Campus round-up

January 10, 2013

Bucks New University

No regrets

A student is inviting passers-by to think about what they would like to achieve before they die. Paola Brotto, who is studying for a master's in furniture design at Bucks New University, has set up a blackboard on the university's Gateway Concourse for people to write their thoughts. The idea originated in the US with artist Candy Chang, who put a similar piece on the side of an abandoned house in 2011, and it has become a public art project recreated in more than 20 countries. Ms Brotto's work, created as part of her MA project on public spaces and how people perceive them, has attracted responses including "be invincible", "cure cancer" and "live life to the max".

Kingston University

Life's work brings dean honour

A professor has received a lifetime achievement award for her work on drug metabolism. Edith Sim, dean of Kingston University's Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, was awarded the J.R. Vane Medal from the British Pharmacological Society for research spanning more than 30 years on enzymes known as NATs, which help the body to absorb drugs. Her work has explored the extent to which people vary in their responses to the same drug and the resulting implications for the treatment of conditions such as breast cancer and infectious diseases including tuberculosis. It has attracted almost £12 million in research grants, much of it from the Wellcome Trust, and has been aided by 40 doctoral students and more than 100 undergraduates.

University of East London

Campus to host 2017 games

A university campus has been chosen as the main athletes' village for the Paralympic Athletics World Championships. The University of East London's Docklands campus will host competitors and International Paralympic Committee officials during the 2017 games, which will be held in the capital. UEL was home to the US athletes, coaches and officials in the summer during the London 2012 Olympic Games, and it also hosted the British men's and women's wheelchair basketball teams during the 2012 Paralympic Games. "This is yet another important milestone in our bid to become London's best university for sport by 2015," said Selena Bolingbroke, pro vice-chancellor for strategic planning and external development.

University of Birmingham

Sports science skills draw Brazil

The Brazilian government has signed a sports science agreement with a UK university. The collaboration between Brazil's Ministry of Sport and the University of Birmingham will enable staff in both countries to develop joint research projects and will provide a chance for elite Brazilian athletes to benefit from an array of sports science support services at the university. Luis Paulino, chief of staff at the Ministry of Sport in Brazil, which will host the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, said that Birmingham's "excellence in all fields related to sports science provides a unique opportunity for Brazilian researchers and students to improve the legacy of knowledge in competitive, educational and participative sports".

Anglia Ruskin/Cambridge

Colouring the argument

Presenting information in black and white can lead people to form more extreme views, researchers have found. Theodora Zarkadi, a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, and Simone Schnall, director of studies in psychology at Jesus College, Cambridge, found that exposure to these two colours leads people to think in a "black and white" manner. In one experiment, participants were presented with a moral dilemma printed on a black-and-white chequered background, while a control group received the same information on a uniform grey background. A second control group received the dilemma on a blue-and-yellow chequered background. Participants who saw the black-and-white set gave more extreme judgements that were significantly further from the scale's midpoint, compared with participants in the grey or the blue-and-yellow sets. "The fact that colour can affect people's perceptions of right or wrong could have important practical implications, for example in contexts that involve judgements of others' guilt or innocence," Dr Zarkadi said.

University of Warwick

Boost for the best

A university has invested an additional £700,000 in its Chancellor's Scholarships for postgraduate research students. The University of Warwick has also increased the duration of the awards to three and a half years. Jacqueline Labbe, chair of Warwick's Board of Graduate Studies, said that since 2006-07, Warwick has been pursuing the "goal of doubling its postgraduate research population by 2015-16". She added: "We also recognise that the best students deserve the best level of support we can devise."

University of East Anglia

Rallying to a heroic cause

One committed lecturer is beginning the new year by helping a team of injured soldiers compete in a gruelling 8,000-mile car race across South America. Debbie Harrison, an occupational health specialist from the University of East Anglia's School of Allied Health Professionals, is providing round-the-clock coverage for the Race2Recovery team as they take part in the Dakar Rally. The race - held in Europe and North Africa until 2009, when it moved to South America - this year takes participants from Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile. Ms Harrison is collating information and updates about the team's progress throughout the 15-day journey and managing the group's social media coverage. "This was a great cause for me to get involved in, because it interests me professionally as well as personally," she said. "As an occupational therapist, I am keen to see people rebuild their lives and gain a new sense of identity through participation in activities that they love." For more information about the team, which is raising money for the Help for Heroes charity, visit

University of York

Boys build bonds online

Social networking sites may increase the bonds of friendship for 9- to 13-year-old boys, researchers have concluded. Analysis of nearly 450 questionnaire responses, carried out by psychologists at the University of York, revealed that boys who used social networking sites showed greater feelings of belonging to their friendship group than those who did not. PhD student Sally Quinn, the lead author of the paper, said boys' friendship groups were characterised by lower levels of self-disclosure, acceptance and closeness than those of girls. She said: "Boys may value the online environment as a rehearsal space for self-disclosure skills, and social networking sites might help those who are less socially mature, with evidence suggesting that those who are socially anxious prefer the online environment for communication."

University of Sheffield

Adding to the historical record

An academic has collaborated with a local Americana band on a recording inspired by 19th-century US history. Andrew Heath, a lecturer in American history at the University of Sheffield, has written liner notes for the album The Mule & the Elephant by the Payroll Union. The band's singer, Peter David, who works for the university's student services, approached Dr Heath after meeting members of the history department at a gig. Dr Heath said: "It's been exciting for me and my students to find someone who can tell the stories we explore through books and articles in such a novel way."

Durham University

Not tonight, deer, we're boaring

Scientists have found that wolves in Tuscany, Italy, prefer to hunt and eat wild boar over roe deer, a finding that could provide insights into how increasing wolf populations may affect European wildlife. Researchers from Durham University, with counterparts from the University of Sassari, examined 2,000 samples of wolf dung over a nine-year period and found that even when roe deer were abundant, the wolves still preferred to catch boar. There was very little evidence that the wolves preyed on livestock, the study suggested.

Edinburgh/Queen Mary

Breakthrough could beat gout

Research has identified 18 new genetic variations that contribute to the onset of gout. An international team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Edinburgh and Queen Mary, University of London, found that people with the variations had high levels of uric acid in the blood, which is the main cause of the disease. Mark Caulfield, from the William Harvey Research Institute at Queen Mary, said: "Our findings identify new potential mechanisms for gout and offer opportunities for new therapies which may improve prevention of this debilitating condition in the future."

Life under the flyover

A newly opened exhibition documents the lives of those living beneath and in the shadow of the A40 flyover in West London. The Westway: A Portrait of a Community, by Paul Wenham-Clarke, a professional photographer and senior associate lecturer at the Arts University Bournemouth, highlights how the monumental structure of the road towers over the homes, businesses, sports facilities and educational centres of those living at the site. Built in the 1960s, the Westway was bulldozed through the heart of North Kensington, taking with it 600 homes and prompting more than 1,000 people to leave the area. The exhibition documents the diverse communities that have remained and grown up in the space. It runs until 28 February at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London.

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