A research project is under way that aims to shed light on how the relationship between humans and chickens has developed over the past 8,000 years. Led by Mark Maltby, reader in archaeology at Bournemouth University, researchers will use archaeological records to investigate the history of the world’s most widely established livestock animal, which is descended from wild junglefowl in South East Asia. In collaboration with academics at the universities of Durham, Nottingham, Leicester, Roehampton and York, the £2 million, three-year project will examine when and how rapidly domesticated chickens spread across Europe and the history of their exploitation for meat and eggs. The study will also consider the ancient and modern cultural significance of the birds.
A higher education institution has secured a £1.6 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant to make its archives and special collections more accessible. The University of Huddersfield will use the grant to build a repository centre to house its heritage collections, which include the archives of the Rugby League and the British Music Collection (the latter contains more than 30,000 scores and recordings from contemporary British composers). Tim Thornton, pro vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to put the university’s record for academic excellence together with our local communities and people further afield.”
University’s past is prologue
The UK’s first historian officially dedicated to an individual university’s past has been appointed. James Hopkins will take up the role at the University of Manchester, and will also become an honorary research fellow at the institution’s School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. Dr Hopkins said that such roles existed at some universities overseas, especially in the US, but this was thought to be the only full-time example in the UK. “While research and teaching is obviously at the core of our history, we’re also really interested in the diverse social histories of our staff and students, and our engagement with the city,” he said.
Royal Academy of Music, London
He’s still standing
Music students performed with Sir Elton John in a televised show celebrating the pop star’s life. Brass and musical theatre students from the Royal Academy of Music, University of London took to the stage as the singer-songwriter received the inaugural Brits Icon Award. During the concert, Sir Elton talked about the importance of his six years as a junior exhibitioner at the academy before he dropped out at the age of 17 to pursue a rock career. The show, which took place on 2 September at the London Palladium, was screened on ITV1 on 13 September. Students from the arts institution also appeared with Sir Elton for concerts at the BBC Radio Theatre on 11 September and the Roundhouse on 12 September.
University College London
The pieces are quite fiddly
Young researchers have created a low-cost, super-strength microscope using Lego. As part of the Lego2Nano competition, students, experienced makers and scientists were invited to Beijing to see if they could build a cheap and effective atomic-force microscope, a device capable of seeing objects only 1 millionth of a millimetre in size – far smaller than anything an optical microscope can observe. A team of PhD students from University College London won Best Technical Design for their prototype, which was made using Lego, 3D-printed parts and consumer electronics. While research-grade nanomicroscopes typically cost more than £60,000, the Lego-based design could cost just £300 or so to produce.
Lost and found in translation
The real-life stories that are sometimes lost when translators and interpreters work with refugees will be explored in a research project. Academics at the University of Glasgow, who have received £2 million from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, are joining forces with organisations including Creative Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council for the study, as well as scholars from Bulgaria, Arizona and Gaza. “Courts, border agencies and other parts of the state that interact with refugees and those seeking asylum often use crude mechanisms that mean much is lost in translation,” said Alison Phipps, professor of languages and intercultural studies at Glasgow. Artists and musicians from Pan African Arts Scotland will be involved in disseminating the findings and will work with the participants to recreate their stories.
Ancient world of warcraft
Archaeologists are testing replica Bronze Age weapons to determine how they were used in battle. Volunteers wearing protective clothing are engaged in delivering a wide variety of sword strikes for the research, while shields mounted on targets are attacked with axes and spears. The replicas are then subjected to sophisticated use-wear analysis to see how the marks and damage compare with those seen on the real weapons held in museum collections. “Previous research has looked at marks on weapons in one-to-one fights,” explained project leader Andrea Dolfini, lecturer in later prehistory at Newcastle University, “but we are also trying to replicate small group combat situations.” The project’s initial findings were presented to the British Science Festival earlier this month.
UK scientists will be able to act as mentors for their colleagues from low- and middle-income countries through the establishment of a research centre. The Wellcome Trust – Imperial College Centre for Global Health Research will support scientists from lower-income countries applying for PhD and postdoctoral positions at Imperial College London, provide mentoring and offer exchange visits, short courses, workshops and distance learning. Scientists from partner institutions in Asia, Africa and South America met in London on 16 September for the inaugural meeting of the centre, which plans to build on the work of Imperial’s Wellcome Centre for Clinical Tropical Medicine, established in 1995.
Life in a Northern town
Live performances, interactive exhibitions and a community open day are some of the events planned to celebrate a university’s 80 years in a West Lancashire town. To mark the milestone anniversary of the opening of Edge Hill University’s Ormskirk campus in 1933 (the institution was previously based in Liverpool), the university is launching its celebrations with “an extraordinary aerobatic show” on 2 October. There will also be a variety of family activities, entertainment, street performers and acts, including the university’s award-winning all-male dance company Edge FWD, followed by a community open day on 12 October.
You’ll never take us alive, copper
Copper is able to destroy the highly infectious norovirus, research has found. Scientists from the University of Southampton have discovered that the metal and its alloys rapidly destroy the vomiting bug, which currently costs the NHS at least £100 million a year. There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for the norovirus – which is resistant to many cleaning solutions – and outbreaks of the bug regularly shut down hospital wards and care homes. The research, published in the journal PLoS ONE, suggests that surfaces made from copper could effectively block one avenue of infection. Copper alloys have previously been shown to be effective against a range of bacteria and fungi.
A £1.7 million research project will make it possible for people to trace the records of Londoners sentenced to either imprisonment or transportation to Australia from 1787 up to the 1920s. The Digital Panopticon project, led by the University of Liverpool, will use modern technologies to bring together existing and new genealogical, biometric and criminal justice datasets to produce a searchable website. Barry Godfrey, professor of social justice at Liverpool, said the project would aid family historians as well as help to resolve “some important questions that have intrigued historians, sociologists, social geographers, linguistic researchers, economists and criminologists about the impact and effects of imprisonment and of transportation to Australia”.
A charity based in two universities will use expert knowledge of plants to tackle the global issue of food security. Crop-Innovations, based at the University of Warwick’s Warwick Crop Centre and the University of Bath’s department of biology and biochemistry, “brings cutting-edge plant research to farmers in order to help increase the value of under-utilised crops”. The charity’s operations manager, Heather Sanders, said: “Using indigenous crop species that are able to grow in different climates or on marginal land creates more robust yields and will help farming communities better cope with climate change.”