Campus round-up

August 29, 2013

Dry run for disaster

A mock terror attack may furnish valuable insights into emergency service response. Academics from King’s College London monitored the emergency procedures deployed for a simulated chemical attack at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre, which was coordinated by West Midlands Police and the private security company CBRNE. The experiment on 15 August was part of a European Union-funded research project, PRACTICE – Preparedness and Resilience against CBRN Terrorism using Integrated Concepts and Equipment, which tests countries’ resilience to attacks, with additional simulations planned for Sweden next year and Poland in 2015. The event will help governments and emergency services to improve disaster response plans, said Brooke Rogers, senior lecturer in risk and terror at King’s College London.

University College London

Concentration pays off

Centralising acute stroke services could save more than 2,100 lives a year, a study indicates. Health economists at University College London made the claim after examining results of a scheme in London that moved stroke care from 30 hospitals into eight hyper-acute stroke units. The move improved survival rates after 90 days from 81.5 per cent to 88.7 per cent, saving an estimated 400 lives since 2010 and £5.6 million a year. Using the scheme across the UK could cut hospital stays, save lives and improve patient care, said Charlie Davie, director of neuroscience at UCLPartners.

Goldsmiths, University of London

Wheeling out some old new ideas

Scholars are looking to the 19th century for inspiration on how to encourage more women to cycle. Sociologists at Goldsmiths, University of London hope that an analysis of pioneering Victorian female cyclists and their custom-made cyclewear could help to tackle today’s dearth of women on bikes. Academics will draw on archival records to hand-make five Victorian cycling garments and explore how the clothing, much of it designed by women, reflected ideas of female liberation. Sociologist and project leader Katrina Jungnickel said: “What 130-year-old cyclewear garments reveal are fascinating stories of secret cycling selves…in a time when many [women] had to conceal their cycling identities.”

University of Nottingham

Bumper crop of cash for questions

A university’s research income has risen by a quarter this year to hit an all-time high. The University of Nottingham won more than £170 million in new grants in the past financial year, thanks largely to a doubling in the value of grants and contracts going to the Faculty of Engineering and a jump of nearly 40 per cent for the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. The value of awards from research councils rose by 87 per cent and those from industry by 21 per cent. Saul Tendler, pro vice-chancellor for research, called the figures “a true reflection of [Nottingham’s] outstanding and world-changing research”.

Queen Margaret University

Fancy a weed drink?

A university has helped to develop a new juice blend that uses a “superfruit” native to Scottish coastal areas that contains high levels of vitamins C and E. Researchers at Queen Margaret University found that the fruit of sea buckthorn, a bush generally seen as a weed, is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It is now being sold as a seasonal drink blended with apple juice by Cuddybridge, a Scottish juice producer. Sea buckthorn fruit is consumed in China, Norway and Russia, according to the university, but until now it has not been commercially exploited in Scotland.

De Montfort University

Foxes’ fans hear tales of yore

An academic is to write a regular history column in his local football team’s match day programme. Neil Carter, a senior research fellow in De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture, aims to inform Leicester City fans about the history of the modern game up to 1914, examining significant figures, the amateur ethos and key events such as the birth of the Football Association. The initiative stems from an agreement between De Montfort and Leicester City to celebrate the club’s heritage, which could also see the university develop a heritage trail.

University of Birmingham

Elgar’s front-row seat of learning

The role played by the composers Sir Edward Elgar and Sir Granville Bantock in establishing a chair of music at a Midlands university was explored in a recent BBC Radio 3 programme. Staff at the University of Birmingham persuaded a somewhat reluctant Elgar to accept the post of professor of music at the university. The programme aired on 21 August in the interval of a live broadcast of a BBC Prom featuring music by Elgar and Bantock. Journalist and Birmingham alumnus Fiona Clampin, who presented the programme, looked at how the professorship came to be set up at the end of 1904 with the aid of an endowment of £10,000 from Richard Peyton, a local businessman.

Glyndwr University

Round Table, nights and weekends

A vice-chancellor has written a book on the Arthurian legends in his spare time. Ten Stories of King Arthur, by Michael Scott, head of Glyndwr University, will be launched in October in London by a Chinese publisher. The book was sponsored by Dezhou University, Shandong, where Professor Scott is a visiting professor. “It was a real labour of love,” said Professor Scott, who wrote it “as a hobby”. “I acknowledge the work of storytellers, writers and poets across the centuries who conceived some of the tales and inspired some of those which have been newly written,” he added.


High water and economic hell

Flooding in the world’s major coastal cities could cost more than $50 billion (£32 billion) by 2050, a study has predicted. Academics at the University of Southampton and Middlesex University are part of an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development project exploring the policy implications of flood risks as a result of climate change, economic development, population increases and land subsidence. The team’s latest research, published in Nature Climate Change, estimates present and future losses owing to flooding in 136 of the world’s largest coastal cities. It predicts that there could be a more than ninefold increase in the global risk of floods in large port cities between now and 2050.

Royal Holloway, University of London

Dead end for phishing trips

Computer scientists have developed a new way to prevent password theft, a problem that affected almost 38 million people last year. Cyber-crime experts at Royal Holloway, University of London, believe its Uni-IDM system could prevent “phishing” attacks, in which hackers build seemingly genuine websites in order to lure users to reveal personal and financial information. “We have known for a long time that the username and password system is problematic and very insecure,” said Chris Mitchell, professor of computer science in Royal Holloway’s Information Security Group. He said Uni-IDM, which enables people to create unique electronic identity cards for each website they access, would make it safer to access government services online.

University of Hertfordshire

Leading the UK pack on the track

Engineering students have defended their record as the UK’s top varsity motor-racing team after finishing 10th at the Formula Student Germany competition. The University of Hertfordshire team, known as UH Racing, outperformed its UK rivals for the fourth year running, ending the international competition in 10th place overall, 10 clear of its nearest domestic rival, the University of Strathclyde. The competition took place in Hockenheim between 31 July and 4 August.

University of East Anglia

Group effort on ash tree disease

A project to identify species of ash tree that are resistant to “dieback” caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea has been launched. University of East Anglia researchers have asked the public to monitor the long-term health of the ash population in what they hope will become one of the UK’s biggest “citizen science” projects. A mobile phone app, Ashtag, allows participants to report sightings of the disease, and a newly updated version permits individual trees to be tagged with a unique ID and monitored long-term, building data on the impact of ash dieback.

University of Salford

Nobel deeds inspire business prize

A new awards scheme has been inspired by a visit from Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. The University of Salford’s Yunus Social Business Awards will celebrate the best in young entrepreneurial talent as well as the achievements of local businesses that focus their endeavours on improving the lives of people in the community. During his visit to Salford in May, the Bangladeshi economist implored community leaders and entrepreneurs to direct the potential of enterprise towards humanitarian aims through his concept of social business. Martin Hall, Salford’s vice-chancellor, called Yunus “an inspiration to millions of people all around the world” and said he hoped that the award “will inspire local people and businesses”.

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