Campus round-up - 17 October 2013

October 17, 2013

Source: Russell Sach

Greater transparency

A “scientific glassblower” at the University of Southampton is one of about 15 skilled workers still employed by UK universities to produce glassware in-house for the sciences. Lee Mulholland, based within Southampton’s chemistry department, works with glass at temperatures in excess of 1,300°C, known as the “working point”, to produce a variety of equipment including distillation chambers, reaction chambers and specific one-off pieces using glass rods and tubes. Pictured here is the prototype “glass baby”, which Mr Mulholland designed recently for David Phillips, the former president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, to replace its broken predecessor which had been used to demonstrate the treatment of neonatal jaundice.

University of Brighton
Code makers

An event designed to encourage children to design as well as use computer programs has met with success. The CoderDojo at the University of Brighton’s Creativity Suite gave children aged 6 to 16 an opportunity to try their hand at programming, supported by mentors but with minimal teaching. Organisers said some children went from no experience at all to creating web pages in a matter of hours. “Some used a software engineering skill that takes ages to learn and master, and they used it without a second thought,” said one mentor at the event, which the university now plans to hold twice a week.

University of Kent
In the style of

Students have been getting first-hand experience of approaches to writing in the homeland of some of history’s greatest authors. Ten students from the University of Kent’s creative writing programme carried out an exchange with a Russian counterpart, the Gorky Institute in Moscow. The two-week trip was designed to give students from both institutions an opportunity to experience the way creative writing is approached in another country, as well as to encounter fellow students and authors from different cultures. The exchange included masterclasses in poetry and fiction from award-winning British and Russian authors, and a visit to Leo Tolstoy’s estate.

University of London
Dr Duck

Chef Heston Blumenthal is to receive an honorary doctorate for his research into the sensory effects of food. The proprietor of the three Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant will be honoured with a doctor of science degree on 6 December by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study for his work with its Centre for the Study of the Senses, which is based at the Institute of Philosophy. His collaboration with philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists has led to the publication of research papers in leading journals, and he has also worked with scientists, food chemists, architects and industrial engineers.

Middlesex University
Apply within

Schoolteachers can access tips on how to help their students apply to university thanks to a new online guide. Launched by Middlesex University, The Tutor Guide sets out four steps for enrolling students in higher education. There are sections devoted to selecting a course and university, submitting an application, waiting for an offer and student funding. It also provides a university perspective on personal statements and reference writing. Elita Eliades-Ahmed, education liaison and outreach manager at Middlesex, said the guide would “educate, inform and dispel any myths and falsehoods that may stand between possible undergraduates and the future they want to create for themselves”.

London School of Economics
X marks the spot

Students and staff are being asked to vote for their favourite design for a £90 million university building. Five shortlisted designs for the London School of Economics’ Global Centre for Social Sciences, which will replace several buildings at its Strand campus, are currently on display in its main library. Visitors can have their say on the entries submitted in an international competition, run by the LSE and the Royal Institute of British Architects, with the winning bid for the landmark building to be announced in November. “This will be the school’s biggest-ever building project and will transform the heart of our campus,” said Julian Robinson, LSE’s director of estates.

Sometimes when we touch

Researchers have shed more light on how babies use touch in the womb, including when they learn to anticipate, rather than just react to, their own hand movements. A team of scientists from Durham and Lancaster universities used 60 scans of fetuses to ascertain that by 36 weeks’ gestation a significant proportion were able to open their mouths before touching them with their hands. Lead author Nadja Reissland, from Durham’s department of psychology, said the findings “could provide more information about when babies are ready to engage with their environment, especially if born prematurely”.

Positive feedback

A new book examines the role of 450 Muslim chaplains working in universities, prisons, hospitals and other institutions across the UK. Researched by scholars from the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University and from the University of Birmingham, the book argues that their role is positive overall. But it also finds that some Muslim communities view chaplains with suspicion, fearing that they are too liberal, while some Muslim prison inmates regard them as “government agents”.

University of St Andrews
Noise annoys

Man-made noise can delay or disrupt the growth of shellfish, a study has found, possibly explaining why fishermen complain of poorer catches following seismic surveys of the ocean. An international team of scientists, including researchers from the University of St Andrews, played sounds to New Zealand scallop larvae and found that they suffered “significant” development delays, while nearly half were malformed. The results suggest that underwater sounds from oil exploration and construction could hamper the survival of invertebrates in the wild.

Coventry University
From small beginnings

A group of students are exploring ways to set up a charity to help Syrian refugees after visiting a refugee camp in Jordan at the end of September. The 14 Coventry University students, who flew to Amman as part of a cultural exchange funded by Coventry alumnus and international philanthropist Majid AlSadi, raised more than £4,500 for refugees during the trip using social media – but are now looking to continue their fundraising efforts from the UK. Matthew Lyle, a second-year disaster management student who took part in the exchange, said: “What we achieved was just a drop in the ocean in terms of numbers of people helped, but we feel we made a difference and this has encouraged us to continue the work we started through the form of a charity to aid refugees all over the world.”

The Open University
Age shall not weary them

A 93-year-old widower from Cumbria has become the oldest-ever graduate of The Open University. Former engineer Clifford Dadson gained his BA open degree in arts at a graduation ceremony in London on 23 September, 60 years after his previous educational experience. He decided to take up studying again after the death of his wife. “I spoke to many graduates from many different nations and backgrounds, all of whom were so much younger than I, but it made me feel young at heart, and it was a joy to be with young people who now had the world at their feet,” Mr Dadson said after the graduation ceremony. He hopes his achievement can serve as an encouragement to others to fulfil their ambitions.

University of Essex
Honestly? No

Public perception of the UK government’s trustworthiness and honesty has plummeted in the past 16 years, research has claimed. The Iraq War, the election that followed and the MPs’ expenses scandal have all contributed to a general decline in trust, according to a study by Paul Whiteley from the department of government at the University of Essex. Just 34 per cent of people surveyed think the government has been honest and trustworthy since 1997, with 57 per cent feeling it has been dishonest.

University of Salford
A golden Gateway

Work has begun on a £55 million building that aims to “transform student life”. The Gateway Project at the University of Salford will create “a distinctive, aesthetically pleasing entrance to the campus from Salford Crescent railway station”. The building has been designed primarily for students of the School of Arts and Media, but there will also be space for students from other disciplines. Facilities will include a theatre, recording and photography studios, cafe areas, performance and rehearsal spaces, computer suites and lecture theatres.

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