Campus round-up - 7 March 2013

March 7, 2013

Beat that

Reanimated animal hearts and a series of musical pendulums originally developed for Icelandic singer Björk are among the exhibits at a university gallery in the Republic of Ireland. The Oscillator exhibition, at Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery until 14 April, explores the movements, vibrations and harmonics found all around us. The exhibition was launched last month with a performance involving the reanimation of two freshly disembodied pig hearts by Australian artists Helen Pynor and Peta Clancy. In addition to the artworks, scientists and researchers will give talks on topics such as the boom-and-bust cycles of finance, and the function of nostalgia in fashion and design.

University of West London
And the winner nearly was…

A film production graduate has narrowly missed out on an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, who studied at the University of West London’s Ealing School of Art, Design and Media between 2005 and 2008, was nominated at this year’s Academy Awards for her animation Head over Heels, which she produced. The humorous look at a long-term married couple was beaten by Disney’s Paperman at the ceremony on 24 February. The film, which was produced at the National Film and Television School in Buckinghamshire, has already won awards at the Austin and Dinard film festivals.

Imperial College London
A bedding down period

A £60 million student village is to be built in west London. Due to open in summer 2015, the complex near North Acton Tube station will provide accommodation for 659 Imperial College London students. It will be built by Berkeley First - the property developer’s third partnership with Imperial after student housing projects in Battersea and Chelsea were completed last year. “It presents a great opportunity to provide a large portion of the college’s student bed requirement, delivering excellent value for money for our students,” said Simon Harding-Roots, chief operations officer at Imperial.

University of East Anglia
Costa del storks

Researchers are hoping to find out why storks are changing their migratory patterns. Increasing numbers are opting to live in Spain and Portugal the whole year round rather than migrate from Northern Europe to Africa for the winter. A team from the University of East Anglia will track 15 adult white storks for a year using GPS technology, and will investigate the link between climate change and feeding habits to predict future distribution of the species. The number of storks spending their winter in Portugal, where they feed on “junk food” found on rubbish dumps, is estimated to have increased from around 1,180 in 1995 to more than 10,000 in 2008.

Bucks New University
In tune with the world

Executives from the worlds of music publishing, branding, recording and artist management are working with academics to ensure that course content stays at the cutting edge. An industry collective known as BIGMusic (the Bucks Music Industry Group) will work with Bucks New University to provide regular “reality checks” on the relevance of its music business courses, including looking at social networking, the changing scope of record companies and copyright law. Teresa Moore, head of the department of music and events management at the university, said: “We need to ensure that the 500-plus students taking our courses are being well prepared for the changing shape of the music industry.”

University of Edinburgh
Don’t keep it in the family

Inbreeding reduces the chances of survival not only for animals that are inbred but for their offspring too, researchers have found. A study of beetles by scientists at the University of Edinburgh concluded that this effect may be caused by poor genes in the parents leading to weaker parenting abilities or low-quality eggs and sperm. Sarah Mattey, the PhD candidate at Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences who led the study, said: “We were surprised the effect of inbreeding on the next generation is so strong.”

Anglia Ruskin/Goldsmiths, London
Face value

Children with autism could improve their language skills by being encouraged to look at the faces of their parents or carers, researchers have found. Psychologist Steven Stagg of Anglia Ruskin University, in collaboration with colleagues at Goldsmiths, University of London, tested 32 autistic children aged 7 to 15 and found that those who developed language late showed extremely low levels of response to faces, while those with more advanced language skills displayed heightened levels. “If children diagnosed with autism were trained to look at faces of parents or nursery workers from an early age, our research indicates that it could lead to improvement in their language development,” Dr Stagg said.

Aberystwyth University
Present from the past

A former miner who died last year at the age of 108 has bequeathed £10,000 to his alma mater. Rhys Lewis left the money to Aberystwyth University’s library, having graduated from the institution in 1931 after studying history and economic history and gaining his teacher’s certificate. Mr Lewis started mining aged 14 in the Carmarthenshire village of Llangennech, but went on to train as a teacher. After qualifying, he moved to London and gained an MSc from the London School of Economics. His money will be used to buy books for the library’s history section.

University College London
Structural support

The European Investment Bank has agreed to work with a London university to deliver a postgraduate course in its specialist field of infrastructure investment and finance. The MSc course at University College London will include the opportunity to gain practical experience provided by the EIB, the world’s largest supranational lending institution. The degree programme, which is inspired by the work of UCL senior lecturer Graham Ive, will be based in The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management. It is intended to bring together academic research, industry experience and policy best practice, and will address structural problems such as congestion, access to clean water and stable energy. EIB staff will be involved in teaching and research within the programme.

University of Leicester
A picture to remember

The university whose researchers recently discovered the body of Richard III has marked the achievement by buying a painting of him. The 19th- century painting, by John Fulleylove, depicts the last Plantagenet king on horseback outside Leicester’s Blue Boar Inn on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth, where he met his death. The University of Leicester bought the painting at auction for £7,300. Vice-chancellor Sir Robert Burgess described it as a “must have” for Leicester since “it was painted by a local artist, and is an accurate portrayal of the inn and links to our world-class research”.

University of Birmingham
Justice for all

A UK university and a US counterpart are jointly supporting the development of a pioneering global justice programme in India. The Nyaya Global Justice Programme - a collaboration between the universities of Birmingham and Yale to be based at the University of Delhi - will be “a major intellectual hub for the study of international ethical questions that have strong implications for India and neighbouring countries”. These include questions around India’s international role, fairness in international trade, cooperation in poverty reduction efforts and ethics in global security issues. Nyaya, meaning “justice” in Hindi, will also serve as the centre for a trilateral doctoral student exchange programme connecting the University of Delhi, the University of Birmingham’s Centre for the Study of Global Ethics and Yale’s Global Justice Program.

University of Wolverhampton
Hunter-gatherers

The horsemeat scandal could have been avoided if a university-developed system to trace food was in use, according to experts. The University of Wolverhampton, alongside eight European partners, has recently completed the Farm to Fork research project. This €3.6 million (£3.1 million) pilot scheme developed and used a range of technologies, including radio frequency identification, to identify and trace food information across Europe from producer to consumer. Bob Newman, a computer scientist from the university’s School of Technology, who led the research team in the project, said: “The food industry is not currently working in a joined-up way - there are plenty of processes and procedures but no coherent system.”

University of Manchester
How darkness fell

The original 500-year-old proclamation calling for the arrest of scheming Italian civil servant Niccolò Machiavelli has been discovered. Stephen Milner, Serena chair of Italian at the University of Manchester, came across the 1513 proclamation, which led to the downfall of the “Prince of Darkness”, in Florence’s state archives. This year the city is celebrating the 500th anniversary of Machiavelli’s infamous political tract The Prince. “When I saw it, I knew exactly what it was and it was pretty exciting,” Professor Milner said. “When you realise this document marked the fall from grace of one of the world’s most influential political writers, it’s quite a feeling.”

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