Campus round-up - 22 August 2013

August 22, 2013

Source: Alamy

Fresh as the day they went down

Antarctic shipwrecks such as Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance could still be lying fully preserved at the bottom of the ocean, researchers have suggested, because the surrounding environment lacks wood-eating worms. An international team including experts from the University of Aberdeen, the Natural History Museum and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden examined whalebones and planks of wood that had been on the Antarctic seabed for more than a year. They found that while rare whalebone-eating worms had devoured the former material, the wood was pristine.

University of East Anglia
The writers return

Ian McEwan, John Boyne and Tracy Chevalier are among the authors scheduled to speak at a university literary festival taking place in October. The three writers are graduates or honorary graduates of the University of East Anglia, and they are returning to speak about their work at the institution’s annual Arthur Miller Centre Literary Festival. The festival, which will also feature authors who did not attend UEA, runs for seven weeks from 2 October. It was launched in 1991, and has hosted US playwright Arthur Miller, authors Doris Lessing and Salman Rushdie, writer and politician Gore Vidal and best-selling crime writers P. D. James and Ruth Rendell.

University of Bedfordshire
Many hands make better work

Sharing work among a team of social workers instead of assigning cases to individuals would improve children’s services, research indicates. Reclaiming Social Work? An Evaluation of Systemic Units as an Approach to Delivering Children’s Services, a report by the University of Bedfordshire’s Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care, showed that allocating each family to a small team meant social workers spent more time with clients, as they had a more manageable workload and lower stress levels. Donald Forrester, professor of social work research and director of the Tilda Goldberg Centre, described the system used by most local authorities as “brittle” and “vulnerable to failure”.

Anglia Ruskin University
I see, therefore I am

Showing people what is going on inside their bodies can change how they perceive their appearance, it has been claimed. Participants in a study carried out by Anglia Ruskin University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology were given an “out of body experience” in which virtual reality goggles displayed an image of themselves standing 2m in front of them. To visualise their heartbeat, a bright flashing outline was superimposed on the virtual body in time with their pulse. After watching the flash for several minutes, participants experienced a stronger identification with the virtual body, the researchers said.

St George’s, University of London
Graze anatomy

The hide of one of history’s most famous cows has been returned to a medical school after extensive restoration. The skin of Blossom, the cow that inspired Edward Jenner’s work on vaccination, was removed from St George’s, University of London in Tooting, South London, three years ago for treatment. Blossom was the cow Sarah Nelmes was milking when local doctor Jenner noticed that milkmaids seemed to be immune to smallpox, usually contracting the less severe cowpox. He used pus from Nelmes’ pocks to develop the first inoculation against smallpox – a practice that saved millions of lives before the disease was eradicated in 1978. The Jenner family donated the hide to St George’s in 1857, where it was displayed in the library.

Soas, University of London
Exploration of a man

Rarely seen letters, photographs and possessions of the Victorian explorer David Livingstone will feature in an exhibition to mark the bicentenary of his birth. The Life and Afterlife of David Livingstone will open at Soas, University of London’s Brunei Gallery on 22 October and run until March. Using Soas archives, the exhibition will assess the legacy of the expedition leader, missionary and humanitarian who has divided critical opinion since his death in Zambia in 1873. Lionised for decades after his death as the epitome of self-help or as a martyr who gave his life in his efforts to spread the word of God, he was more recently blamed for encouraging the “Scramble for Africa” and the injustices of colonial rule.

University of Salford
Illuminating growth

A laser device aims to make a major contribution to measuring the effects of climate change. Mark Danson, professor of environmental remote sensing at the University of Salford, has developed the Salford Advanced Laser Canopy Analyser (Salca), which provides data on forest vegetation structure. He has been awarded a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust senior research fellowship to refine the device. Professor Danson said Salca “can provide more detail and more quickly than previous methods, which will have a significant impact on how we predict the effects of climate change on our forests”.

University of Surrey
Consumption

The mystery of what the tuberculosis bacterium “eats” is being uncovered. Researchers from the University of Surrey measured the metabolism of the bacterium and discovered that when it attacks host cells it consumes fatty acids, amino acids and some other unknown compounds, as well as capturing dissolved carbon dioxide. Publishing in the journal Cell Chemistry and Biology, the researchers said they hoped the knowledge would help in the development of new drugs to combat the disease, which kills millions every year.

University of Wolverhampton
Holding position

Britain’s judo team have chosen a West Midlands university as a base to prepare for the sport’s world championships. The squad is training at the University of Wolverhampton’s Walsall campus ahead of the championships in Rio de Janeiro later this month. Open training sessions were also held, allowing local players to train with the British team members. Earlier this year, the British Judo Association named the university as its new Centre of Excellence in England.

Edge Hill University
Exposing the truth

An academic will appear in a new Irish television series to talk about a pioneering journalist who exposed corruption and was prosecuted three times as a result. Tony Keating, senior lecturer in social sciences at Edge Hill University, was invited to speak and provide academic consultancy on TV3’s Print and Be Damned, which looks at the history and impact of Irish newspapers. The story of David Culbert Boyd, editor of the Waterford Standard from the 1920s to the 1950s, was almost lost to history until Dr Keating discovered the “revolutionary idealist” during his research into the reporting of sex abuse cases in Ireland.

Imperial College London/Canterbury Christ Church University
Just add children

The first students have completed a new course designed to support classroom physics. The BSc physics with science education at Imperial College London, run in partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University, enables students to acquire a physics degree while gaining qualified teacher status. The course is thought to be the first of its kind in England and Wales, and is intended to make it easier for physics graduates to pursue teaching careers. The Institute of Physics estimates that 1,000 new specialist physics teachers must be recruited every year for more than a decade to address the shortfall in science departments across England.

University College London
Precision tools

The government has made a commitment to fund the UK’s first state-of-the-art proton beam therapy treatment centres. University College London Hospital will host one of two centres; the other will be located in The Christie in Manchester. UCL will work with the London hospital on construction as well as carry out research to improve the technique. Proton beam therapy is a more precise form of radiotherapy that uses atomic particles, rather than X-rays, to more accurately target tumours. It is a form of cancer treatment that is especially useful in sensitive areas such as the brain and in children.

University of Dundee
Vitamin not so vital

A study has cast doubt on the hope that vitamin D could help to reduce high blood pressure in older people. Researchers at the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine looked at 159 participants who were over 70. Contrary to earlier studies, they found no improvement when vitamin D supplements were given. Miles Witham, a senior lecturer at the school, said: “This is disappointing as previous research had suggested that low vitamin D levels were associated with higher blood pressure. Given that it is a readily available and safe treatment, it would have been a boost if we had found a beneficial effect.”

University of Edinburgh
Could it have been different?

A university school of history, Classics and archaeology is hosting a series of public lectures this month to challenge widely accepted historical beliefs. The talks at the University of Edinburgh will cover topics ranging from the Spanish Civil War to Stalinist Russia to Italian immigrants in Scotland during the Second World War. David Kaufman, a history lecturer at the school, said: “The events will offer new ideas about some interesting milestones in history, and in an entertaining way assess how convincing accepted historical accounts are.” The presentations will take place at the Meadows Lecture Theatre in the Old Medical School.

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