Campus round-up: 14 March 2013

March 14, 2013

Artistic authority

A university leader’s art collection was put on public display this week. The exhibition, titled Colour and Modernity, features prints, oil paintings and lithographs collected by Brian Cantor, the University of York’s vice-chancellor. Staged at the student-run Norman Rea Gallery, it showcases work by Joan Miró, Sam Francis and Terry Frost, as well as cartoons from “Larry”, “Matt”, Glen Baxter and Garry Trudeau. Professor Cantor said that the collection “contains some very beautiful pieces and some very iconic cartoons. While none are particularly valuable in monetary terms, each holds a great deal of significance and value for me.”

Game changer

An institute creating “serious games” to help companies handle data will take part in a £1.5 million project announced by David Willetts, the universities and science minister. Coventry University’s Serious Games Institute is set to play a leading role in the project, which aims to help manufacturing firms transform their business models using games technology. The scheme, which will also involve Aston University and the University of Sheffield, was announced by Mr Willetts shortly after he visited Coventry’s campus last month. It is part of a £45 million funding package from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council designed to improve the UK’s manufacturing competitiveness.

Birmingham City University
Meccano has nothing on this

A university’s partnership with a sports car firm will develop the world’s first build-at-home electric race car kit, designed and engineered to support growing demand for zero-emission racing vehicles. Birmingham City University researchers will work with Westfield Sportscars on the iRacer kit, available from £13,999, which will allow users to easily switch between full electric, hybrid or internal combustion engines if they prefer. iRacer is designed for students, academics and members of the public to build at their own premises and in their own time, providing useful experience for would-be engineers. Birmingham City’s staff will help the firm meet targets to reduce the car’s CO2 emissions and weight in the coming years.

University of Wolverhampton
Entente cordiale

A UK university will launch an “associate campus” across two institutions in France to develop courses, create student- and staff-exchange opportunities and collaborate on research and business projects. The campus is a partnership between the University of Wolverhampton and the Chamber of Commerce for the Basque region of France. Under the deal, Wolverhampton will strengthen its existing links with the Institute of Advanced Industrial Technologies in Bidart and develop new courses at the School of Management and Commerce in Bayonne.

University of Portsmouth
Poor beyond the pale

Young men from poor backgrounds who have committed petty crimes are less likely to be trusted than criminals with mental health problems, research has found. Academics at the University of Portsmouth set out to establish if people with a history of mental illness were likely to encounter problems winning the trust of others. They found that those with mental illness and criminal pasts were more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt than young men from poor backgrounds with “form” but no mental illness, who were considered “beyond redemption”. Lead researcher Claire Nee, a forensic psychologist in Portsmouth’s department of psychology, said: “We didn’t expect this result. We assumed those with mental illness would be stigmatised more.” The study was published in Psychiatry Research.

University of Essex
White stilettoes are banned

A university has hit back against the stereotypes associated with the county in which it is based. The University of Essex has produced a video, titled So you think you know Essex?, which aims to highlight the quality of its research and teaching. It depicts a number of notable Essex alumni and showcases the university’s facilities. In addition, James Canton, part-time teacher in the university’s department of literature, film and theatre studies, has written a book, Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape. He describes it as “an antidote to Towie” - which is the popular acronym for the ITV2 reality television show The Only Way is Essex, notorious for its stereotypical characters.

University of Hertfordshire
‘Horse’ and legal traps

Annual deaths related to heroin and morphine fell from 41 per cent of all drug-related deaths in the UK in 2010 to 32 per cent in 2011. However, the two substances remained responsible for most such deaths, according to a study led by Fabrizio Schifano, professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Hertfordshire. The 2012 report for the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths reveals that while UK drug-related deaths fell by 7 per cent over the period measured, deaths from so-called “legal highs” remained steady after a large increase the previous year. “Further monitoring of the situation needs to happen over the next few years,” Professor Schifano said.

City University London
Green riband

A London institution has been named the most energy-efficient university in the UK by a government scheme. City University London was also placed 64th out of an overall total of 2,000 organisations in the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme league table, published by the Environment Agency. The ranking is based on how well organisations manage their energy use under the CRC criteria. This mandatory initiative requires public and private sector organisations that use more than 6,000MWh of electricity a year to measure and report their carbon emissions. City has moved up by more than 90 places since the 2012 ratings.

University of Reading
Miracle cure for biggest organ

Researchers have put cosmetic companies’ claims about the effectiveness of their anti-wrinkle creams to the test. Such studies are important, explained Ian Hamley, Diamond professor of chemistry at the University of Reading, because companies “rarely publish their work so rivals can’t copy their products”. He and his team have now demonstrated that skin creams including a high enough concentration of a peptide called Matrixyl can indeed have “skin-care benefits”, boosting elasticity by almost doubling the amount of collagen produced by the body’s cells. Research partner Che Connon, reader in tissue engineering and cell therapy at Reading, is now working on using collagen-based materials to develop artificial tissues and stem cell transplants.

Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee
Omelettes without breaking eggs

Researchers have been awarded nearly £1 million to develop a surgical needle that vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies, which would allow doctors to penetrate bone and hard tissue with less force, thus making it easier to deliver drugs to the body. The academics at the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee received the money from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Previous research in this area has led to the development of ultrasonic cutting tools so precise that they can remove the shell of an egg without breaking the membrane beneath.

University of Aberdeen
About the downsize of it

Childhood obesity in northeast Scotland is dropping, an analysis has found, although it is still on the rise among children from poorer backgrounds. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen studied measurements made by school nurses between 1975 and 2011, and found that obesity rose between 1977 and 1998, but has declined since then. Today it is most prevalent in boys from poorer backgrounds, a change from the 1970s when it was most common among girls from affluent families. The paper was published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Glasgow Caledonian University
Sustainable growth

A centre has been launched to champion research into sustainable technology. Glasgow Caledonian University’s Institute for Sustainable Engineering and Technology Research was officially launched on 6 March. Mike Mannion, pro vice-chancellor for research, explained that the institution would provide a greater opportunity for “the public and private sectors around the world to access and translate our outstanding research”. Projects based at the institute include the development of solar concentrators, which increase the power generated by solar panels.

University of St Mark & St John
Marjon joins the club

A specialist college based in Devon has become one of the most recent institutions to be awarded university title. University College Plymouth St Mark & St John (Marjon) is now officially operating as the University of St Mark & St John. The university, based in Plymouth and established in the 1840s, is one of 10 specialist institutions given the green light last year by the government to request the title.

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