Campus round-up

January 13, 2011

Bath Spa University

Weighing Jade's legacy

The impact on young women of the media coverage of reality-TV star Jade Goody's battle with cervical cancer is being investigated by researchers. Academics at Bath Spa University have teamed up with a national charity to investigate the "Jade effect", when thousands of young women came forward for cancer screening in response to coverage of the plight of the Big Brother contestant, who died from the disease in March 2009. The Bath Spa team, whose work is supported by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, will look at how such coverage can affect public understanding of a disease and how celebrities are used to communicate health messages to the wider population.

University of Cambridge

Ancient echoes, modern tongues

A linguistics scholar has pinpointed links between an endangered Greek dialect spoken in northeastern Turkey and a form of the language spoken at the height of Hellenistic and Roman times. Ioanna Sitaridou, Fellow and director of studies in linguistics at Queens' College, Cambridge, found that key features were shared by Romeyka, a dialect of Greek spoken in the area around Trabzon on Turkey's Black Sea coast, and the Koine - or common - Greek of 2,000 years ago. Dr Sitaridou said Romeyka had preserved an "impressive" number of grammatical traits from ancient Greek that had been completely lost from modern standard Greek. Until medieval times, the Black Sea region was at the heart of the Greek-speaking world.

University of Oxford

Voices carried to market

A university chapel choir believes it has become the first in the world to run its own record label. New College Choir at the University of Oxford intends to record a mixture of "well-weathered classics" and original ideas for its own Novum label, and has already released its first CD - a recording of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610. The choir, named by Gramophone magazine as one of the world's 20 best, has signed an agreement with a distribution company to make its releases available commercially. Edward Higginbottom, director of music, said that prior to setting up Novum, the choir had sometimes found it a challenge to place its recordings with other labels.

University of Essex

The coral reefs of England

An "exciting new era" in coral research has been heralded with the opening of a tropical research aquarium. The £50,000 aquarium at the University of Essex will be used as a research and coral husbandry facility, eliminating the need to buy coral for experiments and enabling the research unit to conduct tests under controlled conditions. Projects currently under way at the aquarium include research funded by the Natural Environment Research Council into the impact of different environments on coral mortality and a study funded by Mitsubishi's Global Coral Reef Conservation Project to better understand how the structure of a reef may be affected by climate change.

University of York

Plasma study charges ahead

A £6 million interdisciplinary research centre is to be set up to enhance the study of plasma. The York Plasma Institute, to be established at the University of York, will bring together physicists, biologists and chemists.

High-temperature plasmas - gases of charged particles with potential applications in nuclear fusion - are already studied at the university. The new institute, which will be funded over five years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will incorporate a new laboratory. A three-member research team will study low-temperature plasmas in collaboration with partners from industry and other universities.

University College London

Hearts and minds

The way that people use their brains to regulate romantic love is no different for men or women, heterosexuals or homosexuals. A study by neurobiologists at University College London, results of which have been published in the journal PLoS One, focused on 24 subjects, who were asked to view pictures of their romantic partners while their brain activity was monitored. All the volunteers said they were "passionately in love" with their partner. As well as discovering that brain activity is broadly the same regardless of gender or sexual orientation, the UCL team found that there is extensive deactivation of large parts of the cerebral cortex when lovers view pictures of their romantic partners. This included an area of the brain thought to be critical in judgement, which the researchers said may explain why people are often less judgemental about lovers and lends credence to the adage "love is blind".

University of Birmingham

The eyes have it

An 18th-century portrait of a Russian countess with alluringly dark eyes is the most popular at a university gallery. A poll of visitors to the University of Birmingham's Barber Institute, held to mark the launch of a book on the Barber's collection, was won by Portrait of Countess Golovine, by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones, who was one of the champions of the painting, said its appeal lay in "those eyes, the colour of Bournville chocolate, gazing directly at you".

Aberystwyth University

Working to clear the air

Flatulent cows are to be tackled by a £3.9 million research project. The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University is heading the study, which is investigating the levels of methane emitted by the farming industry and the impact of attempts to control the problem. Working with teams from six other institutions across the UK, Aberystwyth researchers will look in particular at the amount of methane produced by livestock.

King's College London/East Anglia

Bad breath, supple hips

It may not do much for your popularity, but scientists have found that women who consume a diet high in alliums, including garlic, onions and leeks, have lower levels of hip osteoarthritis. The findings by researchers at King's College London and the University of East Anglia also highlight the potential for using compounds found in garlic to develop treatments for the condition. A relationship between body weight and osteoarthritis was previously recognised, although it is not yet completely understood. The study is the first of its kind to delve deeper into the impact of dietary patterns on the development of the condition, and possible prevention strategies.

Edge Hill University

Refreshingly public-spirited

Soft drinks sold on campus were the source of a £16,000 donation to a hospice. Edge Hill University struck a deal with Britvic, which agreed to give a small sum to Queenscourt Hospice for every drink sold on campus. Steve Igoe, Edge Hill's pro vice-chancellor for resources, said: "By using our procurement procedures we were able to support the work of the hospice."

University of Wolverhampton

Forward march for new degree

In what is thought to be a first for the UK, a Midlands institution is launching an armed forces degree. The University of Wolverhampton was due to launch the BSc (Hons) course with an armed forces day this week. Students will be required, as part of their degree study, to become members of the Royal Naval Reserve or Royal Marine Reserve based at HMS Forward, Birmingham, the Territorial Army or the RAF Reserves.

University of Nottingham

Global recognition for green ideas

A UK institution has finished second in a global league table of environmentally friendly universities. The University of Nottingham was pipped to the post by the University of California, Berkeley in the inaugural UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, produced by the University of Indonesia. Entrants were judged on factors including electricity consumption, waste and water management and the percentage of green space on their campuses. Nottingham, the only UK university in the top 10, launched an environmental strategy last year. It recently unveiled plans to build wind turbines that will, it hopes, eventually provide one-third of its electricity.

Glyndwr University

Introverts keen on cloisters

Visitors to cathedrals in Cheshire and Pembrokeshire are more likely to be quiet and shy than extroverts, a study suggests. A team of researchers from Glyndwr University questioned 157 visitors to Chester Cathedral and 381 visitors to St David's Cathedral in order to identify their dominant personality traits. The survey focused on how active, private or sociable the visitors were, and to what extent they were "energised" by other people. Analysis of the results suggests that 42 per cent of visitors to the cathedrals were extroverts. The researchers hope that the results will assist the cathedrals to manage their visitor experiences more effectively and draw a larger number of outgoing tourists in addition to quieter personality types.

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