Campus round-up - 21 March 2013

March 21, 2013

Answers on a postcard

Work by photographer David Bailey, animator Nick Park, film-maker Mike Leigh and fashion designer Sir Paul Smith are among 2,700 pieces of art featuring alongside students’ contributions in the Royal College of Art’s 2013 secret postcard sale. All the postcards are being displayed anonymously for a week at the college’s campus in Battersea and will go on sale to the public on 23 March for just £45 each, regardless of whether they were created by a famous name or an unknown student. Artists may choose to paint, draw, sketch or even produce a 3D sculpture, so long as it is postcard-sized. A student at the college came up with the idea for RCA Secret 20 years ago and it has run almost every year since.

Royal Holloway, University of London
Night at the Hymenoptera

An opera that explores the rapid decline in the UK’s bumblebee population has premiered at a university’s science festival. The Silence of the Bees: A Science Opera is a collaboration between the departments of music, English and biology at Royal Holloway, University of London, but draws particular inspiration from the work of Mark Brown, reader in evolutionary ecology and conservation, into the decline of bees and how to reintroduce extinct species to the UK. The performance on 17 March launched a week- long programme of events celebrating science at Royal Holloway, including a “Science Fact, Science Fiction” pub quiz.

University of Westminster
Social media mastery

A centre to research the impact of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms on contemporary society has been announced. The University of Westminster’s Centre for Social Media Research will explore the social, cultural and political-economic aspects of social media and how they might transform the practice of research itself. The centre will be led by David Gauntlett, professor of media and communications, with a master’s programme starting in September to be run by Christian Fuchs and Graham Meikle, who joined the university last month to teach and research in this area. Professor Meikle described the MA as a “rigorous theoretical degree” but also an “exciting and creative course”.

University of Bolton
How justice was served

A judge’s experiences in the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict formed the basis of a recent lecture to law students. Titled “Working for the United Nations and War Crimes”, the lecture by Timothy Clayson, honorary recorder of Bolton, was due to be given at Bolton Law School, part of the University of Bolton, on 20 March. Judge Clayson was part of the international panel appointed by the UN to help deal with the aftermath of Nato’s intervention in Kosovo. Stephen Hardy, Diamond Jubilee professor of law at the school, said the lecture brought “to bear a vivid, captivating example of how…international law helps bring justice in tragic circumstances”.

University of Salford
Balls keep swinging

Aeronautics researchers have discovered that cricket-style reverse swing is an important factor in how modern footballs behave in the air. The addition of rough surfaces, intended to make balls go faster, has had the unintended side-effect of creating the same aerodynamics as a cricket ball that has been used for 40 overs or more, the University of Salford researchers say. The research, which has won the Catherine Richards Prize for the best paper published in the journal Mathematics Today in 2012, was led by Edmund Chadwick, reader in applied mathematics at Salford.

University of Wolverhampton
Didn’t they do well?

An award-winning graphic designer, a globe-trotting journalist and a reptile expert are taking part in a series of events to help promote their alma mater. As part of the University of Wolverhampton’s Graduate to Great campaign, Michael Salu, artistic director at Granta Publications, hosted a public lecture and reviewed students’ work portfolios on 14 March. This was followed by an online question-and-answer session on 15 March with Julian Ryall, Japan correspondent for The Daily Telegraph. Finally, reptile expert and television personality Mark O’Shea was set to give a talk on 20 March at the university, titled, “From Graduate to Great - A New Golden Age of Discovery, Exploration and Inspiration”.

Sheffield/Bath
Fathers’ days

Scientists have discovered why in some animals it is the father, rather than the mother, who takes care of the young. Research by the universities of Sheffield, Bath and Pannonia in Hungary found that in bird populations where this occurred, it was caused by an imbalance in the number of males relative to females. Evolutionary biologists argue that in general females take care of offspring because it is in their interest to do so, given their high investment of energy in producing eggs and, in some, giving birth. Tamás Székely, professor of biodiversity at the University of Bath, said that when there are lots of males it is harder to find females, so males stay with their mates and look after their young. “However, the females often take advantage of this and leave the male holding the baby, while they go and find another mate,” he added.

Ulster/Glasgow
Bird? Plane? No, superbug

A three-year project aims to develop a way to instantly detect airborne microbes, such as hospital superbugs, from their physical structure. Scientists from the universities of Ulster and Glasgow hope to build a device that will constantly monitor the air and issue a warning when it detects target bacteria. Currently, it can take up to 48 hours to identify a microbe by cultivating it in a lab. The project is being funded by a £600,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

University of Edinburgh
East meets North

A centre has been launched to strengthen Scotland’s cultural, business and academic ties with India. The Edinburgh India Institute at the University of Edinburgh will host cultural events and speakers, and aims to create a training programme in major Indian languages. The university has also created a visiting professorship in contemporary Indian studies, co-funded by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Planned events include a visit to Edinburgh by a delegation from the University of Delhi.

University for the Creative Arts
Long and inspiring Rhodes

A digital archive of work by renowned fashion designer Zandra Rhodes is due to be launched on 26 March. Created by the University for the Creative Arts and the Zandra Rhodes Studio, the archive will include 500 dresses and garments by the designer - prepared, catalogued and photographed over the past 18 months - as well as drawings and behind-the-scenes footage of her studio. The collection will include designs once worn by global icons such as Princess Diana, Jackie Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor, and is intended for use by fashion and textile students, designers and researchers. Ms Rhodes studied at Medway College of Art, one of the Kent and Surrey colleges that formed UCA, and is chancellor of the institution.

University College London
Leaders of the hack

The winner of the 2013 University Cipher Challenge, in which some of the UK’s best computer science departments went head to head in a code-making and -breaking challenge, has been announced. Students from University College London outdid their peers from the University of Birmingham, Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Bristol by developing the most difficult cipher - a puzzle based on encrypted messages. Competing departments were marked in three categories: ingenuity of cipher design; successful cracking of another university’s cipher; and least number of cracks by other competitors.

University of Nottingham
Tuck in - it’s not too deer

Archaeologists are teaming up with the National Trust to promote the benefits of eating venison. A team from the University of Nottingham will chart the history of deer herds at trust properties, starting at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire. There are concerns about the UK’s expanding deer population, but team leader Naomi Sykes described the animals as “a wonderful resource, if only we could reconnect with the concept of venison”. She said modern wild deer are descended from the inhabitants of deer parks established in the Middle Ages, when eating venison was commonplace. “Modern deer-management problems are a legacy of the medieval period, so perhaps we need to look for medieval solutions,” Dr Sykes said.

Brunel University
First-class savings

Students with first-class degrees have been offered a 15 per cent reduction in postgraduate fees by a London institution. The scholarships at Brunel University could be worth up to £2,250 a year and are available to any student who has an unconditional offer to study a taught master’s course at the institution from this September, including full-time, part- time or distance-learning options. Brunel graduates are also being offered a 15 per cent discount on tuition fees for any taught postgraduate course (formerly the saving was 10 per cent). “It is important that we do what we can to encourage high-quality students to take their studies to the next level,” said Julia Buckingham, vice-chancellor at Brunel.

Northumbria University
When Irish eyes are bleary

Irish people who are usually teetotal will still nurse hangovers after St Patrick’s Day, a university study has suggested. A marketing lecturer at Northumbria University has found that even if they are teetotal for the rest of the year, Irish men and women in their twenties and thirties feel compelled to celebrate 17 March with copious amounts of alcohol. Matthew Kearney, who is from Coleraine in Northern Ireland, asked 70 participants to keep shopping diaries and analyse their feelings about St Patrick’s Day spending as part of his PhD. “Alcohol consumption, when placed in the context of Ireland, becomes instantly romanticised,” he said.

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