Campus round-up - 31 October 2013

October 31, 2013

Source: Alamy

Tackling a sport’s hidden losses

American football players may struggle to plan and organise their lives in later life after suffering brain abnormalities caused by head injuries. Brain scans by scientists at Imperial College London found that retired American footballers had unusual activity in their frontal lobes that correlated with how many times they had left the field with a head injury during their careers. “The NFL alumni showed some of the most pronounced abnormalities in brain activity that I have ever seen,” said lead author Adam Hampshire, who said that the research might help in the detection of injuries in serving National Football League players.

The Open University/University of Bedfordshire
Smart answers to city challenges

Two institutions are involved in a project with a budget of more than £16.5 million that is aimed at helping cities to develop ways to manage energy and water supplies and tackle transport congestion. The Open University and University Campus Milton Keynes, operated by the University of Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Council, are both part of the MK:SMART project, which will collect information about how the town’s systems work and how they can be improved. The project received a grant of £8 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with additional funding from businesses and academic institutions taking the budget to more than £16.5 million.

University of East Anglia
Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘people power’

Politicians should think more carefully about how they communicate with young people if they wish to inspire the same trust given to “celebrity politicians” such as television stars Simon Cowell and Jeremy Clarkson, according to a book by University of East Anglia academics. From Entertainment to Citizenship: Politics and Popular Culture reveals how young people in Britain use popular culture to express their political views and values. Mr Cowell, the creator of The X Factor, was seen as someone who might make a good prime minister, while Mr Clarkson, a TV presenter, was thought to have the ability to “speak for the people”, the book finds. “Celebrities to these young people represented a welcome alternative to elected politicians whom they distrusted,” said co-author John Street.

University of Aberdeen
Brought back to book

A Scottish university has relaunched its publishing arm with the aim of producing works on history, poetry and science as well as literary works in Gaelic. The Aberdeen University Press shut down in 1993 after becoming entangled in the collapse of Robert Maxwell’s publishing empire. The first title for the revamped publisher will be Vita Mea, the autobiography of Sir Herbert Grierson (1866-1960), a Scottish literary scholar and an alumnus of Aberdeen. The press was founded in 1840 and underwent a series of mergers and takeovers during the 20th century.

University of Edinburgh
The house at poo corner

Wild animals choose to sleep near droppings and old nesting material because they indicate a safe space to rest, outweighing the dangers of contracting a disease. Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and California Santa Cruz placed woodland mice in boxes for a few hours and found that they preferred to be near dirty material. Patrick Walsh of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences said wild animals “may even associate faeces with safety – a spot where a mouse has lived long enough to nest and poo is probably pretty safe”.

University of St Andrews
A music room of one’s own

A new book explores the influence of music on the work of Virginia Woolf, arguing that her experiences at concerts and opera houses shaped her broader attitudes towards politics and society. Emma Sutton, a senior lecturer in the University of St Andrews’ School of English, discovered during her research for Virginia Woolf and Classical Music: Politics, Aesthetics, Form that Woolf had been a member of the National Gramophonic Society. “This research demonstrates rather that Woolf’s lifelong, vibrant musical life was central to her Modernist experiments and her political vision,” she said.

University of Wolverhampton
Solid business foundations

Plans for a new building to house a business school have been given the go-ahead. Wolverhampton City Council has approved plans for the University of Wolverhampton Business School’s £18 million flagship building at its City Molineux campus. The six-storey building will house teaching and learning and social spaces, and will help to facilitate the institution’s growing engagement with the region’s business community. Anthea Gregory, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, said the new business school “will demonstrate our commitment to providing education, training and jobs to help economic regeneration”.

University of Birmingham
Two years old and growing fast

A delegation of government officials and industry representatives from Guangzhou visited the UK earlier this month to cement the Chinese city’s partnership with the University of Birmingham. Two years after the launch of Birmingham’s collaborative centre in Guangzhou, vice-mayor Wang Dong was in the West Midlands to sign an agreement to expand the strategic partnership. To date, the alliance has supported four joint research projects in Guangzhou in health and life sciences.

Harper Adams University
Above and beyond Fairtrade call

A Shropshire university is to be held up as an example to encourage other UK institutions to join the Fairtrade campaign. Harper Adams University was awarded Fairtrade status in 2008 and has worked since then to support, use and promote Fairtrade products. Moreover, it has gone beyond the targets necessary to retain its status, incorporating Fairtrade into a module that is part of bachelor’s degrees in both agri-business and business management with marketing. The Fairtrade Foundation, the UK charity behind the Fairtrade mark, is spotlighting Harper Adams as an example of best practice in a guide it is putting together for other universities to encourage them to participate in the scheme.

Goldsmiths, University of London
Reel support from media moguls

One of the main investors behind the Oscar-winning film Avatar will donate almost £100,000 to fund postgraduate scholarships. The donation by Patrick McKenna, chief executive of Ingenious Media, which also backed the Oscar-winning Life of Pi and British sci-fi film Never Let Me Go, will part-fund four master’s students on Goldsmiths, University of London’s creative and cultural entrepreneurship course. It will also fully fund a PhD studentship for research into risk in media and creative business ventures, with a view to making funding opportunities more attractive for potential investors.

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Tomorrow’s stars funded today

Theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber has funded a new academic post to help train future West End directors. Musical director and pianist Benjamin Holder has become the first Andrew Lloyd Webber musical director fellow at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, thanks to “generous support” from the producer’s charitable foundation. Mr Holder will mentor Royal Central School students, including two funded by Lloyd Webber scholarships, during his time at the London college, as well as develop his own theatre projects.

University of Leeds
‘Model’ plant’s quirks revealed

Scientists have been warned not to draw too many wider conclusions from studying a single biological system after a species widely used as a model plant by researchers turned out to be anomalous. Studies of Arabidopsis thaliana – known as thale cress or mouse-ear cress – led scientists to believe that all plants lacked SMG1, a protein that plays a vital role in gene expression in animals. However, researchers at the University of Leeds found that other plants do have the protein. Brendan Davies, professor of plant development, said that thale cress was “still a fantastically useful model”, but the finding was “a lesson to us all about the dangers of extrapolating from a single model”.

Whale of a time with the grandkids

An interdisciplinary team has won a grant worth nearly £500,000 from the Natural Environment Research Council to investigate why killer whales stop reproducing a third of the way through their lives. The team, led by biologists from the universities of York and Exeter, suspect this has allowed older whales to help bring up their grandchildren, without being encumbered by further offspring of their own that might compete for resources. The researchers hope that the study, which will draw on detailed records of two large groups of orcas collected over 30 years, will also cast more light on the human menopause.

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