Campus round-up - 11 April 2013

April 11, 2013

Eastern exposure

A first-year student has spent months painstakingly capturing the changing face of his university campus on film, which has become a hit online. Morten Rustad, a business management student at the University of Essex, spent five months putting his time-lapse video together, using 15,000 pictures of the university’s Colchester campus and its surrounding parkland. “We were aware that he was a keen photographer and he had sent us photos of the campus he had taken previously. However, we had no idea that he was planning on producing a time-lapse video of this scale,” said digital marketing officer Laura Shephard. You can view the dramatic end result of Mr Rustad’s efforts above.

University of Sheffield
The rat’s whiskers

Researchers have developed a “tactile helmet” to help firefighters “see” in difficult conditions. The helmet, invented by a team at the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Robotics, is fitted with ultrasound sensors that detect the distances to obstacles such as walls and transmit the signal to vibration pads touching the wearer’s forehead. It was inspired by research into how rodents’ whiskers work, and aims to help firefighters carry out rescue work in dark or smoke-filled unfamiliar environments. It is hoped that a lightweight version could also be used by people with visual impairments.

Loughborough University
Capital gains

Another regional institution is to open a London campus. Loughborough University is to set up a postgraduate campus at iCITY: the converted press and broadcast centres built for the London Olympics. The campus, which is scheduled to open in 2015, aims to run courses whose students will directly benefit from being in the capital. These will include business and management, media and communications, digital technologies and sport. Loughborough vice-chancellor Robert Allison said: “This is an outstanding opportunity for Loughborough to diversify and expand the high- quality education it offers to both postgraduate students and those looking to advance their professional development.”

Manchester/London School of Economics
Class of 2013

The UK now has seven different social classes, academics have concluded. The Great British Class Survey, led by sociologists from the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics, surveyed more than 160,000 people via the BBC’s Lab UK website. The survey, published in the journal Sociology, found that only 39 per cent of Britons now fit the traditional middle- and working-class categories. The academics suggest the traditional working class has fragmented into several new classes such as the “technical middle class”, which is prosperous but has low social and cultural capital, and “emergent service workers” - young, urban people who are relatively poor but have high social and cultural capital.

University of Oxford
Cell mate

Researchers have created a programmable 3D printer that can create synthetic materials with the properties of living tissues. The material, created by a team at the University of Oxford, consists of a network of water droplets encapsulated within films of lipids, which can perform some of the functions of the cells inside our bodies. Publishing in the journal Science, researchers say the printed material could form the building blocks of a new technology for delivering drugs to places where they are needed and, in the future, potentially could replace damaged human tissues.

The Open/Lancaster
Fizzy logic

The risk of violent volcanic eruptions in Iceland is more pronounced than previously thought, increasing the likelihood of disruption akin to that witnessed when Eyjafjallajökull blew its top in 2010, causing flight cancellations across Europe. Previously, scientists thought that Icelandic magma was less “fizzy” - or contained less gas dissolved in it - than that from Pacific Ocean volcanoes and expected much less explosive eruptions by comparison. However, research by The Open University and Lancaster University suggests that some Icelandic volcanoes could produce eruptions just as explosive as those in the Pacific Rim. The findings, published in Geology, reveal that some Icelandic magma is twice as fizzy as previously believed.

University of Southampton
Healthy discipline

Engaging teenagers in science could improve the health of future generations, a study has shown. Young people taking part in LifeLab at the University of Southampton showed a wider appreciation than their peers that lifestyle could affect their long-term health and that of their future children, according to a survey. Students taking part in the scheme, which involves health education and first-hand experience of scientific approaches to medicine, were also significantly more interested in studying science beyond compulsory schooling.

University of East Anglia
Cold storage

The impact of the Cold War in East Anglia and the significance of the region’s role in the hostilities is to be explored in a research project. Cold War Anglia, led by the University of East Anglia, aims to improve people’s understanding of the social and cultural impact of the period, which ran from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s and saw enmity, tension and competition between the US and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. The year-long project, funded by a £52,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will examine the history of some of the sites with links to the Cold War, including Orford Ness in Suffolk, which was a nuclear weapons and radar research facility.

University of Sunderland
Sole purpose

Five undergraduates are studying patients to see how to reduce the loss of sensation in the feet and legs associated with diabetes that can lead to ulcers, infections and amputation. The students, led by Rob Colclough, a principal lecturer in the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University of Sunderland, are trying to understand how the condition occurs and if it can be reduced using a special shoe or sole. There are about 6,000 diabetes-related amputations in England a year, according to Diabetes UK.

Brunel/Reading
Got anything without spam?

Around half of the UK’s most popular consumer websites are using customers’ information to generate spam emails in breach of data protection legislation, a study has suggested. Researchers from Brunel University and the University of Reading found that 48 out of the 100 most popular websites use personal information to send out commercial emails, even when customers have expressly refused consent. Only one in six websites has in place a system of requesting customers’ consent that is compliant with European Union standards on data protection. “We don’t think that this is because they are deliberately flouting the law - it is more likely that they just don’t know what it says,” said Maurizio Borghi, senior lecturer in law at Brunel.

School of Oriental and African Studies
Extracurricular activity

About 70 state school teenagers took part in a graduation ceremony after completing a “Saturday university” put together by students. Pupils from three comprehensives in London attended the event at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, whose students had organised the six Saturday clubs during the spring term. Twenty-five students were involved in the day-long sessions, which are designed to showcase a variety of degree-level subjects, including African studies, anthropology, development studies, economics, geography, history of art and law. “In the Saturday Club, we make a deliberate attempt to broaden students’ experience of learning beyond that which is currently provided by the national curriculum,” said Alex Fulton of Soas Students’ Union.

Royal Holloway, University of London
It takes Tokyo to tango

The growing popularity of dancing the tango in Japan may be linked to the country’s frequent natural disasters, a new study claims. Yuiko Asaba, a PhD student from the department of music at Royal Holloway, University of London, has investigated why the Argentinian dance has caught the public’s imagination in the country - there are dozens of tango venues in Tokyo alone. Asaba, a tango violinist who lived in Argentina for four years, says the music’s nostalgic sentiments - sadness, disappointment, tragedy and hope - help Japanese people to connect with their country’s history, which has been punctuated by frequent earthquakes and tsunamis.

University of Glasgow
Single non-transferable text

Computer scientists have trialled a text-message voting system, Handivote, that could enable cheap, rapid feedback from the public. Academics from the University of Glasgow sent a unique PIN to about 3,000 residents in an area of Glasgow that allowed them to text whether they supported or opposed a building development in their area. The voting is anonymous, and participants can use their PIN online afterwards to check that their vote was counted correctly. Nearly 500 responded, with 93 per cent opposing the project.

University of Aberdeen
Rodents at risk

Huge swings in the European vole population, which used to happen every three to four years, still occur but are not as extreme, with a potentially damaging impact on the ecosystem. Scientists from the University of Aberdeen and across Europe tracked vole populations over the past 20 years and found that numbers had evened out over time, which meant that their natural predators’ food supply also changed. Because the decline in large population swings is consistent across Europe, the researchers suspect a global, probably climatic, cause.

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