Campus round-up

January 3, 2013

University of East Anglia

Tempest testament

Small, intense polar storms could make a big difference to climate predictions, according to a study. Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Massachusetts found that hard-to-forecast polar mesoscale storms occur frequently over the polar seas but are missing from most climate models. The storms are capable of producing hurricane-strength winds that cool the ocean and lead to changes in oceanic circulation patterns. Ian Renfrew, a professor in UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: "Adding polar storms into computer-generated models of the ocean results in significant changes in ocean circulation - including an increase in heat travelling north in the Atlantic Ocean and more overturning in the sub-polar seas." The research was published in Nature Geoscience.

University of Oxford

Tectonic titters

One UK university aims to show that volcanology can be fun. Irish stand-up comedian Ed Byrne has voiced the role of Hank - a computer controlling a mini-submarine delving beneath tectonic plates - in an animation produced by the University of Oxford. The film shows the craft taking the path that water molecules follow when one tectonic plate moves under another and is intended to help explain the science of volcanology. Underwater Volcano Disaster is the latest in a series of videos from Oxford Sparks, a website designed to raise public awareness of the university's research.


Travel broadens the CV

Chinese students who study in the UK undergo a "profound transformational experience" in their personal and professional lives, according to research into the impact of studying abroad. British and Chinese academics from the universities of Birmingham and Nottingham found that despite intense intercultural, social and educational challenges, 94 per cent are satisfied with their study experiences in the UK academy. Qing Gu, associate professor at Nottingham, added: "About 72 per cent felt that their academic experience in the UK was particularly valued when they were looking for jobs and was helpful for their...professional development in the longer term."

University of Bath

Learning for learning's sake

A student has been awarded his 10th master's degree after completing a course in the conservation of historic gardens and cultural landscapes. Farhat Hussain from Birmingham achieved his latest qualification at the University of Bath. He already has master's degrees in history, archaeology, conservation studies, international politics, sociology and education studies. He also holds a PGCE in history, a postgraduate diploma in the social history of medicine and other specialist courses. Hussain, 42, has spread his study over 17 years and attended nine UK universities. "Some people may think I'm a bit crazy but I have a real love for knowledge. It's not about what is immediately practical, such as studying for a job, it's a means to helping me understand more about the various aspects of the history of civilisation," he said.

University of Edinburgh

Euro gas escapes capture

Europe is falling behind the world in developing projects to bury carbon dioxide to avert climate change, experts warn. A University of Edinburgh study found that although a large number of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects had been planned, not enough of them were going ahead. Vivian Scott, a researcher at Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, a research centre at Edinburgh, said that European governments "are failing to back CCS projects selected for funding by their own programmes, while actively supporting new coal and gas power plants".

Newman University College, Birmingham

The right cast of mind

A bronze statue of Cardinal Newman, author of The Idea of a University, has been erected at the university college that bears his name. The life-size statue was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Birmingham in 2010 and is now on permanent loan to Newman University College, Birmingham, a Catholic institution. Peter Lutzeier, principal and chief executive of Newman, which is set to gain university status, said: "As well as having very strong links with the city of Birmingham, Cardinal Newman was an academic and one of the great thinkers of his day, so it is...appropriate that the statue should reside on our campus."

University of Reading

Mussel memory

Ocean mussels could be key to helping scientists predict rises in sea levels more accurately, research has suggested. A study at the University of Reading, in collaboration with teams in Greenland and Denmark, has shown that blue mussel shells accurately record the amount of water melting off the Greenland ice sheet during the summer. The researchers believe that analysing shells hundreds to thousands of years old will reveal how much ice sheet meltwater contributed to previous sea level fluctuations, helping to model future behaviour and establish how much melting is anthropogenic.

Queen Mary, University of London

All about Almodóvar

One of European cinema's most admired directors has been interviewed about his career by an academic. Pedro Almodóvar, whose movie All About My Mother won the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 1999, spoke to Maria Delgado, professor of theatre and screen arts at Queen Mary, University of London, at the Curzon Soho cinema on 13 December. The Spanish film-maker discussed his penchant for bright colours, labyrinthine narratives and strong female leads, and his long-term collaborations with actors such as Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas. Professor Delgado also introduced film clips by Mr Almodovar at the event to celebrate his groundbreaking career. "Nobody makes films quite like Almodovar and...he was able to share revealing information on how he works with actors and crew on shaping his remarkable films," she said.

University of Southampton

Glitch in 'glitch' theory

University researchers have called into question a 40-year-old theory explaining the behaviour of pulsars. University of Southampton academics used a mathematical model to disprove a prevailing theory for why pulsars - highly magnetised rotating neutron stars formed from the remains of supernovae - occasionally speed up in brief events described as "glitches" or "spin-ups". It was previously thought that the events are caused by rapidly spinning superfluid within the star transferring rotational energy to the star's crust. However, work by the researchers, in concert with academics at the University of Manchester and the University of Murcia in Spain, suggests that the amount of superfluid available in the crust of a pulsar is too small to cause the effect.

Durham/St Andrews

Track the fin grey line

A computerised photo-ID system is helping scientists to monitor and track the grey seal population around the UK and further afield. The automated system developed by researchers from the University of St Andrews and Durham University uses pattern-recognition techniques to match key identifying marks with thousands of images held in a digital catalogue. Female grey seals have unique coat markings that remain unchanged during their adult years, meaning they can be identified repeatedly throughout their lifetimes. The scientists have been using the system to follow previously identified animals at the breeding colony of North Rona in the Outer Hebrides.

University of East London

Commercial connection

A university business centre has been opened by the chief executive of a global electricals company. The Centre for Innovation Management and Enterprise, based at the University of East London's Royal Docks Business School, will offer advice to students and firms about how they can develop their commercial ideas. It was opened by Martin Slark, vice-chairman and chief executive of Molex, a global supplier of electrical connection products and one of the US' top 500 publicly traded companies.

Swansea University

Superhighway to hell?

An international conference will ask how big a threat cyberterrorism poses to society and what we can do about it. Swansea University will host the gathering on 11-12 April, bringing together scholars from multiple disciplines to examine the concept. Stuart Macdonald, senior lecturer at the School of Law, said: "Although the term has been around for over 20 years, there isn't a consensus on what it refers to, how significant a threat it might pose or how states and others should respond (if at all) to it."

Grab the record by the ball

The Guinness World Record for the longest game of dodgeball has been smashed by a university team. Twenty members of the University of Bedfordshire's dodgeball team, the Bedfordshire Bulls, clocked up an incredible 62 hours of play over a weekend in December to beat the previous record, set by a group from Vermont in the US, by 21 hours. The team played in shifts, and participants were permitted to leave the gym only for quick toilet breaks. Team captain Johnathan Rudland said: "I haven't really put what we've done into context yet, but I'll probably realise it in a couple of days, after some sleep."

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