children or young people - from babies to age 19 - involved in music and dance education programmes, while 380 over-60s and more than 100 schoolteachers and community workers also took part.

University of Edinburgh

‘Big eaters’ may help big drinkers

The cells that cause liver scarring also help to repair the organ, scientists have found. University of Edinburgh researchers found that macrophages, which are found throughout the body and fight infection by breaking down bacteria, have a role in getting rid of damaged tissue and restoring normal liver function. It is hoped that a “trigger” that switches macrophages to healing mode can be found, ultimately leading to the synthesis of a drug that would help treat cirrhosis of the liver.

London School of Economics

Studies of depression

A £5 million centre has been established to investigate the global economic crisis. The Centre for Macroeconomics at the London School of Economics will be chaired by Nobel prize-winning economics professor Christopher Pissarides. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the centre’s five major research programmes will address unemployment, fiscal austerity, financial markets, shifts in the world economy and the development of new economics methodologies. It will work with experts from the LSE, University College London, the University of Cambridge, the Bank of England, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and other leading global institutions.

University of Birmingham

Something in the air

Researchers at a British university have joined forces with partners in India and the US to bring samples of Delhi air to the UK for chemical analysis. The academics from the University of Birmingham hope that results from the study, expected at the end of this year, could provide data for the development of targeted policy instruments to help control pollution in India and beyond. The research, being conducted in concert with the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, hopes to discover more about fine pollutants floating in the air and whether they consist mainly of material from, for example, car and industrial emissions, wind-blown soil or diesel generators.

University of Nottingham

Sustained sustainability

A UK university has been ranked in the top two of the world’s most sustainable universities for the third consecutive year. In the GreenMetric Ranking of World Universities, produced by the University of Indonesia, the University of Nottingham, which came top last year, placed second behind the University of Connecticut, making it the most sustainable UK institution. The ranking, which features 215 institutions, is judged on a range of criteria including energy management programmes, water and waste management and sustainability-related teaching and research. Nottingham - which also won the Times Higher Education Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development Award 2012 - was recognised for its performance in terms of water and energy conservation and green transport.

War memorial

The first UK exhibition featuring the work of war and conflict photographer Philip Blenkinsop was held this month in partnership with Falmouth University. Mr Blenkinsop is renowned for his work regarding “forgotten” conflicts, from guerrillas in East Timor to the plight of Hmong veterans lost in Laos’ jungles, as well as more recent output highlighting global environmental issues. Communist insurgents in the Philippines are among the subjects in Blenkinsop: Jungle Diary, which was held at The Poly in Falmouth from 7 to 12 January. The photographer accepted an honorary fellowship from the university in September.

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