Campus round-up - 30 May 2013

May 30, 2013

Source: University of Bristol

Snap judgement

The photographic skills of staff and students at the University of Bristol have been revealed in a competition designed to get people thinking about what healthy living means to them. Master’s student Philip Bruland was named the overall winner of the Picture of Health competition on 21 May for his image showing walkers and cyclists crossing the old railway bridge on Bristol’s Spike Island (above, main picture). Edith Kreutner, a teaching associate in the department of German, came second for her shot titled Feeling on Top of the World - taken on Hochfeiler Mountain on the Austria- Italy border (above, top left). Tom Podesta, school manager for biochemistry, came third with his image of runners during the Bristol Half Marathon (above, bottom left). The university said that the competition, led by the university’s sport, exercise and health team, aimed to show that health was not “just about fruit and fitness” but involved all aspects of staff and students’ lives.

University of Leeds
Natural rebirth

The rate of decline in the biodiversity of pollinating insects and wild plants has slowed markedly in recent years, a study has found. A team led by the University of Leeds and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands discovered that although biodiversity reduced rapidly in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands from the 1950s to the 1980s, the rate of decline among bees, hoverflies and wild plants has slackened since 1990. Bill Kunin, professor of ecology at Leeds, said the findings belied suggestions that the 1992 Rio Earth Summit targets to restrict biodiversity losses by 2010 had failed.

York/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Unhealthy measures

Policymakers should rethink the involvement of corporations in public health policy, an academic has said. Chris Holden, senior lecturer in social policy at the University of York, reached the conclusion after studying the alcohol industry’s input to the Scottish government’s 2008 consultation on whether to introduce minimum alcohol pricing. The study, carried out with researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published in PLOS Medicine, says that submissions from some supermarkets, drinks companies and trade associations ignored, misrepresented and undermined scientific evidence.

University of Oxford
Stressed-out sisters

Women experience more mental health problems than men, a leading scholar has suggested. Daniel Freeman, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford, said that in any given year, overall rates of psychological disorder are 20 to 40 per cent higher among women than men. In his latest book, The Stressed Sex: Uncovering the Truth about Men, Women, and Mental Health, co-written with his brother Jason and published on 23 May, Professor Freeman looks at potential causes of the problems, such as the strains caused by difficult life events and social roles. “Given the extent of the burden on society and individuals alike, understanding what causes mental health problems, and thus being better placed to prevent and treat them, is vitally important,” he said.

Norwich University of the Arts
Talent on tap

It is often said that undergraduate students know more about their local bars than their course syllabuses. With this in mind, the Norwich-based brewery Craft Brewing Co has tapped into the knowledge of students at the Norwich University of the Arts, recruiting them to design a brand for its new range of beers. The Redwell range, named after a street in the city, has had its logo, tap lenses, bottle labels, bar mats, bar runners, posters and website designed by third-year graphic design students at the university. Twenty submitted designs, but it was the work of Jason Drake, Sam Povey and Tim A’Court that was selected by the brewery. “We can’t wait to celebrate with a round of well-deserved Redwell beer,” they said.

University of Aberdeen
Let’s swim, it’s cheaper

Scientists have discovered why penguins cannot fly by confirming a biomechanical theory that wings suited to diving are inefficient when taking to the skies. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen studied the guillemot, which dives and swims like the penguin but can still fly. They discovered that the energy the species needed for flight was the highest recorded for a bird, hence confirming the theory. John Speakman, chair in zoology at Aberdeen, said that as penguins evolved, “it simply became impossible to sustain the very high energy costs of flight, and the birds became flightless”.

University of Chester
When I saw him standing there

Eight history students at the University of Chester are appealing for information about the place where one of the turning points in pop history occurred. It is part of a project to research a guide for St Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool, where on 6 July 1957, John Lennon’s skiffle group - the Quarrymen - were playing at a garden fete. It was there that a childhood friend introduced Lennon to a classmate from the Liverpool Institute, 15-year-old Paul McCartney. Donna Jackson, senior lecturer in modern history at Chester, hopes the research will unearth more details of this historic encounter, enabling them to “document this story as accurately as possible, and while some of the witnesses are still with us, for the generations of fans to come”.

University of St Andrews
Optics for the optics

Researchers at a Scottish university have devised a way of discovering fake whisky using portable sensors. University of St Andrews scientists have claimed that they can distinguish spirits based on brand, age and even the cask they matured in by placing a drop of the liquid on a credit card-sized plastic chip, passing light through it and analysing how it scatters. It is hoped that the research will make the detection of poisonous additions such as methanol, which can cause death and serious injury in bootleg spirits, much easier and less expensive.

Imperial College London
Depp impact

A scientist who discovered a long-lost extinct species has named it after the film star Johnny Depp. David Legg, a third-year PhD student at Imperial College London’s department of earth science and engineering, discovered the lobster-like creature in a 505 million-year-old fossil and was immediately struck by its Edward Scissorhands-like claws. He has called the creature Kooteninchela deppi in honour of Depp, who played Scissorhands in the 1990 Tim Burton film. “I am a Depp fan, so what better way to honour the man than to immortalise him as an ancient creature that once roamed the sea,” Mr Legg said.

Soas, University of London
Keep talking

Schoolchildren enjoyed a class in Swahili as part of a week of activities to celebrate multilingualism. Year 8 pupils from Bow in East London visited Soas, University of London on 21 May and took part in a debate about whether endangered languages should be saved. The postgraduate-run event was organised by Language Landscape, which seeks to raise awareness of issues of linguistic diversity through outreach programmes. The debate was hosted by the Endangered Languages Archive housed at Soas and held during Endangered Languages Week, which ran from 20 to 28 May. It aimed to document and support some of the 3,500 or more languages threatened with extinction by the end of the century.

Plymouth University
Put your oar in

A team of graduates are preparing to take on the challenge of rowing around the UK in a non-stop 2,000-mile race next month. Plymouth University alumni James Plumley and Josh Taylor are half of the four- strong team The Islanders, one of six groups embarking on the GB Row 2013 on 1 June in a quest for a £100,000 prize. Working in non-stop rotation - with two members rowing while the others rest, navigate or cook - the team will be the youngest in history to attempt the feat and are also hoping to break the world record of just over 26 days. Plymouth is one of the sponsors of the team.

University of Essex
No chance of nodding off

Marine biology students at an English university have attended lectures 18m under the sea. The ground-breaking tutorials were given to 30 University of Essex students during the institution’s annual field trip to the Wakatobi Marine National Park in Indonesia. David Smith, professor of marine biology, used special audio equipment to talk to the students underwater, six at a time, explaining exactly what they were seeing as they witnessed it. “It was a fantastic experience as I was able to use the power of observation like never before,” he said.

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